There’s nothing like home cooking.
But that hasn’t been the case for the University of Maine men’s hockey team this season as it hosts the nation’s No. 8-ranked Boston College Eagles for a pair this weekend.
Maine, 38-13-4 at home over the previous three seasons, is just 3-4-1 at Alfond Arena this year including a 1-4-1 record against Hockey East teams.
Meanwhile, the Bears are 3-3-1 in Hockey East road games.
Maine has allowed an average of 3.83 goals at home while allowing just 2.14 on the road.
“I can’t explain it,” said Maine senior right wing and assistant captain Rob Bellamy. “I don’t know what happens [at home]. We have to play like we did last weekend.”
Bellamy was referring to the Bears’ impressive 4-0 win at Providence (R.I.) Saturday.
“The previous three years, we always felt like we were going to win at the Alfond,” said senior defenseman Bret Tyler. “But it’s not automatic this year. We don’t have the skill we’ve had the last three years. That doesn’t mean we can’t win at home. We still have skill. But we’ve got to do the little things and find ways to win one-goal games.”
Junior defenseman Simon Danis-Pepin said the Bears need to take a different mindset into home games.
“We have to play like we’re the underdogs. We’ve got to play strong like we did at Providence,” he said.
Maine coach Tim Whitehead said part of the problem is the “pressure of false expectations” on his inexperienced team.
“We’re expected to win at home and the players are very determined to win for the home crowd,” said Whitehead. “So the players try to do too much, they turn the puck over and, before you know it, we’re behind, and when you’re down, you tend to stray from the game plan.”
“We seem to play a simpler game on the road,” added Whitehead. “We’re more focused [on the game plan]. If we do that offensively and defensively, we’ll put ourselves in position to come out on top.”
Another telling stat is the Bears’ record in which they score first (7-0). They are 1-10-2 when the opponents score first.
“That’s a reflection of our team mindset this year. If we get the lead, it gives us a boost of confidence and we’re more apt to stick to the game plan,” said Whitehead, who noted that when they give up the game’s first goal, it adds pressure on them.
“We’ve got to start believing in ourselves and keep a positive attitude if we give up the first goal,” Tyler said.
The Bears know if they are going to have any success against the talented and swift-skating Eagles, led by dynamic left wing Nathan Gerbe, they will have to play the body.
“Gerbe’s a great player. We’re going to have to punish him,” said Maine senior center Wes Clark.
“We’ve got to be physical against all of them,” added Bellamy.
Clark said they need to build on the momentum they obtained by beating Providence.
“This is crunch time. Hopefully, the Providence game was a good start for us,” said Clark.