February 16, 2006
Black Bears Claw Their Way Back Into Picture

By Jeff Howe

 Hockey East Notebook

Maine senior forward Greg Moore is Hockey East's second-leading goal scorer with 21 markers.

National TV Schedule

On Nov. 4, Maine stood tall at 8-1-0 – its offense was clicking, the defense was solid and the goaltending tandem of Ben Bishop and Matt Lundin was phenomenal. Championships aren’t won during the first month of the season, but it still appeared that the Black Bears had the right personnel to make their drive to be the kings of the college hockey world.

The defense never saw a letdown, but in the ensuing nine games leading into the season’s December intermission, Maine only managed to score more than two goals three times and limped into the break on a 4-5-0 clip. Add some legal issues stemming from a November fight at an off-campus apartment complex between several members of the team, and it appeared that coach Tim Whitehead’s group wouldn’t ever get back to its seemingly invincible early season form.

The proverbial rollercoaster ride continued in January as the Black Bears swept Lowell but then dropped a pair at BU before losing to Providence at Alfond Arena. That, though, was the last time this team has played poor hockey for an extended stretch. Maine is 5-1-1 in its last seven games, including a solid 2-1-1 record in its previous two weekend series; a home split with UNH followed by a three-point weekend at Vermont.

“We really feel like we’re almost back to where we were at the beginning of the year,” senior captain Greg Moore said. “We feel like we’re moving it back into that direction. If we’re not already there, we’re close to it. We have the confidence right now that we had at the beginning of the year and we feel like we can be better than we were at the beginning of the year.”

Moore leads his team with 21 goals and 31 points in what has fast become his best collegiate season. He is second in Hockey East only to Boston College's Chris Collins in goals, and his 16 goals in league contests have him tied for the lead with the Eagles’ senior. And he has lit the lamp in nine of his last 10 games.

“It’s a combination of things,” Moore said about his stellar season. “I’ve been motivated because it’s my senior year and my career is coming to an end so I’m trying to leave it out on the ice every night. I’ve been playing with some great players like (Josh) Soares, (Derek) Damon and (Michel) Léveillé. They have set me up in situations where I can be successful. It’s really helped me out.”

He noted that the team was obviously displeased with their struggles after the hot start, but they put the hard work and effort into turning things around. Instead of hoping that things would eventually work out, the Black Bears did everything they could to make sure that all of their wrongs would be righted.

“We weren’t happy with the way we were playing in Hockey East,” he said. “We have high expectations for ourselves to be a national competitor every year. We really beared down, took extra time at meetings going over details and got together on the same page in our systems. Our effort and our commitment on every shift in every period has helped us get some points and some wins.”

That leads to this weekend with a home series against Collins and the league-leading Eagles, the last two regular-season games Maine plays against a team with a winning record. The Black Bears currently sit in fifth place in the standings with 25 points, but are only one point behind New Hampshire and Providence and four behind sizzling Boston University.

“It’s huge for us right now, especially this upcoming weekend against BC...if we can take care of business,” Moore said. “It will really help us getting points to get home ice in Hockey East, and it’s really important for us to have the Hockey East playoffs back in our rink.

“It’s going to be a great weekend. I think it’s going to be a little bit more offensive. Both of our clubs are young defensively, although I think we also both have great goaltending so that could even things out. It’s going to be well-fought right down to the last minute on Saturday night knowing that every point is critical.”


Hockey At Fenway?: There has been a lot of speculation of late about the possibility of a college hockey game being played at Fenway Park next December, and Boston College appears to be locked in already.

A BC official told the Boston Globe last week that the only kinks left to iron out are finding an appropriate opponent and an open date. With Boston University also possibly taking part in the action, Terrier coach Jack Parker weighed in on the issue on Friday night, two days after the rumors hit the papers.

“We had conversations about it three or four years ago, and it has been ongoing with us and ongoing with BC,” Parker said. “I don’t know how it got leaked out, but we haven’t made any decision.”

The event would be played at night, but there also appears to be the possibility that there will be a double-header, perhaps with Boston University playing in the first game. Interestingly, the opponents coming up in these talks aren’t other Hockey East clubs, but rather the likes of Michigan and Michigan State.

“There was talk about it being a double-header, but you can’t do that,” Parker said. “If we had a double-header, it would have to be BU against UNH, and BC against Maine, Vermont or UMass to draw some people.”

The operation is being headed by the Fenway Sports Group, a Boston Red Sox business venture that teamed up with BC to help promote its transition from the Big East to the Atlantic Coast Conference. As intriguing as the idea sounds to play a sport loved by so many in New England in the one park most locals consider a holy land, Parker still isn’t completely sold on the project.

“If it’s going to happen, it should probably only happen one time,” Parker said. “It would be a unique thing. We’re still talking about it. They want to do it, but I don’t know if BC and BU are in love with the idea. Fenway Park is in love with the idea. We’ll see how it goes.”

Great Weekend Getaway
120x60 - Brand Red

N. Hampshire at Boston U. (Fri.)
Boston U. at N. Hampshire (Sat.)
This series is one of the more interesting matchups Hockey East has had in the last few weeks. Boston University has a chance to extend its winning streak from 11 to 13 games and if that happens, the Terriers put the vise grips on a second-place Hockey East finish and are in position to possibly catch BC if it slips up at Maine. On the other end, the Wildcats have been struggling of late in terms of their standards. They lost three games in a row before starting a 2-0-1 stretch, but that tie came at lowly Merrimack, meaning UNH finished the season 1-1-1 against the Warriors. If UNH can’t salvage at least a split, it will be in serious danger of losing out on home ice in the first round.

While You’re There: Portsmouth tends to be a good time at night on the weekends, and with it just a few minutes down the street from Durham, you can’t lose. And do we really need to find something for you to do in Boston? Come on.

Stick Salute

BU coach Jack Parker continued to raise the bar for Beanpot excellence by winning his 51st overall game in the tournament along with his 19th championship on Monday night. BU, in case you haven’t heard, has now won half of the 54 championships..

Bench Minor

Maine and Vermont entered last weekend's tilt with the top-two penalty killing units in the country, respectively, but Maine racked up four power-play goals while Vermont totaled three. The Black Bears still top the nation with a .904 kill percentage, but UVM fell to fourth with an .882 clip.


Merrimack freshman Rob Ricci has scored the only two of his team’s goals in three games against UNH this season, but they came in a 1-0 win on Nov. 29 and a 1-1 tie on Saturday night.

• Providence has scored 90 goals leading into its series with Northeastern, which began Thursday night. The Friars only tallied 85 goals last year.

• With its 6-4 win over UMass Lowell on Friday, Northeastern ended its all-time record 18-game losing streak in which the Huskies dropped 13 contests and tied five. NU’s last win came on Nov. 11, a 2-0 decision over the Minutemen.

• Boston University beat UMass 3-0 on Friday night to extend its winning streak to 10 games – which is now at 11 after the Beanpot victory – becoming the first Terrier squad to win 10 in a row since 1995 and just the third team to win at least 10 in a row in the regular season since 1975-76. Peter MacArthur had a good laugh following the UMass win when asked about this team in a historical perspective.

“He told us the last time a BU team won 10 in a row in the regular season was in 1975, besides the 1978 team that won 21 in a row. He told us after we won 10 in a row, we could talk about 21 in a row. After 10 in a row, it’s all downhill from there. It will probably get really easy now.”

• BC senior forward Chris Collins was the first player announced to participate in the Frozen Four Skills Challenge on Monday. Collins is the nation’s leading scorer with 24 goals and 24 assists and will only compete if the Eagles do not reach the Frozen Four.

“This Skills Challenge should be a lot of fun and good for the fans of college hockey,” Collins said in an NCAA new release. “I always watched the skills competitions growing up and am very excited about the opportunity to participate in one.”

A variety of sources were utilized in the compilation of this report.