Upset gives Maine a break
was awfully strange for Tim Whitehead to make the four-hour
drive from Orono to Boston for last weekend’s Hockey
East banquet in a car, not a bus.
his time at UMass Lowell through last year, his first as
the Black Bears’ head coach, Whitehead has enjoyed
a great deal of postseason success. He has almost always
had his team traveling with him for tournament games.
But given that,
and the long layoff his team faces before the NCAA Tournament,
Whitehead was surprisingly upbeat as he drove past the dreary
landscape of central Maine. The turn of events presents
Whitehead and his staff with a terrific coaching challenge,
and that’s something any good coach embraces.
we’d rather be playing hockey this week,” he
said via cell phone during the drive. “Every team
in the country has had a tough stretch at some point or
another this year, and unfortunately for us it happened
when it did. Perhaps it was bound to happen. But hopefully
this break will allow us to turn things back around.”
first-round loss to Massachusetts, coupled with Hockey East’s
tournament schedule quirk, leaves the Black Bears with 20
days between games. It’s kind of like a college football
team heading to a bowl game – and about as welcome
as spending Christmas in a place like Shreveport or Mobile.
The first step in tackling a three-week layoff? Whitehead
cancelled practices for the first third of the break.
we were getting a little burned out, both physically and
mentally, even before the UMass series,” he said.
“That was why we gave the team the week off. We needed
the time to recharge.”
took the opportunity to hit the road recruiting, looking
for what he calls “one last piece of the puzzle”
in what he expects to be an outstanding class.
The Black Bears
return to the ice this week, with a focus on reinforcing
their systems and returning to the style of play that made
them the nation’s No. 1 team for a good stretch of
the season. That not-so-distant memory of success –
coupled with his team’s need for a rest – helped
explain Whitehead’s upbeat manner.
able to climb to number one and stay there for a while,”
he said. “Obviously we got a little burned out, but
I think we know what we need to do to get back in that position.”
By Sunday, 14
days will have passed in a flash since the UMass series
loss. Maine will learn its NCAA opponent, giving renewed
focus to the upcoming week in practice. In addition, the
Black Bears will know where they are headed for the tourney.
And this time,
Whitehead knows he will have his team in tow.
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