ORONO – A statement win against Providence to close out the regular season was just what the doctor ordered for Maine to end its eight-year home quarterfinal playoff drought.
Some may look at Maine’s first home Hockey East quarterfinal game since 2012 as a benchmark; for the Black Bears, it is just the start of what they hope is a lengthy playoff run. “This is all where it kind of begins to be honest, we’ve put ourselves in a position to have an opportunity and now it’s time to take advantage of it,” said senior forward Mitch Fossier.
Home ice advantage isn’t unique to Maine, but playing in the friendly confines of Alfond Arena has benefited the team more than most, winning 13 of Maine’s 17 games in Orono. “It’s so special playing here, we’ve had some success playing here this year, it’s just more comfortable to be at home in your own bed, stuff like that,” said senior forward Tim Doherty.
The No. 4 Maine vs. No. 5 UConn match-up marks the third time this season the two have met. The huskies took two of those three games, ending Maine’s 11 game streak without a home loss in the process. “I think we match up well against them, they didn’t make us too happy when they took away our home streak but that’s a good edge for us, we’re going to be confident going in to this and taking the positives from the game beforehand,” said junior goalie Jeremy Swayman.
Maine’s brand of physical hockey parallels that of UConn, and the team is emphasizing finishing the forecheck and disrupting the opposing offense against the Huskies. “We know what they’re going to try and do on the breakouts and stuff like that, so we’re going to try and counter that and create opportunities off that and score more goals,” said Doherty.
The team is taking every precaution to ensure they’ll be at full strength and full physicality for a potential of three games this weekend. “Less is more, what matters is when we’re out there on the ice it’s high quality, there’s attention being payed to detail,” said head coach Red Gendron.