Feb. 6, 2014
Notre Dame, Ind. -
Notre Dame hockey fans will get their first-ever look at the University of Maine this weekend as the Black Bears visit the campus for the first time in the history of the series. The two teams have met five times overall but have never played each other on home ice as all five games have come at neutral sites.
The two teams will meet at 7:35 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 7 at the Compton Family Ice Arena, as the Irish will have their annual White Out Night. Fans are asked to wear white for the game as White Out t-shirts and pom pons will be distributed prior to the game. Saturday's (Feb. 8) contest will start a 8:05 p.m. with both games being televised live by the NBC Sports Network with Dan Parkhurst calling the action and Ken Hodge providing analysis "Inside the Glass."
With seven games left in the regular-season Hockey East schedule, this series is crucial to each team. The Irish enter the weekend with a 15-11-1 overall record and are just 4-8-1 in Hockey East play, good for nine points and a tie for eighth place in the standings with Massachusetts. Notre Dame is one point behind seventh-place Vermont and five behind sixth-place Maine but has played one more game that both those teams. If the Irish are to have any chance of getting to fifth-place and a first-round playoff bye or at least get home ice in the first round of the playoffs, picking up four points this weekend is imperative.
Maine on the other hand is 12-9-3 for the year and visits the Compton Family Ice Arena with a 6-4-2 mark in the league, good for 14 points and sixth place in Hockey East. While they have a five-point lead on Notre Dame in the standings, the Black Bears are just one point behind fifth-place Providence (15), two behind fourth-place New Hampshire (16) and three behind second-place UMass-Lowell and Northeastern. Maine has two games in hand on Providence, New Hampshire and Northeastern and one on UMass-Lowell.
Amazingly, the Black Bears have not won a game on the road this season as they are 0-8-2 away from the friendly confines of Alfond Arena in Orono, Me. They were idle last weekend and finished January with a 2-3-1 record in NCAA play while also winning a pair of exhibition games against Canadian universities.
"We have to get back on track at home this weekend," said Irish head coach Jeff Jackson.
"Every team in Hockey East has been a challenge. There are seven teams from the league in Hockey East that are ranked this week. We need to get points. We also need to figure out things on the road, but it has to start this weekend. We will be facing another good goaltender this weekend. It will be a struggle if we don't get pucks to the net and bodies to the net. We have to create our own two-one-ones and scoring chances."
IRISH VERSUS BLACK BEARS
Notre Dame and Maine have met five times in the all-time series with the Irish holding a 4-1-0 advantage. All five of the meetings have come on neutral ice. To date, the Irish and the Black Bears have faced off in Portland, Me., Inglewood, Calif., Estero, Fla., and Kansas City, Mo.
The first meetings came during the 1991-92 season in Portland, Me., and were actually won by Maine, by 5-1 and 6-3 scores, but were later forfeited by the Black Bears due to using an ineligible player. The teams would then meet in 1994-95 at the Great Western Forum in Inglewood, Calif., with Maine winning 4-3.
The Irish have won the last two games of the series by 1-0 scores. In 2003-04, Morgan Cey `05 made 32 saves in the third-place game at the Everblades Collegiate Classic in blanking the Black Bears, 1-0. In October of 2012, the teams met at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo., in the opening round of the 2012 Ice Breaker Tournament. T.J. Tynan scored in the second period and Steven Summerhays made it stand up with 22 saves in a 1-0 win over the Black Bears. The Irish would go on to defeat Nebraska-Omaha, 3-2, in the championship game to win the 2012 Ice Breaker Tournament.
Notre Dame faces the University of Maine for the first time this weekend as members of Hockey East. Let's take a look at the University of Maine.
The University of Maine was founded in 1862 and established in 1865 as the Maine College of Agriculture and the Mechanical Arts. In 1897, it became the University of Maine. Located in Orono, Me., it is a public research university and the flagship university of the University of Maine system. With an enrollment of close to 11,000 undergraduate and graduate students, it is the largest University in the state of Maine.
Situated on Marsh Island, between the Penobscot and Stillwater rivers, the University of Maine is the only Land Grant University in the nation located on an island. With an original curriculum that included Agriculture, Civil Engineering, Mechanical Engineering and electives, Maine later developed Colleges of Life Sciences and Agriculture, Engineering and Sciences and Arts and Sciences. The School of Education was established in 1930 and received college status in 1958. The School of Business Administration was formed in 1958 and received college status in 1965. Women were first admitted in 1872.
The 660-acre campus is equipped with thirty-seven academic buildings, thirty administrative buildings, eighteen residence halls, eighteen specific laboratory facilities, fourteen Greek life houses, ten sports facilities, five museums, four dining facilities, two convenience stores, a student union, a cafe, a pub, an 87,000-square-foot recreation and fitness center, and a 200'x200' air supported athletic/recreational dome.
The campus is essentially divided into three sections (northern, southern, and hilltop), all of which are within close proximity to the Mall. The northern section includes many of the athletic facilities, including the Alfond Arena (basketball, hockey), Morse Field at the Alfond Sports Stadium (football, track and field), Larry Mahaney Diamond (baseball), Kessock Field (softball), the Field Hockey Complex (field hockey), and the Mahaney athletic/recreational dome.
In the area of athletics, Maine has had much success with its hockey, baseball and football programs over the years. The Black Bears are currently members of the Colonial Athletic Conference (CAA) in football, America East in most other sports and Hockey East for hockey. The football program has sent a number of players to the NFL while the baseball program has advanced to seven College World Series, finishing third in 1964 and 1982. Players such as Billy Swift, Mike Sweeney, Joe Johnson and Mike Bordick have played in the Major Leagues.
Hockey is where much of the Black Bears athletic success has come. Playing in the 5,124-seat Alfond Arena on the Maine campus, the Black Bears have won five Hockey East championships (1989, 1992, 1993, 2000, 2004), have been in the NCAA Tournament 18 times, advanced to the Frozen Four 11 times and won national championships in 1993 and 1999.
Maine is the home of two Hobey Baker winners - Scott Pellerin (1992) and Paul Kariya (1993) and has seen its players garner 40 All-American honors. Among the players from Maine who went on to make their mark in the National Hockey League, the list includes: Kariya, Pellerin, former Irish volunteer assistant coach Jim Montgomery, Dustin Penner, Teddy Purcell, Garth Snow, Eric Weinrich, Keith Carney, Ben Bishop, Mike Dunham, Jimmy Howard and the list goes on.
Coach Red Gendron is in his first year as Maine's head coach this season, but is in his second stint with the Black Bears. He got his first college coaching job as an assistant to Shawn Walsh from 1990 to 1993, helping Maine to its 1993 national championship. In between, he has coached in the National Hockey League, the American Hockey League, in college and at the junior hockey level. Gendron has been on two coaching staffs that won NCAA Championships (Maine and Yale in 2013) and one Stanley Cup (New Jersey in 1995).
One Irish player who hasn't had trouble scoring goals this season is sophomore left wing Mario Lucia. The 6-3, 202-pounder is quickly becoming one of those players that the opposition must look out for every time he is on the ice. After getting 12 goals as a freshman, Lucia already has 15 this season to lead the team in that category. He has career highs in points (25), power-play goals (7) and game winners (3). His 15 goals have come on just 62 shots this season, giving him a team-best shooting percentage of 24.2% and he is +3 on the year.
Lucia can score goals anyway you want. He's not afraid to park his large frame in front of the goaltender to set a screen or deflect a shot. His 14th goal of the season at New Hampshire on Jan. 31 never touched his stick. While battling for position in front of the UNH goal, an Eric Johnson shot from the left point went off his skate past goaltender Casey DeSmith to give the Irish a 1-0 lead.
"For me, its just getting to the net, not necessarily scoring pretty goals, but getting some tips and tap ins," says Lucia.
"Getting to the front of the goal is important because that's where the goals are."
Jeff Jackson echoes his sophomore goal scorer's sentiments.
"Mario is one of the guys who gets to the net pretty effectively. He does it quietly, but he's always right around the crease somewhere," says Jackson.
"He gets rebounds and he has a good shot when he has an opportunity. He has real good instincts."
While Lucia's first goal of the weekend was a goal scorer's goal, his goal on Saturday night was a thing of beauty, the mark of a true sniper as he one-timed a pass from Vince Hinostroza from the left face-off circle, hammering a shot past DeSmith into the upper right corner before the UNH goaltender could even flinch.
"That was one of the better goals of my life," says Lucia with a huge grin.
"That one was nice. Vinny and I have developed a good chemistry. Now we are playing with Tommy DiPauli and that helps our line a lot. We had some pretty good success last Saturday night."
While scoring goals is something that seems to come naturally to Lucia, he has shown that he is more than willing to do the dirty work in the corners and in front to open the ice for his linemates.
"I've gotten a lot stronger. My corner game and getting to the gritty areas has gotten a lot better," says the 20-year old left wing.
"I want to get better as I get stronger and that's exciting to me. It takes time. You just can't put on 10 pounds overnight. I just keep working hard, making steps every day."
150 AND COUNTING
Senior center T.J. Tynan continues his climb on Notre Dame's all-time points list and he is nearing a top 10 spot on the assist list. With a goal and an assist last weekend at New Hampshire, Tynan now has 52 goals and 98 assists for 150 career points in 151 games. He is just one of 15 players at Notre Dame with 150 or more points in his career. Jamie Ling `96 is 14th with 153 and Erik Condra `09 is 13th with 158 and currently ahead of Tynan.
His assist against the Wildcats moved him into a tie for 11th on the all-time assist list, tying him with Curtis Janicke `93 with 98. Just ahead of him in the 10th spot is Ling with 102 and in ninth place is former Irish coach Dave Poulin `82 who had 107 assists in 142 career games.
Tynan is the 32nd player in Notre Dame history to score at least 50 goals and have 50 assists for his career. He currently leads the Irish with six goals and 21 assists for 27 points in 27 games this season.
HOCKEY EAST HAPPENINGS
This coming Monday night, Boston College and Northeastern will meet in the championship game of the Beanpot Tournament at TD Garden in Boston ... the Eagles advanced with a 3-1 win over Boston University on Mon., Feb. 3 while Northeastern won a 6-0 verdict against Harvard ... the title game starts at 8:00 p.m. on the New England Sports Channel while Harvard and BU and the third-place game start at 4:30 p.m. ... Boston College has won the tournament 18 times in the past while Northeastern has won it just four times ... Boston College forward Johnny Gaudreau was named the Hockey Commissioners' Association player of the month for the month of January ... the junior had eight goals and 10 assists for 18 points in eight games, helping the Eagles to a 7-0-1 month ... Eagles' goaltender Thatcher Demko was named the national goaltender of the month as he was 4-0-1 during January with a 1.57 goals-against average and a .944 save percentage ... seven of Hockey East's 11 teams were ranked in the USCHO.com hockey poll's top 20 this week ... Boston College led the way, ranked second .. UMass-Lowell was seventh with Providence ranked eighth ... Northeastern checked in at 11th while Notre Dame, Vermont and New Hampshire were 18th through 20th ... Providence College goaltender Jon Gillies was the first goaltender to hold Boston College and its top-ranked offense to two goals since early December last Friday, Jan. 31 ... Gillies stopped 28-of-30 shots in a 2-0 loss to the Eagles ... Massachusetts' freshman forward Ray Pigozzi scored the game-tying goal with the extra attacker on and 50.9 seconds left on the clock to give the Minutemen a 3-3 tie against Boston University on Jan. 31 ... Mario Lucia had a hand in three of Notre Dame's four goals in its series at New Hampshire ... Lucia scored twice and added an assist for a three-point weekend ... UMass-Lowell goaltender Connor Hellebucyk won a pair of games at Merrimack with a 23-save 4-2 win over the Warriors and a 33-save, 4-0 shutout ... Bryan Rust recorded his second short-handed goal of the season and Notre Dame's seventh on the year in the 4-2 loss at New Hampshire ... the Irish are tied for second in Hockey East and third in the nation with seven short-handed goals ... Maine (8) and Mercyhurst (8) are ahead of the Irish.