Currently sitting @ 8-11-3 (2-7-1 HEA) the University of Maine Black Bears are at their make or break point of the season. Roughly halfway thru Hockey East play, the Black Bears are in 10th place, and coming off a neutral sites split with UConn this past weekend. Up next is a scorching hot BU team, riding a 6 game winning streak & momentum from 7 players participating in the World Juniors gold medal game. They have faced the upper half of the conference going 2-5-1 against 4 of the top 5. With 12 games left, this weekend is their biggest hurdle remaining. Then they face a brutally bad UMass team in Orono, a mediocre at best Providence squad, a talented but middle of the road Notre Dame @ home, a sputtering Merrimack, & wrap it up @ home against a talented but faltering Northeastern. 4 of those teams make up the bottom 5 of Hockey East with Maine. Any sort of result vs BU should get this “2nd half” kick started for Maine. Seeing that they are 0-7-3 away, tonight @ Agganis is probably not where it starts.
This is a young squad. There are 10 Freshmen & 8 Sophomores, 65 points from 5 of those, is pretty good. The remaining 10 upper classmen are a talented bunch. Led by Seniors Cam Brown & Blaine Byron, almost 50 points combined, and Junior Nolan Vesey’s 14pts this team has the tools for sure. Soph. goalie Rob McGovern is having a solid year, a 2.80 GAA & .914 SV% is nothing to sneeze at.
With that being said, this team under Red Gendron, 46-72-16 overall, is and has been in bad shape for a few years now. They haven’t qualified for the NCAAs since 2011-12. In 2013-14 Gendron’s 1st year Maine went 16-15-4, slipping to 14-22-3 the following year, and plummeting to 8-24-6 in 2015-16. That was one of Maine’s worst seasons ever. EVER. Yet Gendron was rewarded with a 2 year extension on his 4 year contract. HUH? Here in year 4, the Black Bears have matched last season’s win total of 8 so far, safe to say they will build on it which is good news.
How can Maine stay patient in this age of college hockey? Schools like Quinnipiac or Union have caught up and surpassed the Black Bears in recent years. And Penn St & Ohio St are knocking on the door. Never mind that locally, UConn is catching up, or that Bentley and Holy Cross are poised to crash the Hockey East party as soon as the Notre Dame void is opened up. Gendron needs to be shown the door sooner rather than later. A .403 winning percentage is unacceptable, at any school, never mind one of the premier teams in Hockey East history! Or NCAA history over the last 30 years for that matter. Sure Red can recruit, 2 Freshman drafted before arriving in Orono; and yes Red wrote a book on coaching, but can he? Is he the guy to bring this team back to the promised land? No. Even if Maine goes 8-4 over these last 12 games is a 16 win season worthy of another year? No. The Black Bears could surprise in the Hockey East tournament, definitely win an opening round but they won’t roll over BC, BU, & UML to win it all and get that guaranteed NCAA bid. No postseason in 6 seasons for a school with 11 Frozen Four appearances in 20 years, & 0 in the last 10 is not contract extension worthy. Surely they could lure Jim Montgomery back to Orono, Norm Bazin would do wonders with the Black Bears, Wayne Wilson of R.I.T. could build a solid program with Maine’s resources, or any number of young talented assistants being employed in the game today.
It all kicks off tonight for Maine @ 730pm. If the past year and a half haven’t been a litmus test for Gendron and the Black Bears then these next 12 games must. Their opponents are a combined 43-53-16 (13-30-10HEA), anything less than 8-4 should spell the end of Red, and thats being generous…