The University of Maine hockey team spent the Thanksgiving holiday embarking on the longest road trip in program history, to Belfast, Northern Ireland.
The Black Bears returned from the Friendship Four tournament having split their two games, falling 3-0 to Hockey East foe Providence College on Friday and defeating RPI of the ECAC 4-2 in Saturday's consolation contest.
Let's jump to the positives first. It was nice to see the Bears bounce back for a refreshing win on Saturday against an opponent they'll face in Troy, New York, in December.
Four different players - Nolan Vesey, Mitch Fossier, Tim Doherty and Brendan Robbins - tallied a goal apiece. Freshman goaltender Jeremy Swayman was solid, making 18 saves and holding off the Engineers in the third period before Doherty's empty-netter sealed the deal.
But, the Bears' lack of discipline showed, as they took five penalties, one of which led to an RPI goal late in the first period. That can't happen against better opponents down the road.
League rival Providence continued to have Maine's number. The Friars are the lone Hockey East opponent the Bears have not beaten in Red Gendron's four-plus seasons behind the bench. Providence has won 11 consecutive games, including a Hockey East quarterfinal sweep in 2014, against Maine.
Friars' junior Hayden Hawkey, who struggled against Merrimack last weekend, only had to make 24 saves in keeping the Bears at bay, but Providence's discipline in the neutral zone was a huge factor.
When Maine had its opportunities, they didn't bury them. The Friars do an outstanding job clogging up passing lanes and getting their sticks and bodies in front of shots, limiting traffic and pucks to the net. Nate Leaman, who is in this writer's opinion the best coach in Hockey East, has Maine's number.
While it was disappointing not to get two league points against the Friars, Maine played better against RPI and has a bit of momentum heading into its final league series of the first semester, a two-gamer at the Alfond against last-place Vermont.
The Catamounts will come in 1-5-1 in league play so this is a series Maine must hold serve in at home.