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U Maine Hockey Still Has Work To Do

It's quite simple. If you want to be a top-tier team, you have to take care of your conference's bottom-feeders in your building.

The University of Maine hockey team failed to do that this weekend against a Merrimack club that came into Orono occupying the Hockey East cellar.

The Black Bears needed overtime to defeat the Warriors 4-3 on Friday after allowing an extra-attacker goal late in regulation, while Merrimack frustrated Maine on Saturday and dealt the Bears a crushing 3-2 overtime defeat.

If anyone had said before this season that Maine would be a better road team than a home club this season, I'd have thought you were crazy. But that's the case. The Bears just don't seem to play with the same energy at Alfond Arena as they do on the road, and have a 1-1-2 record in their last four home games.

What's more troubling is all of those games were against teams at the bottom of Hockey East in New Hampshire and Merrimack, the fact that Maine typically makes UNH goalie Danny Tirone look like Tuukka Rask not withstanding.

At the end of the day, Maine sits in 5th place in Hockey East. If the regular season ended today, the Bears would bypass the first round of the league playoffs and would face Boston University in the quarterfinals, a team Maine beat two out of three times this year, including 3-0 in Boston.

Maine has certainly been a surprise team in Hockey East this season, but fans have to be a tad concerned that the Black Bears left four league points on the table against UNH and Merrimack.

Now, the Black Bears will travel to Providence next Friday, a team coach Red Gendron hasn't beaten in his tenure, and follow that up with a visit to UNH on Valentine's Day, and Maine fans are hopeful that Tirone won't get much love from the Black Bears.

The season concludes with three games against league leader Boston College - one in Orono and two in Chesnut Hill - but this isn't your older brother's BC that will light up the scoreboard. These are all winnable games and it's still possible for Maine to finish within the top three.

They've just got a find a way to take care of business against teams they're expected to beat. You can't play down to your competition and expect to win - just ask the Pittsburgh Steelers.

On to Providence.

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