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Final thoughts on the Black Bear hockey season...some improvement, but work to be done

Well, that wasn't unexpected, was it?

The University of Maine hockey team hasn't beaten Providence since Tim Whitehead was behind the bench, and those woes continued this weekend, with the Friars sweeping Maine out of the Hockey East quarterfinals, 4-3 and 3-2.

The frustrating thing for Black Bear Nation is this: Maine could've won both games. The Black Bears should've won Friday, but a couple of questionable calls didn't go Maine's way Friday and Providence rallied from a 2-0 deficit.

Saturday, Maine was in a 3-0 hole in the first period, but the Bears fought back to make it interesting, but again, it wasn't enough.

It's safe to say at this point Providence is Maine's Kryptonite. Kind of how Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls just couldn't get past Detroit in the late 1980's before finally breaking through.

While the Black Bears did improve vastly from a year ago, winning 18 games and finishing sixth in Hockey East, is it enough to satisfy a fan base hungry for a national championship?

Absolutely not.

Head coach Red Gendron heads into next season with one year left on his contract, although I won't be surprised if he gets another extension, as a lame-duck coach is not appealing to recruits.

The 2018-19 season is a crucial year for Gendron and the Black Bears.

With a year under goaltender Jeremy Swayman's belt, another talented recruiting class coming in and a talented core of freshmen and sophomores returning, it's TD Garden or bust for Maine.

The Bears will have the talent to finish in the top four in the league. They will have the talent to get to Causeway Street, and perhaps win the Hockey East tournament.

Anything less than TD Garden is a failure. And if the Bears can't get there, maybe it's time to move on from Gendron.

By this time next year, UMaine will have a new athletic administrator in place, and if the school's marquee athletic program takes another dive, they're not going to be satisfied.

Maine got better defensively as the year wore on. The Bears have the skill up front to score a ton of goals. They have an elite goaltender.

Next year is the time to truly get this program back on track. If not, Black Bear Nation is going to grow more and more frustrated.

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