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The Black Bears appear to be who we thought they were. Too bad.

Is this University of Maine hockey team "who we thought they were?" A middle of the pack team in a middle of the road conference?

The way the Black Bears were manhandled at the Mullins Center by UMass this weekend - 5-1 on Friday and 4-1 on Saturday - proves that theory to be a harsh reality.

Sorry, Black Bear Nation. This isn't me trying to be negative. It's just the truth. The Bears aren't ready to sit at the dinner table with the Hockey East big boys.

With the sweep by UMass, Maine slips to 0-6-1 against Providence, UMass Lowell, UMass and Northeastern, four of the top five teams in the league.

There's no doubt goaltender Jeremy Swayman is playing at a high caliber level. But without any superior team speed and offensive depth, he's going to keep seeing tons of rubber against the top tier teams in the league. And UMass is certainly one of them.

The frustration boiled over at the end of Friday's game when Red Gendron wasn't too pleased when UMass coach Greg Carvel put his top power play unit late in the 5-1 Minutemen victory.

Look, it's quite simple. If you don't want that to happen, play better. Bill Belichick has been known to leave Tom Brady under center in the fourth quarter of blowouts. Maine is not good enough to be getting upset about things like that.

Is this team still good enough to possibly win a Hockey East quarterfinal series and get to TD Garden? Absolutely. Especially if Swayman keeps playing well. But if the Bears want to make any headway towards that goal, they'll need to take care of the middle to bottom of the barrel Hockey East teams in the second semester.

Merrimack, UConn and Vermont all visit Orono for two games in January and February. Anything less than 10 points of a possible 12 in those series will be a disappointment.

If Maine can beat Yale on Tuesday in New Haven, the Bears will enter Christmas above .500. That's respectable.

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