Maine Faces Tough Task on Road at Quinnipiac

Jordan Samuels-Thomas had a huge game in the NCAA Semifinal last season against St. Cloud. - Justin K. Aller

Maine travels to Quinnipiac for a 7 p.m. faceoff Friday night on NESN.

Hamden, Conn. -- The last time Red Gendron faced Quinnipiac, the Yale Bulldogs came out on top in the NCAA National Championship. Gendron left Yale where he was the top assistant to Keith Allain to take the reins in Orono as the head coach of the Black Bears in May.

Gendron has made remarkable strides in his first year leading the Maine program, but his team will be heavy underdogs when it arrives at the Highpoint Solutions Arena on Friday night.

Maine won its first game away from Alfond Arena last weekend in Estero, Fla. against Princeton, but it has still yet to win a true road game. Gendron will need to pull any and all tricks out of his back pocket to help the Black Bears against Quinnipiac.

The Bobcats have been incredible at the puck possession game this season. Quinnipiac is averaging 35.52 shots on goal per game while allowing opponents an average of just 19.76 shots per game. In other words Quinnipiac is peppering opposition goaltenders with nearly double the amount of shots on goal.

Freshman Sam Anas leads all NCAA rookies in points with 26 and is tied with St. Lawrence freshman Matt Carey for most goals with 13. He's had the luxury of stepping into a line with two talented brothers, seniors Kellen and Connor Jones.

Jordan Samuels-Thomas is a prototypical power forward who can drive the net while Matthew Peca is a skilled, yet small playmaker with terrific hands.

The defense had to replace four seniors off last year's Frozen Four team, but senior Zach Tolkinen has stepped up to lead a young blue line corps. The big Lino Lakes, Minn. native logs a lot of minutes for the Bobcats. Freshmen Connor Clifton, a Phoenix Coyotes pick, Devon Toews and Joe Fiala have all been solid in their rookie seasons. Junior Danny Federico leads the blue line in plus/minus and has a goal and nine assists from the back line.

Sophomore goaltender Michael Garteig is an adequate goaltender, but his numbers have been helped by Quinnipiac's shutdown defense and puck possession dominance. The Prince George, British Columbia native has a 1.79 goals against average and a .908 save percentage on the season, but his save percentage has been below .900 since the Yale game on Nov. 9.

Maine will certainly have the advantage in the goaltending department with stud senior Martin Ouellete who is coming off a weekend where he stopped 68 of 69 shots faced. The Columbus Blue Jackets prospect has been sensational for the Black Bears. He is one of the most athletic goaltenders in the country and has the flare for the dramatic.

Forward Devin Shore, the team's scoring leader, and defenseman Ben Hutton are two of the best players Hockey East has to offer, but Quinnipiac has the advantage in reinforcements and secondary scoring.

Another issue is the health of senior co-captain Brice O'Connor who has spent most of the season on the top pairing with Hutton. Freshmen Dan Renouf and Eric Schurhamer have been paired together for a majority of the season and have fit right in at both ends of the ice.

The status of freshman forward Blaine Byron, a Pittsburgh Penguins prospect, is also up in the air. He has been on a productive line with two fellow rookies, Cam Brown and Brian Morgan.

Puck drop is set for 7:05 p.m. and fans across New England and the country can watch the game on NESN.

Editor's Note: Photographer Matt Dewkett will be at the Highpoint Solutions Arena shooting the game for SBNation.

Jeff Cox covers college, junior and high school hockey, NCAA recruiting, NHL Draft prospects and the AHL for SBNation. Follow him on twitter @JeffCoxSBNation.

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