When people across the country think of the University of Maine hockey program, they think passion, tradition and fan support. That fan support has seriously dwindled in recent years with the on-ice struggles.
In order for first year head coach Red Gendron to return the Black Bears to national prominence, he must bring back the winning culture and fan support that made playing at Alfond Arena so special.
Nothing brings fans back to the seats more than winning. This weekend offers Gendron's young team an opportunity to gain confidence and win over the home fans.
Gendron won his first game as the head coach of the Black Bears at the Alfond Arena last Saturday night against Bentley. This weekend Gendron's club will host league rival UMass-Amherst for a pair of nonconference games.
Two games that don't count towards the Hockey East standings might not seem very important, but this is an imperative weekend for the Maine program going forward.
Gendron has preached an up-tempo, high-paced, intensity-driven style of play since taking over for Tim Whitehead in May.
Maine must increase offensive productivity while maintaining defensive integrity in front of star senior goaltender Martin Ouellette. The Columbus Blue Jackets draft pick had a stellar season a year ago and played very well in last Saturday's victory. The St. Hippolyte, Quebec native only made 24 saves on 25 shots, but some were crucial stops while Maine was on the penalty kill.
Maine will face a UMass-Amherst team fresh off a weekend sweep of Michigan State. Junior goaltender Steven Mastalerz played well, and a different line shared the spotlight each night. The all-senior line of Brendan Gracel, Connor Sheary and Michael Pereira will look to wreak havoc inside what should be a very loud Alfond Arena.