When the University of Maine hockey team travels to Quinnipiac Tuesday night for a midweek nonconference clash, it will do so looking to break out of an offensive funk.
The problem for the Black Bears is the Bobcats aren't exactly the group a struggling offensive team wants to face. Quinnipiac has allowed an average of just 18 shots on goal per game through the first three contests. The 3-0-0 Bobcats have allowed a total of just five goals, but have seemingly tightened the hatchet with each game.
After scoring three goals in a season opening tie against Michigan State, the Black Bears have scored just two goals over their last three games, including being held scoreless in a 2-0 loss the last time out at Union.
While the lack of offense has been a concern for Red Gendron's team, the defense and goaltending have been an unexpected area of strength in the early going. Maine has allowed just 1.75 goals per game while goaltenders Matt Morris and Rob McGovern have combined for a .951 save percentage. Not bad for a team whose combined save percentage was below .900 a year ago.
Outside of North Dakota, Maine's second opponent, Quinnipiac poses the biggest threat yet in terms of an explosive offense. The Bobcats are paced by junior Sam Anas, who has three goals and two assists through three games. The small forward is crafty with exceptional hands and offensive instincts. Freshman Thomas Aldworth, a Texas native who played prep hockey at Cushing Academy, leads the team in scoring with three goals and three assists.
Quinnipiac has generally done a very good job with puck possession the past few years, and the first three games of the 2015-16 season give no reason to expect differently this year. Senior Michael Garteig's .907 save percentage is room for concern. He's been an adequate netminder for Rand Pecknold's team, but has never really given QU a lift or an advantage.
Maine, headlined offensively by juniors Blaine Byron and Cam Brown, will look to come out with intensity right off the bat. The Black Bears do a good job of playing aggressively and forechecking hard, but can they maintain that throughout the course of the game and stay disciplined?
Jeff Cox covers college, junior, high school and prep hockey, NCAA recruiting and NHL Draft prospects. Follow him on Twitter @JeffCoxSports.