The University of Maine hockey team has won four straight games and seven of its last eight.

Now for a splash of reality.

Against teams with winning records, the Black Bears are 1-6-1 (with the win against Northeastern, which is 8-7-3 overall, but 4-7-2 in Hockey East).

Maine is 10-7-2, and in fourth place in Hockey East with a 7-6-1 record. But the Black Bears have been beating up on the lowly, with a 9-1-1 record against teams with losing records.

Tonight and Saturday, Maine can make a statement that it really belongs among the league’s top teams. The Black Bears play Merrimack (11-4-4, 7-3-2), ranked No. 7 in the USCHO national poll and in third place in Hockey East.

Tonight’s game is at 7 p.m. and Saturday’s game has been moved up to 5 p.m. (for you Patriots fans). Both games will be played in the J. Thom Lawler Arena, on Merrimack’s campus in North Andover, Mass.

The Warriors beat Maine 2-1 on Oct. 7 at Alfond Arena, in both teams’ season opener.

And that score has been typical for Merrimack, which leads the league in team defense, and is tied for second in the country, allowing 2.0 goals a game.

The Warriors are backboned by senior goalie Joe Cannata, a Vancouver Canucks draft pick who has a 2.03 goals-against average and .926 save percentage.

“Cannata is proving he is no fluke and is a legitimate NHL prospect,” Maine coach Tim Whitehead said. “And their defensive corps protects the net and their goalie very well.”

But the Warriors are ninth in offense (3.00)

The Black Bears rank sixth in defense (3.00) and second in offense (3.42).

“We’re a much different team than the one that played (Merrimack) earlier in the year,” Whitehead said. “We’re playing our best hockey of the season.”

Maine features the top three scorers in Hockey East with its explosive first line of Spencer Abbott (11 goals/22 assists), Brian Flynn (11/18) and Joey Diamond (14/10). Abbott’s 33 points is tied for first in Division I.

Maine’s power play leads Hockey East and is third in the country at 27.8 percent. The Black Bears have been clicking at 37 percent (10-of-27) in its last four games.

Not only is Maine’s top power play scoring, but so is its second unit, led by Lewiston’s Mark Anthoine with seven power-play goals.

Maine’s penalty kill unit ranks only sixth in Hockey East (stopping 84 of 103 power plays). But the Black Bears have killed 19-of-20 in their last four games.

Merrimack’s power play ranks eighth in the league, and it’s penalty kill ranks fourth.

 


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