Mark Hamilton brings a football player’s mentality to the hockey rink.

It even showed up in a penalty the Maine defenseman took late in Saturday’s loss at Northeastern – facemasking, along with a 10-minute game misconduct.

“My whole family was football players, so I just took it from that, I guess. I grew up with it so I have my dad in my ear with that kind of mindset,” said Hamilton, a sophomore from Winthrop, Massachusetts, who leads the Black Bears with 79 penalty minutes. “If they’re hard penalties, then it’s all right. If the energy is kind of down sometimes I’ll try to make a big hit.”

Hamilton’s roughhousing, which came with 1:49 left in a 7-1 Maine loss, was meant to send a message to the Huskies, who also are Maine’s opponent in a best-of-three Hockey East playoff series that begins Friday at Matthews Arena in Boston.

“We wanted to let them know what kind of series it was going to be,” Hamilton said after recording the final 15 of Maine’s 50 penalty minutes in that loss.

It’s an open question whether that message had its desired effect. Northeastern (16-13-5) scored four power-play goals to complete a two-game sweep. The Huskies, the sixth seed, have the top power play in Hockey East at 25.3 percent. They also are the league’s hottest team with a 14-1-2 second-half mark.

So Maine (8-22-6), the 11th seed, will need to be cautious with its physical play.

“The biggest thing for us is to stay out of the box,” Hamilton said. “Just keep your feet moving and try to close off guys. Don’t give them much time and space. Finish checks and let them know that every time they touch the puck they’re going to get hit.”

Maine has lost seven of its past eight games. Its league-worst offense scored just two goals per game this season. But playoff time offers hope of redemption.

“This will be a good chance to kind of wipe the slate with the season and start over,” said junior forward Blaine Byron, who leads the Black Bears with 22 points. “No one really believes in us but I know everyone in that group (of players) and our coaching staff more than believes that we can get this done, and I think we can.”

Last March, Maine was a disappointing 13-20-3 going into a first-round playoff series at Vermont. The Black Bears split the first two contests and rallied late only to lose Game 3 in overtime. It was one of their best-played weekends of the season.

Northeastern Coach Jim Madigan certainly isn’t taking Maine for granted after watching the Black Bears dominate play for much of the game last Friday before falling 5-3 to his team. The Huskies, despite their brilliant play of late, are just 22nd in the RPI, meaning they have to keep winning in order to get into the 16-team NCAA tournament field.

“They play hard, they finish every check, they battle, they compete, they are heavy on pucks, they drive the net really hard,” Madigan said of Maine. “That’s the game we are expecting to be in, you have to win puck battles.”

That’s the message Hamilton wanted to send.

“We know that we can play with them,” he said. “I think that we fought hard to the final whistle, which is good for us.

“And we definitely let them know that we’re not going anywhere and it’s going to be a long series.”


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