Ending The Drought
Maine came into the NCAA tournament having lost four straight, all of them to Massachusetts: two to end the season and a sweep at the hands of UMass in the Hockey East tournament, the team the Black Bears face on Saturday.
“How could you not respect a team that beat you four times in a row?” asked Maine coach Tim Whitehead. “You’d be foolish if you didn’t.”
Maine goalie Ben Bishop missed all four of those games with a groin injury and is looking forward to the rematch.
“When we saw they won tonight, it really boosted us,” Bishop said.
Maine’s Michel Léveillé is relishing the opportunity, too: “I don’t call it a second chance; I call it a second life.”
The Black Bears won at home earlier in the season against UMass, 4-1, and are 4-4-2 in their last 10 meetings.
Ending With A Drought
St. Cloud State, once projected as a top four seed, lost its last three games: a semifinal loss to North Dakota in the WCHA Final Five and a consolation loss to Wisconsin preceded tonight’s defeat.
Huskies coach Bob Motzko didn’t think that those losses influenced things tonight. “We had a really great week of practices this week. Our spirits were great.”
Black Bears In The Big Dance
The Black Bears have the second-longest current streak of NCAA appearances. This season is the ninth straight for Maine, and the sixth in a row under coach Tim Whitehead. Only Michigan, with 17, has more. Maine has been in 17 NCAA tournaments overall with a record of 28-18.
Maine was 3-0 coming into the game against teams in the NCAA tournament outside of Hockey East, but 2-11-1 against league foes — including 1-4 against UMass. The non-league wins came against teams in the West Regional from the WCHA. Main opened the season with a 3-1 home win over Minnesota and then swept a pair in Grand Forks against North Dakota, 6-2 and 3-1.
Maine was also a No. 3 seed in last year’s East Regional and advanced to the Frozen Four. The Black Bears are now 13-2 all time in regional play.
Huskies In The NCAAs
St. Cloud made its sixth trip to the NCAAs this season — and its first since four straight appearances from 2000-2003 — but tonight’s contest was the first tournament meeting between these two teams. It was also the first trip under second-year head coach Motzko, who has seen a lot of growth in his team in that span.
“We’re not the most talented group,” he said. “But we came a long way in the last two years.”
Something In Common
Maine and St. Cloud both played North Dakota, Minnesota and Vermont this season. Maine was 5-1 while the Huskies were 3-2-4.
Maine holds the series lead between the two teams 1-6-1 all time with the win tonight. The loss tonight was the first game against the Black Bears under Motzko.
Perfect Outside the WCHA Until Now
St. Cloud’s loss to Maine is its first outside the WCHA this season. The Huskies went 6-0-0 in non-conference play until the loss tonight.
Hockey East had five teams selected this season for the NCAA tournament to three for the WCHA. Since 1985, the WCHA has had 76 teams in the tournament to 72 for Hockey East.
Not Playing The Averages
Maine had averaged 2.96 goals a game and allowing 2.56, while St. Cloud State had averaged 3.23 per game and had allowed an average of 2.44.
Today’s attendance at the Blue Cross Arena was 3,887.