Maine Takes Offense
by Matt Conyers/CHN Correspondent
ALBANY, N.Y. All week, the Black Bears heard about the scoring prowess of Harvard.
They couldn't escape it.
They would flip on a college hockey web site and there it was. Turn over a newspaper and sure enough, some column was detailing the Crimson's hot streak.
The Black Bears were tired of hearing about it. After all, how many times can you hear that your opponent has won their last seven out of eight, and rattled off 32 goals in five games?
Maine just wanted to play the game. More importantly, it was eager to let the rest of the hockey nation in on a little secret: It was more than capable of finding the net itself.
In the twilight hours of Saturday, Maine proved it. En route to a thorough win over Harvard, the squad torched netminder John Daigneau's net for six goals.
"We were the underdog here tonight but in our eyes we knew we could beat them," said assistant captain Michel Leveille. "They talked about them all the way in the paper. There was nothing in the paper about us. It was like they forgot about us."
Maine's offensive assualt on the Crimson was nothing new. Many Hockey East teams have fallen victim to this kind of high octane barrage throughout the year. Despite such highly-touted offenses as New Hampshire and Boston College in their league, the Black Bears stand at second place in the conference in scoring with a mark of 131 goals. Only recently did Boston University surpass Maine in scoring. Led by Hobey Baker finalist and captain Greg Moore, who has 27 tallies on the year, Maine is also third in goals per game.
Throughout most of the season Maine has seen its offensive production increase because of its depth. Saturday night was no different.
"It's a great win, it's one of the first times in a while that we have played a complete 60-minute game," said Josh Soares. "I think it shows everyone else what we can do if we do play a complete game. But the key is that it shown us what we could do.
"I think it might be one of the best games we have played all year."
Sparked by an early goal from Soares, his 15th of the year, Maine saw five other players score. The second and most important goal came from a defenseman.
With Harvard tying it 1-1 at the 9:32 mark, Bret Tyler rushed in for a wraparound chance on Daigneau.
"We knew the next goal was huge and I was lucky enough to get it," said Tyler.
Tyler believes the key to Maine's offense this year has been the coaches' approach to it. Like his teammates, Tyler admitted to getting offensive advice from assistant coach Grant Standbrook earlier this week.
"I talked to coach Standbrook a lot this week about knowing when to pinch," said Tyler. "I picked the right time and the defense was kind of standing flat footed, so I said 'I am going to try and take them.' I was able to beat them wide and then walk out front for a low shot to the blocker."
Leveille, who registered the backbreaker, a 4-1 tally at 12:01 of the second, also said Standbrook and head coach Tim Whitehead assisted him this week. The notorious playmaker, 15 goals and 23 assists, had that advice pay off.
"The defense just shot the puck right at me and from there I knew I had a step on the defenseman," said Leveille. "I just wanted to take it to the net. The goalie made the first move on me and left me the top right part of the net wide open."
Leveille said the coaches had worked with him on carrying the puck in for odd-man rushes and when to shoot it.
"I could have taken the shot wide, but I knew I had a step on the guy," said Leveille. "I protected the puck with my leg and you know it was one of those things were I made up my mind early and I wasn't going to change it."
Leveille was joined in the scoring column by teammates John Hopson, Moore, and Shepheard, as well as Soares and Tyler.
"Without a doubt, that was one of our most complete games," said Tyler. "Coach had us in the right mindset tonight."
The scores were also created by some different and varied faces. With Maine's fourth leading scorer, Derek Damon, suspended for the game, his replacement picked up the slack.
"The most effective thing tonight for our team was the way our forwards were backchecking," said Maine goalie Ben Bishop. "If our forwards backcheck like that every game teams are going to have a hard time beating us."
Not willing to discredit the talented Harvard defense Whitehead said six-goal games can happen at anytime.
"Sometimes that happens," said Whitehead about Maine's offensive success. "We got some bounces early. We got to the net pretty well."