The Maine Black Bears opened their season new head coach Red Gendron (a familiar face to the Alfond Arena faithful, as he was an assistant coach under the late legend Shawn Walsh, who brought two national titles to Orono)’s stint with an exhibition match against the Tigers of Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. I had waited in great anticipation of this game (and that bound to be awesome experience in the student section) for over a month and had gotten only more hyped up in my talks with a member of the team, freshman centre Cam Brown, a Natick, MA native who lives on my floor. Knowing how recruitment worked in NCAA and CIS respectively, it had already occurred to me that the scales were going to be tilted in Maine’s favor. But I knew that elite hockey is elite hockey regardless of the level and had a feeling that the competition would be something else regardless of the final outcome.
I was right. Though the final score would indicate differently upon first glance, the game was fairly balanced. The attack was very much poured on by Maine, who put up 42 shots on Dalhousie goalie Bobby Nadeau. Though Nadeau gave up 5 goals to 5 different players (Ryan Lomberg, Andrew Cerretani, Connor Leen, Brown, and Steven Swavely), he had quite a task to take on. More or less, the Tigers put everything into it that they could given that they were playing their third game in three nights, including being blanked by Northeastern 5-0 the night before, and were without 4 of their top six forwards (though were still effective on the attack to some degree, as they scored their one goal on a great power play opportunity after forward Chris Iwanako forced a turnover in the neutral zone). They also had some luck going against them. Maine goaltender Martin Oullette was down and out after attempting to poke check the puck away from the crease, leaving an open net behind him. The puck hit a Tiger’s stick and dropped behind him, only to be swatted away just before the goal line by Maine blue-liner Brice O’Connor. The play had to be reviewed to ensure that O’Connor did not hit the puck with his glove (which would award a goal to Dalhousie). After a quick review during which the pep band played the “Final Jeopardy” theme, the play stood. Maine stood firm on the PK, as well, using mostly a forecheck emphasized style to kill off the last nine penalties of the game.
As expected, the place was a madhouse filled with spirit and energizing numbers from the band and a very unfriendly environment for the visitors (“LOOK AT THE SCOREBOARD, NADEAU! SEE THOSE FIVE GOALS? FEEL GUILTY! Because they’re ALL! YOUR! FAULT!” “GOOD LUCK CLEARING CUSTOMS, BECAUSE YOU JUST COMMITTED A CRIME!”) . A culture that I look forward to participating in again and again.