College hockey: Maine's defense is on the early offensive so far in 2017
ORONO, Maine — The Maine men's hockey team is averaging four goals per game through four games, which ties for third in the country in that department.
One of the reasons for the Black Bears' offensive success has been the production from defensemen, including three freshmen regulars in Brady Keeper, Alexis Binner and Veli-Matti Tiuraniemi.
Maine's defensive corps has registered five goals and 12 assists. Four defensemen have scored at least one goal and junior alternate captain Rob Michel has tallied two.
"We certainly have some offensive talent on the back end," Maine's fifth-year head coach Red Gendron said. "We had some last year but we have more now."
"They're going to be a great test for us, to see where we're at."— Black Bear Hockey (@MaineIceHockey) October 25, 2017
-Rob Michel on this weekend's series with Minnesota Duluth pic.twitter.com/x6AV9nN82y
Maine's defensive corps posted 18 goals and 44 assists in 36 games a year ago. The 2015-16 team's blueliners amassed 10 goals and 39 assists in 38 games and the previous two seasons' teams each received 23 goals from defensmen. The 2014-15 squad also had 53 assists in 39 games and the 2013-14 team notched 55 in 35 games.
All-American defenseman Ben Hutton had 24 of the 46 goals in 2013-14 and 2014-15.
Gendron's four previous UMaine teams never exceeded 2.91 goals per game or finished ranked higher than 25th among 60 Division I schools in goals per game.
Michel, who had nine goals and 10 assists in 34 games a year ago, has three assists to go with his two goals. Sophomore Patrick Holway, coming off an upper-body injury, made his season debut against Miami (Ohio) on Saturday night and had a goal and two assists; Tiuraniemi and Keeper also each have a goal and two assists and Binner and senior co-captain Mark Hamilton have an assist each.
Junior Keith Muehlbauer is the only regular yet to collect a point.
"We definitely picked up some offensive defensemen," Michel said. "And there has definitely been an emphasis on getting shots through. That's one thing we really strive for."
"A couple of our freshmen are very offensive-minded, which is nice," sophomore center and co-captain Chase Pearson said.
Hamilton said the young defensemen "all have good shots and they do a great job getting them through."
"It doesn't matter how hard the shot is, as long as you get it through (to the net)," Hamilton added. "It gives our forwards a chance to make a play off a rebound or get a tip."
Michel's five points in four games ties him for fifth among the country's defensemen in points per game (1.25).
"It's a good start but I've got to tweak some stuff in the defensive zone," said Michel.
The 2-2 Black Bears host NCAA runner-up Minnesota Duluth (2-2-2) on Friday at 7 p.m. ET and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. ET.
This article is written by Larry Mahoney from Bangor Daily News, Maine and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to email@example.com.