Expectations were not high for Maine this season. Picked to finish at the bottom of Hockey East by the league’s head coaches, the Black Bears were off to a modest 4-7 start, the last loss coming at the hands of Providence in the opening round of the Friendship Four tournament in Belfast, Ireland, on Thanksgiving weekend.
Since then, however. Maine is unbeaten in its last nine games, going 7-0-2 as the Black Bears head to Boston for a pair of games against No. 9 Northeastern.
“I think our chemistry has been a lot better,” sophomore forward Chase Pearson said on Inside Hockey East. “Guys are starting to get along. You can feel the energy in the room.
“When you’re winning it’s fun to come to the rink, and I think that we’re all looking forward to come to the rink every day. Obviously it’s showed on the ice for us.”
The play in goal has been a big part of Maine’s success, with freshman Jeremy Swayman going 8-3-1 with a 2.37 goals against average. Swayman was selected by the Bruins in the fourth round of the 2017 NHL Draft.
Swayman was named to Team USA’s World Juniors team and missed a pair of games at RPI, but junior Rob McGovern of Weymouth made 53 saves over the weekend as Maine swept the series, 3-2 and 5-2. Both Swayman and McGovern participated in Bruins Development Camp last summer.
Swayman was back in net last Friday, recording 31 saves in a 3-0 win at Boston University over his World Juniors teammate Jake Oettinger.
The Black Bears have climbed into sixth place in Hockey East, but have games in hand on the five teams ahead of them. All 14 of their remaining games are league contests beginning with this weekend’s series at Matthews Arena against the second-place Huskies, who are 12-5-3 overall and 8-3-1 in the conference.
“We’ve got a stretch of 14 games, 12 in the league and the other two (the Beanpot) which have their own significance,” said Northeastern coach Jim Madigan.
“It starts off with Maine, who’s a very good hockey team right now.”
Frederic heats up
Wisconsin sophomore Trent Frederic scored four goals as Team USA blew out the Czech Republic, 9-3, to take the bronze medal at the World Junior Championship. Drafted by the Bruins in the first round of the 2016 draft with the 30th pick, Frederic has 23 goals and 26 assists with the Badgers, and was named the Big Ten Freshman of the Year last season.
Friars roll into town
Providence will put its four-game winning streak on the line with games at first-place Boston College Friday night and at BU Saturday. The Friars, 14-7-1 overall and 7-4-1 in Hockey East, are 5 points behind first-place BC with a game in hand. A strong showing this weekend would go a long way toward moving them into contention for the top spot . . . Harvard is home for a pair of games again this weekend against Princeton and Quinnipiac. The Crimson swept a pair of games last weekend against RPI amd Union in their first action at home in more than two months.
You can still catch the Patriots
The Providence at BU game Saturday night has been moved to 5 p.m., as has the Maine at Northeastern game. UConn at Merrimack was moved up an entire day and will be played Friday at 7 p.m.Follow Andrew Mahoney on Twitter @GlobeMahoney