There was one theme that kept finding its way into University of Maine hockey head coach Ben Barr's answers during his weekly appearance on The Drive - improving.

For the first-year head coach, that's the motto after the Black Bears suffered a season-opening sweep at #17 Nebraska-Omaha last weekend.

Maine fell to a 4-1 defeat Friday night, followed by a 5-3 loss on Saturday. In both games, the Black Bears entered the third period level with the Mavericks before the score got away from them.

"Competing on an individual basis, each one of our guys. It's very, very basic stuff but we got better at it this week...We have to play, habit-to-details-wise, near-perfect hockey to give ourselves a chance. That's part of the grind of coming together as a team and building a culture," said Barr.

"We were able to keep our intensity level up for 40 minutes. We have to be able to mentally focus for a full game. Physically, we have to be able to withstand the grind of a full game against a good team, which we'll have every night in Hockey East. The intensity level was there for 40 minutes, then it was gone," added the head coach.

While the Black Bears have been on the ice for about six weeks at this point, Barr feels his team may be suffering from a lack of effort put forth in the off-season.

"Ultimately, the ability to withstand 60 minutes night in and night out, and to be able to not only withstand it but even turn it up in the third period, a lot of that happens in the summertime and in the fall before the season starts...Those are the things that we aren't there with yet. That's stuff that we have to continue to address as a program."

It's a series of events Barr saw unfold at Massachusetts as an assistant on Greg Carvel's national championship-winning staff.

The Minutemen won just five games during the 2016-17 campaign, the first under Carvel's guidance. But with Barr's help, the program recruited greater talent, changed the mindset of its players and eventually went 72-26-6 over the last three seasons.

"You're not changing the physical or mental makeup of your team during the season that much. That's the stuff that happens in the offseason, guys putting in the work. Some of them do and some of them don't, and that's a standard that has to change here."

Barr will have the better part of two weeks to get the Black Bears in shape before Maine hosts Sacred Heart University for the first games at Alfond Arena with fans in attendance since March 2020.

Keep in mind if you plan on attending those contests vs. Sacred Heart, or any other men's and women's hockey and basketball games this season, UMaine announced that everyone attending home games must show proof of vaccination or a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours prior to the event.

To hear the full conversation with Barr, listen below, and don't forget to catch the coach every Tuesday during the season on The Drive.


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