The University of Maine should have learned an important lesson during its Hockey East quarterfinal series against Merrimack.
That is, leave the macho attitude and the ego in the locker room and just play good, clean hockey.
In Saturday’s second game, the Black Bears fell victim to the Warriors’ cheap shots and baiting tactics en route to a forgettable, penalty-marred performance. Several players spent excessive time in the box, severely hampering the team’s effectiveness.
If anything similar occurs during Friday night’s semifinal against Boston University at TD Garden in Boston, UMaine is in trouble.
One player holds the key to avoiding that dynamic: Joey Diamond.
The junior right winger is a pivotal member of the fabulous first line for UMaine. The Bears feed off his high-energy style and his considerable skill.
However, Diamond often walks a tightrope between intense and ill-advised.
The All-Hockey East second-team pick ranks third on the team this season in plus-minus at plus-17, but also leads UMaine with 39 penalties for 111 minutes.
In the 17 games during which Diamond did not take a penalty, the Black Bears posted an impressive 13-4 record.
In the 17 games Diamond played in which he incurred a penalty, UMaine had a 7-8-2 record.
That’s not a coincidence.
Nobody knows what kind of tone the officials will set for Friday’s game, but BU and Maine rank second and third, respectively, in Hockey East penalty minutes this season.
So we can expect the whistle will be blown at least a handful of times.
Diamond must set a positive tone for UMaine by playing aggressively without taking any chances in terms of high sticks, late hits, skirmishes and retaliation. If he gets slashed or takes a glove to the cage, he needs to swallow his pride and skate away.
In doing so, he’ll send a message to his teammates that the team’s success is more important than getting in the last shot on an opponent.
Having established a reputation as a rabble-rouser on the ice, officials have a predisposition to find No. 39 “guilty” if something — virtually anything — occurs in his general vicinity.
This is one of the most important games for the UMaine program since it last qualified for the NCAA tournament in 2007.
Diamond’s ability to control his temper and focus on playing a clean, poised game will have a major impact on the Bears’ ability to end that drought.