Maine and New Hampshire in back-to-back games? Cal fans are feeling a sense of deja vu as the Bears face the America East Conference contenders — the Black Bears and the Wildcats — for an important pair of matchups.
The Bears are headed back to the East Coast for a weekend series against Maine and New Hampshire, two very respectable division opponents. The first stop for the blue and gold is Orono, Maine, where they will face the Black Bears.
However, this is rather measly compared to Maine’s seven-game win streak that has helped them plow through opponents — including their 13-0 domination over Merrimack College.
Not only have the Black Bears played well collectively, but their fields boast no lack of individual starpower to outperform their opposition. Most notably, Maine’s goalie Mia Borley just took home Defensive Player of the Week honors in the AEC.
Cal is looking to retaliate on Friday against the reigning America East Conference Champions as the Black Bears handed their blue and gold counterparts a devastating 2-1 loss in the AEC Semifinal round last season.
In the eight total matchups between these two teams, Maine has five wins and three losses against Cal — holding a four-game win streak dating back to November of the 2018 season. Cal has kept up with this tough opponent, however, only losing by one goal in four of the five appearances.
Will Cal be the ‘Maine’ course, or will Cal prove that it is the superior species?
After stopping in the Pine Tree state, Cal makes its way over to New Hampshire to compete against the Wildcats, who are neck-and-neck with the Bears in the AEC standings. With Cal (3-6) currently occupying the five spot and a 2-1 conference record, New Hampshire (5-6) sits just one spot below and maintains a 1-2 record in division games.
The Bears have been victorious in five of the six total matchups against the Wildcats, most recently eliminating them on a 2-1 win in the Quarterfinals of last year’s tournament.
In total, Cal has outscored New Hampshire 20-9, so it will need to keep up its offense and make the necessary stops against the UNH in order to maintain and even extend this scoring differential. The Bears need to be cautious as the Wildcats have had an offensive resurgence after losing six straight, scoring five goals in back-to-back wins against Bryant and Dartmouth.
This is a crucial pairing of games for Cal, particularly the game against New Hampshire, since the Bears are one place ahead of the Wildcats in the AEC. Handing UNH another loss in division matchups would set the team back even more and provide Cal an extra cushion to stay in contention with the schools perched at the top of the standings.
A victory against Maine could be the breaking point the Bears need to exhibit their potential to compete with the frontrunners of the AEC — especially since Cal concludes its season against UMass Lowell and Vermont, who have commanded third and second place, respectively, in the latest divisional rankings.
These upcoming meetings may not be elimination games, but they will be crucial nevertheless for the up-and-down movement in the AEC standings. Can Cal continue its upward trajectory and win streak, or will the Bears be displaced off course on the unfamiliar coast?