The University of Maine men’s ice hockey team had a strong weekend on the road, garnering three of a possible four points in Hockey East play. The Black Bears tied 1-1 at the University of Massachusetts Friday night, then beat Providence College 3-2 Saturday.
At the start of Friday’s game at the Mullins Center in Amherst, Mass., the Black Bears came out of the gates putting plenty of shots on sophomore goalie Gabe Winer, but were unable to beat him. Dustin Penner and John Ronan had the best chances early, both hitting the post less than ten minutes into the game.
The Black Bears’ inability to score early came back to bite them when the UMass Minutemen took the lead late in the period. Craig McDonald led a rush into the zone, sliding the puck to sophomore Stephen Werner behind the net. Werner didn’t set up for long as he found defenseman James Solon sneaking in between the circles unmarked. Werner got the puck to him for a one-timer that beat Jimmy Howard at 14:58 of the first period to give UMass the 1-0 lead.
UMaine had a great chance to equalize midway through the second when the team was awarded a penalty shot when a UMass defenseman closed his hand on the puck while standing in the crease. Coach Tim Whitehead chose to have his senior sniper Colin Shields take the shot, but Winer stopped his wrister to keep it 1-0.
The Black Bears were able to tie the score with 41 seconds left in the second period when Michel Leveille found Greg Moore in the neutral zone with a breakout pass. Moore split the UMass defense, broke in and wristed a shot passed Winer to tie the score before the second intermission.
The Minutemen got the better of the chances in the third period, and Howard had to come up big a few different times. His biggest save came with 10 seconds left in regulation, when UMass won an offensive zone faceoff clean back to defenseman Thomas Pock, whose slapshot was kicked aside by Howard.
UMass got the only two shots on net in the overtime, both midway through the period in a flurry. Howard made a save on Mike Warner and then had to dive across the crease to make a tough save on Kevin Jarman to keep the tie.
Howard finished the game with 22 saves, while Winer stopped 24 for the Minutemen.
Saturday’s game started much the same way as Friday’s game for UMaine. The first shift of the game saw plenty of opportunities for the Black Bears, but David Cacciola made a few nice saves for Providence. After a Mike Lundin shot from the point was blocked out of the zone, Bill McCreary beat Jeff Mushaluk to the loose puck. McCreary fed it to Tony Zancanaro, who one-timed the puck passed Frank Doyle just 54 seconds into the game to give the Friars a lead.
Junior Ben Murphy tied it at 11:35 of the first on a shot from the corner. Cacciola had trouble handling the shot, as it glanced off his glove, his arm and the paddle of his stick before finding the net. Murphy’s goal was unassisted.
The Black Bears took their first lead of the game on the power play at 6:45 of the second period. Troy Barnes slid the puck to Shields at the left point, where he one-timed a hard shot toward the net. Moore was camped in front and tipped the shot in for his seventh goal of the season, making the score 2-1 UMaine.
In the third period, Providence tied the score at 5:42 on the power play when Stephen Wood grabbed the puck after Chris Chaput won an offensive zone faceoff to him. Wood slapped the puck by Doyle for the tally.
The Black Bears grabbed the lead for good on a great individual effort by reigning Hockey East Rookie of the Week Luciano Aquino. Aquino skated on to a loose puck and used his speed to create a two-on-one. Aquino waited for both the defenseman and goalie to commit to him as brought the puck near the crease. Aquino found Prestin Ryan who pounded the puck into the open net for his third of the season at 13:05 to put UMaine up 3-2.
Immediately after the play, Aquino was drilled by Providence forward Jonathan Goodwin, who was assessed a five-minute major and a game disqualification penalty. Aquino was injured on the play and did not return to the game.
Doyle staved off the final Providence flurry and preserve the win for UMaine. He made 25 saves in the win, while Cacciola stopped 25 in the loss.
The Black Bears are now 10-2-1 overall and 5-2-1 in Hockey East, which is good enough for a three-way tie with UMass and New Hampshire atop the league standings.
The third-ranked Black Bears are off until Dec. 5 and 6 when they will play a two-game league series at Merrimack.