After a heartbreaking loss in front of the home crowd at Alfond Arena less than 48 hours earlier, the University of Maine men’s hockey team bounced back to defeat the University of Massachusetts 4-1 in the teams’ first meeting of the season.
The Black Bears improve to 8-4-4 on the season and 6-3-2 in Hockey East play while the Minutemen fall to 3-7-3 and 2-4-3 in HEC.
“Tonight we thought we played pretty well,” Black Bears head coach Tim Whitehead said. “UMass was outplaying us early. We were able to weather the storm and played our best in the third. We’re pleased.”
The Black Bears tallied the first offensive attempt of the game — a strike from junior forward Gustav Nyquist — that was gloved out of the air by senior captain Paul Dainton.
The Minutemen gained possession and maintained it for sometime in UMaine’s defensive end until play was stopped for the first power play of the game. Black Bear sophomore defender Mike Cornell upended a UMass player and spent the next two minutes in the penalty box for tripping.
Freshman goalie Dan Sullivan and the Black Bears were able to fend off the power play, keeping the scored knotted up.
The Black Bears continued to look sloppy, unable to mount any sort of consistent offensive pressure. The Minutemen, for large stretches at a time, once again controlled the puck in the Black Bear zone.
With a little more than five minutes remaining in the first period, the pestering by the Minutemen offense proved too much, as UMass broke the tie on a one-timer by senior forward Chase Langeraap for his first goal of the season. Freshman forward Conor Sheary and junior defender Michael Marcou assisted on the go-ahead goal.
“I think it was kind of a broken play,” Sullivan said. “At the last second [Langeraap] got a pass on the back door and I wasn’t able to get there in time. It was a good shot.”
The Black Bears had an opportunity to tie things up with a man advantage late in the period, but the power play proved fruitless for the 32nd consecutive time this season.
The Black Bears came out with more offense in the second period, getting their best opportunity thus far on a shot by Nyquist, who was stopped by a diving Dainton to maintain the lead.
Five minutes into the second period, the Black Bears found the net. Freshman defender Adam Phillips tried to cover up the free puck in the Minutemen zone, but it was poked away by Black Bear junior forward Brian Flynn. Flynn took a touch and fired the puck past Dainton for his seventh goal of the season.
“[Spencer Abbott] and Robby [Dee] were battling and trying to get the puck from him,” Flynn said. “I just stayed back hoping it would squirt out and it did. I just ripped it quick and I think it went five-hole.”
“Once they scored the goal we started to think a bit more about the situation and stopped skating and stopped playing,” Minutemen head coach Don Cahoon said.
The Black Bears came close to adding a second goal two minutes later, but the two-on-one between Nyquist and senior center Tanner House was pushed wide by the captain House.
Another chance opened for Nyquist and the Black Bears, but the Swede rocketed the puck over the goal entirely.
Each team had power play opportunities late in the period, but all were squandered without much threat.
The Black Bears out-shot the Minutemen 11-7 in the second period.
The third period started off with a penalty early on, as Marcou was booked for interference.
The Black Bears broke the tie with their first power play goal in six games. Flynn grabbed his second of the game off assists from Nyquist and sophomore defender Nick Pryor.
“It was kind of a broken play,” Flynn said. “I know it hit the post on the short side and went it.”
“From a mental standpoint it’s always good to capitalize with a man advantage,” Whitehead said. “In this case it was the game winner and certainly a big goal.”
After another successful penalty kill by UMaine, the Black Bears added a third, after a shot by freshman defender Brice O’Connor was deflected in by sophomore forward Adam Shemansky.
The Black Bears sealed their eighth win of the season with two minutes remaining, as Flynn rounded off the hat trick, scoring the fourth UMaine goal of the day. Senior center Robby Dee grabbed his second assist of the day and Diamond chimed in with an assist.
Dainton played well, corralling 28 saves, but picked up his fourth loss of the season.
“It’s disappointing, it really is,” Dainton said. “We really wanted to be .500 in Hockey East going into the break and tonight we would have clinched that. But it’s a minor setback and there’s always things to improve.”
Sullivan grabbed the fifth win of his career, saving 21 shots in the process.
Both teams have an extended break, with the Minutemen traveling to Madison, Wisc. for a two-game series against the University of Wisconsin on Dec. 30 and 31, while the Black Bears travel to Estero, Fla. for a showdown with Miami University and St. Cloud State.