The University of Maine men’s ice hockey team traveled to Kansas City, Mo. over the weekend and returned home with their first victory of the season in their fourth appearance in the Ice Breaker Tournament. UMaine, ranked 20th, picked up the win against Army on Saturday night by a score of 4-3, one night after falling 1-0 to 14th ranked University of Notre Dame.
The Black Bears and Fighting Irish went scoreless in the first two periods of Friday night’s matchup. UMaine was only able to get six shots on goal in the first and second periods, and had a hard time generating any kind of offense throughout the night. UMaine junior goaltender Dan Sullivan stopped 33 of 34 shots and kept UMaine in the game with a couple of impressive saves in the second and third periods.
The lone goal of the night came 2:59 into the third period, as Notre Dame junior forward TJ Tynan was assisted by junior forward Bryan Rust and sophomore defenseman Robbie Russo to put one past Sullivan to give the Fighting Irish a 1-0 lead. This lead would hold as junior goaltender Steven Summerhays shut out the Black Bears, saving all 22 shots on goal. UMaine and Notre Dame combined to go 0-11 on the power play.
After losing to University of Nebraska-Omaha by a score of 5-1, Army would face UMaine in the consolation game on Saturday. In this game, the Black Bears were focused on getting the puck to the net.
“Well we really focused on getting to the net and taking pucks to the net more,” said UMaine head coach Tim Whitehead. “The first three goals we scored were all scored by players carrying the puck to the front then scoring on rebound opportunities and the last goal was [senior forward Joey] Diamond getting to the net front to deflect a [freshman defenseman] Ben Hutton shot, so all four goals were scored at the net front and that was our big focus. The second night was generating more second shots, taking more pucks to the net, and generating those screens, rebounds and deflections.”
Army got the scoring started off when freshman forward Thane Heller was assisted by senior forward Andy Starczewski 5:41 into the first period. Army extended their lead early into the second period when freshman defenseman Luke Jenkins hit one in 2:31 into the second period with the assist by sophomore forward Zak Zaremba.
After being shut out the night before, and with more emphasis on getting the puck to the net, UMaine increased their shots by more than double the amount the night before. The Black Bears had almost as many shots in the third period as they did in the entire game against Notre Dame, with 21 shots on goal in the third period and 54 shots on goal overall in the game.
UMaine freshman goaltender Matt Morris played all 60 minutes for the Black Bears, and saved 21 of 24 Army shots on goal.
UMaine started their comeback 11:24 into the second period when junior forward Mark Anthoine scored unassisted to bring the Black Bears to within one.
One minute and 11 seconds later, senior forward Klas Leidermark was assisted by sophomore forward Connor Leen and freshman forward Will Merchant to tie the game up at two goals apiece.
UMaine took the lead for the first time when sophomore forward Stu Higgins put one past Army sophomore goaltender Rob Tadazak 13:51 into the second period, with the assists coming from freshman forward Devin Shore and Diamond.
Army tied the game 9:01 into the third period, when sophomore forward Josh Richards scored. However, UMaine took the lead for good one minute later when Diamond was assisted by Hutton and Higgins 9:56 into the third period. The goal gave UMaine the 4-3 win.
Whitehead was proud of the team for the victory and feels fortunate the team was able to participate in the Ice Breaker Tournament.
“It feels good especially after our backs were against the wall in the second game when we were down 2-0 and desperate to get a win. We were proud of the team. We told them not to panic, continue to press, get chances, and eventually the dam broke and we were able to get the win,” Whitehead said. “It’s always great to get on a plane in the fall and go on the road together. The tournament format is even better because it’s what you’re going to face at the end of the year in the league playoffs and again for the national tournament so we’re very fortunate to be able to do this.”
Notre Dame went on to win the tournament with a 3-2 victory over Nebraska-Omaha later on Saturday.
UMaine returns home for two game series against St. Lawrence University on homecoming weekend, Oct. 19 and 20. Both games will be played at 7 p.m. at the Alfond Arena.