Coming off a 1-1 performance in the Ice Breaker Tournament, the 1-2 University of Maine men’s hockey opened their homecoming weekend series against the 1-1 St. Lawrence University Saints on Friday night.
The Saints outplayed the Black Bears in every aspect of the game, and as a result came out with a 5-0 victory. The Black Bears were not happy with their effort against the Saints, which seemed to fall off in the opening minutes.
“We actually got out of the gate within the first 5 minutes or so the guys felt pretty good on the bench but after that first goal it seemed like we deflated pretty quickly,” said UMaine head coach Tim Whitehead. “I was really disappointed in how we responded. They outplayed us in every area.”
“We played hard for the first 3 minutes of the game, and it just fell off from there,” said UMaine co-captain Joey Diamond.
UMaine’s offense struggled in the first period, going 0-3 on the power play and missing open shot opportunities.
Seven minutes into the first period St. Lawrence struck first, as Saints defenseman Riley Austin hit a slapshot through the UMaine defense and deflected off of UMaine defenseman Mike Cornell on its way past UMaine goaltender Dan Sullivan.
“I’m not sure what that hit. It just rattled around and it found its way into the net,” said UMaine goaltender Dan Sullivan.
The second period was all St. Lawrence as well, as UMaine looked to be having a hard time controlling the puck and staying on their skates, as each time they had an opportunity they lost the puck or were outskated by St. Lawrence. UMaine was able to get more shots off this period, but St. Lawrence was able to get the goals.
UMaine sophomore forward Stu Higgins went to the penalty box 30 seconds into the second period, and St. Lawrence was able to capitalize on the power play. Forward Chris Martin was assisted by fellow forward Kyle Flanagan and defenseman Justin Baker to extend the Saints lead to 2-0 1:08 into the second period.
Midway through the second period Baker was sent to the box for roughing, but this did not keep the Saints from scoring again. Flanagan picked up another assist as he helped forward Patrick Doherty score a short-handed goal 10:13 into the second period that increased the lead to 3-0.
“Our big focus is to get our penalty kill as good as our power play. Tonight we ended up getting a shorthanded goal,” Flanagan said. “The penalty kill was our big focus tonight and to get a goal a man down, that really stopped their momentum.”
“That’s our bread and butter. We’re going to win or lose on special teams,” said St. Lawrence head coach Greg Carvel. “We don’t score a ton of goals five-on-five but our five guys on our power play are skilled players, and if you give them enough opportunity they’re going to score goals. I thought our [penalty kill] was real good tonight, considering the number of penalties. We had to keep playing the same guys for a lot of minutes. “
Flanagan lead the Saints with three assists on the night and two shots on goal, while the team was able to score on two of nine power play opportunities to go along with the shorthanded goal.
The game got ugly as it headed into the third period, as junior defender Brice O’Connor picked up two penalties in the period and Diamond inched closer to the UMaine school record for penalty minutes as he also picked up two penalties in the period.
Less than 4 minutes into the third period, forward Gunnar Hughes scored for the Saints being assisted by forward Pat Raley and defenseman George Hughes to give them a 4-0 lead.
As the period wore on, both teams started to rack up penalties, and UMaine was still unable to capitalize on any opportunity that came their way, finishing 0-9 on power play opportunities in the game. Under 8 minutes into the third period, Baker hit a power play goal that made the score at 5-0. UMaine goaltender Matt Morris was put in for Sullivan after the goal. Sullivan saved 17 shots before he was pulled. Weninger saved 30 for St. Lawrence.
“We have to bounce back tomorrow, the guys are going to come out stronger, and we will have to just shower this one off. It was a very tough loss,” Sullivan said.
“We embarrassed ourselves tonight. The fans don’t deserve that. We’ll definitely check ourselves at the door tomorrow when we walk in for meeting and realize it’s a privilege and an honor to put on that sweater,” Diamond said.
UMaine and St. Lawrence will play the second game of their doubleheader Saturday night at 7 p.m.