With a four-game losing streak and a 1-6-0 record, the University of Maine men’s hockey team needed to come up with a special performance to win their lone home game against the No. 1 Boston College Eagles on Friday night.
The power play was the difference maker, as BC scored on two power plays on the night with the game winner coming 5 minutes into the third period as sophomore forward Johnny Gaudreau put one in, being assisted by forward Danny Linell and defenseman Michael Matheson. BC went on to win 4-2 after an empty netter.
“I got it in front of the net, and popped it over,” Gaudreau said. “He made the first two saves and gave it another whack in front of the goalie and the puck bounced off and over.”
UMaine came out strong against BC with an aggressive style of play that did not result in penalties. Junior goaltender Martin Ouellette made key saves for the Black Bears during the two BC power plays in the period, recording 19 saves on the game. BC goaltender Parker Milner made just as impressive of an effort, saving 28 of UMaine’s shots on goal.
“Their play is not indicative of what their record would say,” said BC coach Jerry York. “They played hard and they played well. Ouellette made some big saves. It was a difficult win for us to achieve. The keys to winning for us tonight were the power play and Parker in goal.”
“The effort was incredible. We played an incredible BC team right to the end, but we’re not there yet,” said UMaine head coach Tim Whitehead.
The Black Bears had many chances to put one in the net in the first period, the most notable being a rebound opportunity for UMaine senior forward Joey Diamond, but the puck was barely out of reach on what would have been an open right side that Milner left open.
BC looked quicker and had the edge in puck control, but the physical play of the Black Bears balanced the game. Sophomore defender Jake Rutt would pick up an interference penalty for UMaine with 54 seconds left in the period as the score would be 0-0 at the end of the first.
The Black Bears went on the offensive right away to start the second period as sophomore forward Stu Higgins had a breakaway opportunity in the first minute, but was chased down by Matheson just before he could get a shot off.
With BC still on the power play, Eagles forward Kevin Hayes blasted a snapshot past Ouellette 54 seconds into the second period, assisted by forward Destry Straight and defenseman Teddy Doherty.
Less than a minute later, UMaine sophomore forward Will Merchant answered with a goal for the Black Bears as he was assisted by freshmen forward forwards Devin Shore and Ryan Lomberg to tie the game up at one goal apiece.
BC took another lead late in the second period when Matheson assisted fellow defenseman Isaac MacLeod, but once again, UMaine was able to respond almost immediately. Only 27 seconds after the BC goal, UMaine sophomore forward Connor Leen scored unassisted off of a rebound, slipping one over the shoulder of Milner to tie the game 2-2.
“We came out hard and bounced back whenever they scored, which is something you need to do,” Diamond said. “You don’t want to get down in the dumps whenever they score.”
BC took control of the game in the third period, coming out with a quick pace of play.
After the Eagles took the lead on the Gaudreau power-play goal, UMaine had a great chance to tie when Diamond had an open net on a wrap-around attempt, but Milner was able to push his leg out at the last second to keep the puck out of the net.
“The puck squirted out and I knew [Diamond] would get on it quick. I couldn’t get my whole body over so I just flailed my leg out and got lucky,” Milner said.
UMaine emptied the net in the final minute, but a too many men on the ice penalty reduced the personnel to 5-on-5, and BC was able to add an empty-net goal to finish the game off with a final score of 4-2.
“I think in the end, it was just a couple penalties too many, and that was the difference,” Whitehead said. “You can’t give a team like that four power plays in the third period and expect to do well. They will come out on top.”
“It came down to a special teams battle and they had two power-play goals and an empty netter, that says it right there,” Diamond said.
UMaine falls to 1-7-0 on the year, facing rival University of New Hampshire on Sunday at 4 p.m. as BC improves to 5-1-0 takes on the University of Massachusetts at home on Sunday at 4 p.m.