UMaine can’t keep up with BC power play
Struggles continued for the University of Maine men’s hockey team, as the Black Bears dropped both home decisions over the weekend to Boston College and the University of New Hampshire.
With a four-game losing streak and a 1-6-0 record, the University of Maine men’s ice hockey team needed to come up with a special performance to win their lone home game against the number one ranked Boston College Eagles on Friday night.
The power play was the difference maker, as BC scored on two power plays, with the game-winner coming 5 minutes into the third period as Eagle sophomore forward Johnny Gaudreau put one in, being assisted by sophomore forward Danny Linell and freshman 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. He made the first two saves and gave it another whack in front of the goalie and the puck bounced off and over,” Gaudreau said.
UMaine came out strong against BC with an aggressive style of play that did not result in penalties. UMaine junior goaltender Martin Ouellette made key saves for the Black Bears during the two BC power plays on the period, recording 19 saves on the game. BC senior goaltender Parker Milner made just as impressive an effort, saving 28 of UMaine’s shots on goal.
“Their play is not indicative of what their record would say,” BC coach Jerry York said. “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,” UMaine head coach Tim Whitehead said.
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 a right side left open by Milner.
BC looked to be quicker and have the edge in puck control, but the physical play of the Black Bears balanced the game. UMaine sophomore forward Jake Rutt would pick up an interference penalty for UMaine with 54 seconds left as the score would be 0-0 at the end of the first period.
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 junior forward Kevin Hayes blasted a snapshot past Ouellette 54 seconds into the second period, assisted by sophomore forward Destry Straight and freshman defenseman Teddy Doherty.
Less than a minute later, UMaine freshman forward Will Merchant answered with a goal for UMaine as he was assisted by freshman forwards Devin Shore and Ryan Lomberg to tie the game up at one goal apiece.
BC took another lead late into the second period when Matheson assisted junior 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 a rebound and slipped 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. You don’t want to get down in the dumps whenever they score,” Diamond said.
BC took control of the game in the third period, coming out with a quick pace of play. It was also in this third period that the Eagles would take control of the lead and not relinquish it.
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 be on it quick. I couldn’t get my whole body over, so I just flailed my leg out and got lucky,” Milner said.
UMaine went to the empty 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. 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,” Whitehead said.
“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 rival UNH
Trying to salvage one game in a weekend series featuring matchups against two top 10 teams, the University of Maine took the ice against the No. 9 ranked University of New Hampshire Sunday afternoon.
UNH senior forward Austin Block scored two goals for the wildcats and sophomore goaltender Casey DeSmith stopped 42 shots in a shutout, and the Wildcats took advantage of 11 UMaine penalties in a 4-0 victory.
“We couldn’t find a balance between playing a physical game and staying out of the penalty box. In the end it really cost us,” Whitehead said.
This was a very physical battle early on, but unlike the Boston College game Friday night, UMaine was unable to keep themselves out of the penalty box, as it made trips early and often. Only 1:19 into the game, UNH junior forward Kevin Goumas and Rutt were called for hitting after the whistle. UMaine freshman forward Conor Riley went to the box for boarding at the 1:19 minute mark as well.
Less than a minute later, UNH had a 5-on-3 advantage when UMaine junior defenseman Brice O’Connor was called for tripping. The Wildcats were able to take advantage as Block cashed in being assisted by senior defenseman Connor Hardowa and sophomore defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk 3:23 into the first period to put the Wildcats up 1-0.
“It was definitely frustrating for us, especially with UNH coming into the building. We were really hyped up before the game, that’s definitely my part, we were excited to get out there and took those two penalties right off the bat and that jump started their offense,” Diamond said.
The Wildcats had control of the puck even when UMaine was on the power play, as they shot more shots during UMaine’s power play after UNH junior defenseman Eric Knodel went to the box 16:37 into the first for tripping.
A few seconds after Knodel came out of the box, he fired a slapshot past UMaine junior goaltender Dan Sullivan after 18:43 of play in the first period, being assisted by sophomore forward Casey Thrush. This gave UNH a 2-0 lead.
“[Their second goal] was huge for them. We thought we gained momentum on the power play, then [Eric Knodel] comes out of the box and ripped a slap shot. There’s not much we can do about that, but it was definitely a game-changer,” Diamond said.
UMaine was able to get more opportunities to shoot the puck in the second, with 18 shots on goal for the Black Bears in the period.
The greatest chance for UMaine came 4:35 into second period when Diamond had the puck with an open net just a few feet away, but whiffed when he tried to tap it in. Leen had the same chance when DeSmith swiped away Diamond’s shot, but Leen also misfired, costing UMaine a chance to get on the board.
Though UMaine only had one penalty called on them during the second period, it helped lead UNH to another goal.
O’Connor picked up his second penalty of the game 13:14 into the second period after he was called for slashing. Seven seconds after O’Connor was let out of the box, UNH was able to get a good shot off before UMaine could get a 5-on-5 defense set up, and Block put his second goal of the game in the net, being assisted by Goumas and Hardowa, giving the Wildcats a 3-0 lead.
“We’ve got a lot of good players, we’re pretty deep. Whatever Coach wants, we make it happen, and that’s how we’re going to win,” Block said. “I saw the goalie was not in the net, so I shot it as hard as I could. The second one Hardowa hit, a pretty hard shot from the point — I initially tipped it, then Dan got a few whacks at it and it ended up going in.”
“We took too long to release the puck, they did a great job blocking shots, and we were not as effective blocking shots on their power play. That was a big part of it, not releasing the puck quick enough, and we have to develop some scoring,” Whitehead said.
The third period saw what looked to be a complete disintegration of the Black Bears team, as six penalties were called on them, most of which were unnecessary.
One large fight ensued in front of the UNH goal, as multiple players were involved with gloves and helmets coming off and a couple players even going to the ground. The only players to receive penalty minutes were Lomberg and UNH sophomore forward Ryan Willows picked up hitting after the whistle and misconduct penalties.
The Wildcats finished up scoring midway into the third period after forward Greg Burke was assisted by forward John Henrion and van Riemsdyk, giving UNH a 4-0 lead, which would be the final score.
“This is not something that any of the captains are going to take, the mindset where this is normal to come to the rink and we come to lose. That is not the way we are approaching it. We’re just going to do everything we can to go back to our winning ways,” Diamond said. “We definitely will not take this loss lightly; this is not something we’re going to take as the norm for us.”
UMaine extends their losing streak to six games as their record falls to 1-8-0 after being shut out for the fourth time this season. They will head to the University of Massachusetts-Lowell next weekend for a two-game series.