The University of Maine men’s hockey team trailed the University of Massachusetts by one point for the final spot in the Hockey East playoffs before heading to Amherst, Mass. over the weekend in a two-night fight for their playoff lives.
Junior goaltender Martin Ouellette recorded his third shutout of his career Friday night in a 2-0 victory. But UMass returned the next night by scoring three goals in the third period to defeat the Black Bears 5-2. Freshman forward Jake Rutt and freshman defenseman Ben Hutton led the team offensively, scoring one goal each, with Rutt tallying one assist and Hutton two. Freshman forward Devin Shore also recorded his team-leading assists — 16 Friday night and 17 Saturday night.
Ouellette saves 30 in 2-0 shutout of Minutemen
The Black Bears skated into the Mullins Center Friday night with 14 points in Hockey East play — good enough for ninth place in the conference. UMass held the eighth-place spot with 15 points, giving UMaine a perfect opportunity to get ahead of the Minutemen to squeak into postseason play.
After a scoreless first period, UMass freshman forward Shane Walsh committed an interference penalty, giving UMaine a power-play opportunity 13:23 into the second period. Hutton put the Black Bears on top 1-0 14:14 into the second period with his third goal of the season. Shore and Rutt assisted Hutton on the power-play goal, which was their fifth in their last three games.
A little over 4 minutes later, Hutton and sophomore forward Stu Higgins helped junior forward Mark Anthioine score his third goal of the season to give the Black Bears a 2-0 lead.
UMass sophomore goaltender Kevin Boyle made 22 saves in the first and second period before allowing the two UMaine goals, prompting Minutemen head coach John Micheletto to pull him in favor of sophomore goaltender Steve Mastalerz. Mastalerz saved all eight Black Bear shots on goal in the third period, while Micheletto was credited with the loss.
Ouellette saved all 30 shots fired his way, including 10 in the third period to preserve the 2-0 shutout, giving the Black Bears 16-15 lead over UMass in the Hockey East standings.
Offensive leaders for UMass include junior forward Brandon Gracel with five shots on goal, junior defenseman John Hanley with four shots on goal, and junior forwards Micheal Pereiera and Conor Sheary with three shots on goal each.
UMass scored three in third to re-take the final playoff spot
Sheary, sophomore forward Zack LaRue and senior forward Kevin Czepiel all scored in the third period for the Minutemen, splitting their weekend series with UMaine after a two-period tie game. The win also leapfrogs the Minutemen over the Black Bears to their Hockey East standings before the weekend started. Once again, UMaine is left on the outside looking in.
UMass scored two goals, less than 2 minutes in the first period, in an effort to split the series. The first one came 5:51 into the first period, with senior forward Rocco Carzo and sophomore forward Stephen Guzzo assisting junior defenseman Adam Phillips, giving the Minutemen a 1-0 lead.
Junior forward Branden Gracel provided the second goal of the period at the 7:47 expiration mark, scoring his 14th goal of the season. Searly and junior defenseman Joel Hanley provided the assists on the play.
UMaine began their comeback in the second period the same way they began their scoring the previous night. Hutton, Shore and Rutt teamed up again on a power play after Phillips committed an interference penalty. This time, Rutt put the puck in the net to cut the UMass lead to 2-1 5:36 into the second period.
Only 1:40 later, freshman defenseman Bill Norman tied the game up for the Black Bears with his second goal of the year, assisted by senior forward Klas Leidermark and sophomore forward Andrew Cerretani.
UMaine was prompted to take a timeout 1:43 into the third period, due to two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties against UMaine freshman forward Ryan Lomberg and Czepiel 4 seconds into the period and a high sticking penalty by Shore. Gracel and Carzo assisted LaRue to score the game-winning goal just over a minute later.
UMass made their lead 4-2 when Sheary scored his ninth goal of the year with the assist coming from both Hanley and Allen.
UMaine head coach Tim Whitehead pulled Ouellette from the net with 1:28 to play in an attempt to try and tie the game, but Czepiel put the game away with an empty netter to give the Minutemen a 5-2 victory.
Ouellette saved 22 for the Black Bears, while Mastalerz saved 23 in the game for UMass.
The Black Bears take on last-place Northeastern University in their final home series of the season, Mar. 1 and 2 at 7 p.m. UMass will visit the University of New Hampshire, who is currently tied atop the Hockey East standings with 28 points alongside Providence College and Boston College.