The University of Maine Black Bears were back in action Saturday night, completing a weekend sweep of the University of Massachusetts with a 2-1 victory in front of a raucous but not packed Alfond Arena.
Scoring came early and infrequently in the first quarter. The Black Bears just could not break through the aggressive wall that Massachusetts had set up with tenacious play in both zones. But it was the aggressive play of the Minutemen came back to hurt them. They missed on numerous passes, fell down and lost control of the puck. Two offsides calls really hurt any chances they had. In spite of this, the Minutemen were able to fire off 15 shots on goal to Maine’s 8.
Though shots on goal were infrequent, they did result in the Black Bears scoring with 4:46 to go in the first period, as fourth-year forward Blaine Byron launched a wrist shot past second-year goaltender Nic Renyard after Renyard had defended a hot shot from Black Bear captain and fourth-year forward Cam Brown. The Black Bears would head into the first intermission up 1-0.
Massachusetts came out strong in the second period, keeping the intensity level high but drastically cutting down on the miscues. Maine was able to keep pace and not let the Minutemen carry too much momentum.
Second-year defenseman Rob Michel scored his seventh goal of the season on a slap shot that popped up in the air off the glove of Renyard and trickled in, putting the Black Bears up 2-0 with 15:28 seconds left. The weird bounce proved to be the game winner.
“It’s hard to lose on a fluke goal when you play that well as a team,” Minutemen Head Coach Greg Carvel said.
The Minutemen would cut into the deficit, as third-year defenseman Jake Horton would score an unassisted goal coming right out of the penalty box with 9:11 to go in the period. The Black Bears’ lead was cut to 2-1.
The Minutemen had a chance to tie the game up heading into the second intermission, but Black Bear second-year goaltender Rob McGovern sprawled out to make an incredible glove save to preserve the 2-1 lead.
“I knew there wasn’t much time left in the period. I thought he (Minutemen fourth year forward Ray Pigozzi) was going to shoot,” McGovern said.
“(Scoring there) would have been quite a momentum changer,” Carvel said.
Despite the aggressive play all around, neither team was seriously penalized. The Black Bears were called for just three penalties on the night for a total of four minutes, while Massachusetts was only called for two penalties and two minutes in the penalty box.
The Black Bears had a hard time mustering an offensive attack, being outshot on the night 45-22.
“Their forwards do a great job blocking shots up front, so we couldn’t look for lanes to shoot. We just had to rip and get lucky,” Michel said.
McGovern would finish the game with 44 saves on the night and Brown would finish with two assists.
The Black Bears will return to the ice on Friday, Feb. 3 when they travel to Providence College to take on the Friars. Puck-drop is scheduled for 6:05 p.m. UMass will return home for a Tuesday night game against Northeastern scheduled to start at 7 p.m.