The University of Maine men’s hockey team defeated the University of Massachusetts Minutemen 4-1 on Friday night in front of a crowd of 3,986 at Alfond Arena. Third-year forwards Nolan Vesey and Cedric Lacroix, who each had a goal and an assist in the victory, led the Black Bears.
Maine moves to 9-13-3 on the season and 3-9-1 in Hockey East, while Massachusetts falls to 5-18-2 and 2-10-1 in conference play.
The Black Bears started the scoring early, getting the crowd on its feet with a goal just over three minutes into the game. It was second-year forward Daniel Perez putting home a deflection for his second goal of the season and a 1-0 Black Bear lead.
Just five minutes later, after a Massachusetts penalty for slashing, Vesey put the puck past Lacroix — who was blocking the goalie’s vision with a screen — and into the top left corner of the net for a power play goal and a 2-0 Maine lead.
“We practice power plays in weeks leading into games and we know what to expect,” Vesey said. “Ceddy had a great screen. A great screen like that helps out a lot.”
The second period was scoreless, with both teams unable to convert power play opportunities. The period was highlighted by a breakaway chance by first-year Maine forward Peter Housakos. However, his hard wrist-shot was gobbled up by Massachusetts’s first-year goalie Ryan Wishow. Massachusetts’ best opening was a 40 second 5 v. 3 stretch, but they were unable to make anything of it.
The period ended with the score 2-0.
“I looked up at the board and I think the shots were 10-3 and we were down 2-0,” said Massachusetts head coach Greg Carvel. “Our goaltender is not happy with himself and I’m not happy with him either. He needs to give us more.”
Second-year Massachusetts forward William Lagesson scored just 52 seconds into the third period, reducing the Maine lead to just one. But Maine answered again shortly after, scoring on the power play when Lacroix got his own rebound and slid the puck just inside the post for the 3-1 lead.
“They were getting their chances and then Ceddy sniffs in on a power play goal,” said Maine head coach Red Gendron. “It’s not pretty, but that’s the kind of player he is. A powerful, going to the net type guy. He sniffs one in and that’s huge for our team.”
“That’s an unacceptable goal,” Carvel said of his goalie. “We were fighting to get back and tie the game.”
Maine secured the victory with 3:41 to play when first-year forward Patrick Shea scored his fifth goal of the season on the assist from Lacroix.
“We’re fortunate that we got the two points,” Lacroix said of the win. “But at the same time, we know we have a lot more to give. It’s not necessarily a bad thing that we can come out with a win playing like that, but we know we’re going against some opponents down the road here that we’re going to have to bring a bit of game.”
Gendron was content, but not satisfied, with his team’s effort. Though his team improved throughout the game, he never felt they played at their best.
“I thought we started the game slow, I thought we were a little bit better in the second and overall a little bit better in the third. But we still didn’t play smart, didn’t completely follow the dictates of the game,” Gendron said. “The game has its own integrity. You need to make sure you adhere to it.”
“I really liked how hard our guys played,” Carvel said. “I thought we generated a lot. I thought we possessed the puck in the offensive zone. I thought our game plan was working pretty well, but Maine was much better than us in that ten-foot radius from either net.”
Maine and Massachusetts will meet again Saturday night with puck set to drop at 7 p.m. in the Alfond Arena.