In desperate need of points to regain position in the Hockey East conference, the Maine Black Bears answered the call by sweeping conference rival, the University of Massachusetts (UMass), on the road by scores of 5-2 and 5-4 over the weekend. The wins also marked just the second and third time the Black Bears scored five or more goals this season, gaining an offensive prowess at precisely the right time, just weeks away from postseason play.
After the weekend wins, Maine moves to 7-15-6 on the season and 4-8-2 in Hockey East play, while UMass falls to 7-16-4 and 2-11-4 in conference action.
Five different Black Bears score in 5-2 win
Maine spread the wealth on Friday night, controlling the Minutemen on their home ice with relative ease. Four different Black Bears notched two points in the contest, while fourth-year goaltender Matt Morris backstopped Maine in a 28-save performance. Despite Maine’s penalty kill being taken advantage of, the Black Bears dominated play at even strength and had enough offense to hold on for the win.
Third-year forward Blaine Byron got things started for Maine, notching the first goal of the weekend just over a minute into the contest. Third-year forward Cam Brown and fourth-year defender Conor Riley assisted on the play. Byron received a pass at the point and ripped a slapshot that found its way to the back of the net with the help second-year forward Nolan Vesey, who was screening first-year netminder Nic Renyard on the play.
The Minutemen responded by tallying their first power play goal of the contest before the first intermission. First-year defender Ivan Chukarov received a pass from first-year forward Austin Plevy and buried the puck to knot the score at 1-1.
The Black Bears responded in the middle period, scoring just seconds after returning to the ice. First-year forward Brendan Robbins received a long pass while skating up ice in transition, beating the UMass defense and then Renyard to regain the lead.
Riley doubled the Black Bears lead on a quick wrist shot in the offensive zone that beat Renyard top shelf. Byron and fourth-year captain Steven Swavely assisted on the play.
Plevy notched the Minutemen’s second power play goal of the contest in the final period. Third-year forward Ray Pigozzi found Plevy on the play, who was able to get Morris out of position to bring UMass within a goal at 3-2.
Third-year forward Brian Morgan and Swavely would each find the back of the net before the final horn, giving the Black Bears the 5-2 victory. Renyard was replaced by third-year goaltender Alex Wakaluk in the third period. Renyard made 22 saves on 25 shots before Wakaluk stepped in. Wakaluk stopped eight of the 10 shots he saw in the third period.
With the win, Morris moves to 5-5-3 in net for Maine on the season while Renyard falls to 4-11-4. Maine failed to convert on both of their power play opportunities in the contest, while UMass managed to connect on two of their seven chances.
Merchant helps Maine complete sweep in 5-4 win
Fourth-year forward Will Merchant scored two goals on Saturday night, helping the Black Bears jump to an early 3-0 advantage on the Minutemen early in the middle period. Morris got the nod again at goaltender, and played just well enough for the Black Bears to hang on late in the contest, securing a 5-4 win in what was only Maine’s second sweep of a Hockey East conference opponent this season.
Maine reversed its luck on the special teams in game two, notching a pair of power play goals and one shorthanded.
Merchant got the Black Bears started early in the opening period when he took a pass from fourth-year forward Andrew Tegeler and rifled the puck into the net for a 1-0 advantage.
Morgan added to the Black Bears lead on Maine’s first power play score of the contest. Third-year defender Eric Schurhamer and Byron assisted on the score.
Merchant notched his second goal of the contest to enhance Maine’s lead to three at the 3:25 mark of the middle period. UMass would tally two goals before the second intermission, giving them a brief stint of life before Maine’s next score.
Second-year forwards Dennis Kravchenko and Dominic Trento each beat Morris in the middle period to bring the Minutemen within a score.
Byron added to his three point night by tallying a shorthanded goal to start of the third period. Brown and first-year defender Rob Michel added helpers on the play.
Both teams traded goals until the final whistle, with the Black Bears edging out the 5-4 win. Vesey scored the game-winning goal on the Black Bears second successfully converted power play of the contest.
Chukarov added a late tally for UMass with their goalie pulled, but couldn’t find the back of the net again before the contest ended.
Morris made 31 saves on 35 shots, while Minutemen second-year netminder Henry Dill stopped 41 of 46 Maine shots.
Maine returns to action next weekend for a home series against Hockey East opponent Providence College. Puck drop is scheduled for Friday, Feb. 5 at 7:30 p.m.