Black Bears Drop First Game to UConn
The Black Bears were back in action on Friday night, looking to start a winning streak against the University of Connecticut Huskies. It would not happen, as the Black Bears would fall to the Huskies 2-1 at the Alfond Arena.
The Black Bears (9-20-1, 5-16-1) struggled to get any offense going in the early stages of the game as the majority of play was from the UConn blue line all the way to the Maine end. They more than made up for it on the defensive side, as the Huskies (14-13-4, 9-10-2) were unable to break through the wall in front of first-year goaltender Carly Jackson. Maine was able to put some pressure on Connecticut, but the Huskies held up in front of their own goaltender in third-year goaltender, Annie Belanger.
The Huskies would strike first with 8:10 to go in the first, just 9 seconds into the power play after a penalty by second-year forward Cassidy Herman. The Connecticut defensive pairing was responsible, as fourth-year Jessica Stott found second-year partner Jamie Fox, who ripped off a slap shot that ricocheted past Jackson. It was the 30th goal of the season given up by Black Bear goaltenders, leading to a conference worst 76 percent penalty kill against Hockey East opponents.
The Black Bears got off to a strong start offensively and cleaned up after their early mistakes to start the second period with a power play after a penalty by second-year Nora MacLaine late in the first, but the Huskies defense held to kill off the penalty and started applying the pressure as soon as they could.
A defensive struggle ensued in the second period, as both teams swarmed the puck, clogged up the passing lanes to intercept and played aggressively on the pokecheck. Something had to give eventually.
And it did with 5:46 left in the period, when fourth-year right wing Morgan Sakundiak found third-year center, Brooke Stacey just outside the crease to Belanger’s stick side. Stacey poked right in for her 14th goal of the season, knotting the score at 1-1.
Connecticut would answer back with 2:18 left in the period on a goal by second-year right winger Rebecca Lindblad that had been corralled off a deflected shot by third-year left wing Reese Maccario. The game would head into the second intermission with the Black Bears down 2-1.
The two teams would knot themselves in yet another defensive struggle in the third. Maine was able to cycle the puck around cleanly, but just could not break through Connecticut’s wall. The Huskies, meanwhile, leaned heavily on that defensive wall, as the offense struggled in basic puck movement, including flubbing on a pass that resulted in Maine getting called for icing.
The Black Bears had a golden opportunity to tie the game after a penalty on second year defenseman Kayla Mee, but they were unable to capitalize, as the Huskies pressured in front of the net and made it impossible to muster up a big shot.
The Black Bears would pull Jackson with 2:10 left in regulation gain the man advantage the rest of the way, but it would not be enough to penetrate the Huskies defense.
Jackson would finish the night with 20 saves on 22 shots, but Belanger would outduel her, making 26 saves on the night. The two teams will be back in action on Saturday at 2 p.m.
Jackson pitches shutout in net as Maine wins on Senior Day
The Black Bears women’s hockey team were Back in action on Saturday, looking to give the seniors one last hurrah on Senior Day in front of the Alfond faithful. They would get that with a thrilling 1-0 victory over the University of Connecticut Huskies.
Finishing proved to be difficult for both teams in the early going, as the Black Bears and Huskies were able to work from one end of the ice to the other with ease. However, once in the offensive zones, both defenses clamped down. Shooting lanes were disrupted and getting off missile wrist shots or blistering slapshots became impossible. Through the first 7 minutes of play, the two teams combined for five shots on goal (though more were taken when you factor in blocks and wide shots). It was a matter of who would blink first.
It was Connecticut who would blink, with under a minute to go in the first period. Fourth-year right wing Emilie Brigham found third-year center Brooke Stacey just outside the crease to the glove side of UConn’s third-year goaltender, Annie Belanger. Stacey would sneak a wrist shot right past Belanger to give the Black Bears a 1-0 lead.
Defensive play expanded at the start of the second period, as the neutral zone became a battleground of puck control. A substantial amount of play in the early going was in the Black Bear defensive zone, but Jackson stood tall for Maine, with help from her defense, of course.
The Black Bears had a chance to extend the lead to 2-0 on the power play and the puck did bounce off a stick past Belanger into the net. The referees waved it off though as goaltender interference was called, it looked like third-year left wing Catherine Tufts did have her stick slightly in the way (replay was inconclusive). The defensive stalemate would run through the remainder of the period as the Black Bears would hold their 1-0 lead heading into the final stanza.
The third period started very much like the first: Great cycling around by both teams to get the puck into the other team’s zone, but an inability to finish off with a goal. The Black Bears had another golden opportunity to extend the lead, but a shot hitting the pipe and then being sent wide on the rebound gave Connecticut the break they needed.
Jackson would finish the afternoon with 27 saves, while Belanger would finish with 35.
“I was happy with our effort overall. We were in control, and executed well. I’d say it was even moreso [sic] today with yesterday,” Maine Coach Richard Reichenbach said.
“The seniors knew this was their last weekend here, and gave it everything they had. I thought Emilie (Brigham) played her best game of the season. Same with (Brooke) Stacey. And Carly (Jackson) was tremendous again,” Reichenbach said.
The defensive stalemate ended with the Black Bears notching their 10th victory of the season, improving to 10-20-1, including 6-16-1 in Hockey East. Connecticut would fall to 14-14-4, including 9-11-2 in conference.
Looking ahead, the Black Bears will head down to Boston to take on the Boston University Terriers at Agganis Arena next Sunday. The Huskies will head back home for a weekend series with the University of New Hampshire.