The University of Maine men’s hockey team returned to the Alfond Arena to start off their season against the Axemen from Acadia University on Sunday, Oct. 1. The Axemen have already played four preseason games, including a game against fellow Hockey East opponent, University of Massachusetts-Lowell, losing 4-2. Maine and Acadia had played each other six times prior to Sunday’s matchup, with the Black Bears getting the best of the Axemen with a 5-0-1 record.
Starting between the pipes for the Black Bears was third-year Weymouth, Mass. native, Rob McGovern. McGovern played in 29 games last season, starting in 28 of them, and had a .912 save percentage. He also earned the first shutout of his college campaign against the University of Connecticut. On top of that, McGovern recently attended the 2017 Boston Bruins NHL Development camp. In net for the Axemen was fourth-year Robert Steeves, a Moncton, New Brunswick native. Steeves did not see any action last season.
For the Black Bears, starting on defense was fourth-year Winthrop, Mass. native, Mark Hamilton and first-year Cross Lake, Manitoba native, Brady Keeper. Starting at forward was fourth-year \ Cedric Lacroix of Shefford, Quebec, third-year, from Bloomfield, N.J., Danny Perez and second-year Peter Housakos of Montreal, Quebec.
It was an offensively busy first period for the Black Bears and a not-so-busy period for McGovern. Maine led Acadia in shots and face-off wins, 13-1 and 14-6. Second-year forward Chase Pearson led the team in shots after 20 minutes, with six. The Black Bears had two power plays in the period but they couldn’t capitalize. Acadia also had two power plays throughout the period, but neither of them resulted in a goal.
Two minutes into the second period, Maine went on the power play again. This time, they capitalized. Not even a minute into the power play, first-year defenseman Alexis Binner made no mistake when he put a wrist shot right past the Acadia netminder, making it 1-0. The goal was assisted by first-years Brady Keeper and Adrian Holesinsky.
After 40 minutes of play, Maine still led 1-0. The Black Bears also led shots on goal, 26-7. With 10:42 left to go in the period, Maine made a goalie change, putting first-year Jeremy Swayman, an Anchorage, Ala. native in for his college debut.
“It was fun, it was electric out there, I was really excited. I came in and then had to stop a breakaway so that was a fun way to start the game, it got my head right into it. I was really proud of the guys, we didn’t let them get too many shots,” Swayman said.
In the third period, Swayman came up big when he robbed an Axemen player with only a few minutes into the period. Maine came close when second-year forward Tim Doherty hit the crossbar.
The Black Bears fed off of that momentum when minutes later, third-year defenseman, Rob Michel, put the puck past a sprawling Steeves, putting them up 2-0. The goal was assisted by third-year defenseman Sam Becker.
The Axemen finally got on the board when they converted on a power play. With just over six minutes to play, second-year forward Stephen Harper blasted the puck past Swayman, making the score 2-1. The goal was assisted by third-year forward Kyle Farrell.
After being under review, Doherty got his second goal of the game by tucking the puck just past the Axemen goaltender. That would be the last goal of the game, as Maine went on to win it. The Black Bears outshot Acadia 40-18.
“I think we played really well. I think the most important part was that we created tempo, I didn’t really feel like they could keep up with our speed,” Doherty said.
“We came out of the gate real well. Even though we didn’t score, we put them on their heels a little bit. There were times in the game where we stopped being discipline and some of our decisions with the puck weren’t the best. We have lots of work to do to be ready for next weekend,”Head Coach Red Gendron explained.
Maine returns to the ice Friday, Oct. 6 and Saturday, Oct. 7 when they host the University of Connecticut Huskies. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. on Friday and 4:00 p.m. on Saturday. Acadia returns to the ice Friday, Oct. 6 when they host St. Francis Xavier University. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:00 p.m.