The University of Maine men’s hockey team (16-12-4, 10-9-3) had trouble in the first go with the University of New Hampshire Wildcats (10-16-6, 5-12-5) ending a home weekend series with two draws. It looked all but lost Wednesday night until the Maine Black Bears fought back from a two-goal, third period deficit to force overtime. The hero was second-year forward Mitchell Fossier who got the game winning goal with 21 seconds left, and the game was final at 4-3.
UNH and Maine both scored in the first 66 seconds of play Wednesday to set the tone on what was an exciting evening of Hockey East action between rivals. After a great save from first-year Jeremy Swayman, who was able to just get a shoulder pad on the puck, third-year forward Brendan Robbins started up ice and found third-year defenseman Keith Muehlbauer, who put Maine up 28 seconds into the period. Robbins found fourth-year forward Nolan Vesey on the left wing. Vesey beat his defender and slid a crisp pass to Muehlbauer in the middle of the ice. Muehlbauer fired a beautiful wrist shot past New Hampshire fourth-year netminder Danny Tirone.
UNH wasn’t phased though, and answered with a goal of their own not even a minute later. Fourth-year Jason Salvaggio finished a rebound to even the score. Swayman was able to hold his own between that pipes and use his pads to stone UNH’s attack on a few occasions where they had odd man rushes.
The Wildcats had a 2-1 lead after a loose puck popped out to second-year Liam Blackburn near the left post and he reached with a backhand to just nudge it over the line.
UNH controlled tempo and with 8:46 to play, second-year Anthony Wyse took a pass from first-year Charlie Kelleher, who finished a pretty backhand shot past Swayman. Maine never found the net in the second and UNH entered the third period up on the Black Bears, 3-1.
Maine peppered UNH in the first minutes of the third period but couldn’t finish until finally, fourth-year forward Cedric Lacroix gave Maine the momentum and put them within one when he out-hustled a UNH defender and poked the puck inside the right post for a goal.
Second-year Tim Doherty won a key faceoff that found first-year Alexis Binner, who took a shot that Fossier was able to deflect in the slot past Tirone to tie the game at 3-3 and Maine had turned the tables on the Wildcats
Fossier’s game-winner came after he received a pass from first-year Eduards Tralmaks, and didn’t give up on the play. Fossier forced his way in and then reached to put in the rebound from his own shot, past an outstretched Tirone to seal the Maine victory over their rivals.
Swayman finished with 37 saves on the night and played a major role in the comeback as he made timely saves to keep his team in the game when UNH was trying to put the nail in the coffin.
The Black Bears return home and play their final regular season game at Alfond Arena on Saturday, Feb. 17 against No.19 Boston College.
Black Bears fall on Senior Night
The University of Maine men’s hockey team honored their seniors on Saturday night prior to their matchup with the Boston College Eagles. It was not the send-off of the ages, as the Black Bears were trounced 5-0 in front of the Alfond faithful.
Swayman got the start in net for the Black Bears. Swayman came into the game with the second most wins among rookie goaltenders with 13, and a .926 save percentage, good for seventh in the nation and best in Hockey East. The Eagles would counter with second-year Joe Woll. Woll came in with a 2.68 goals against average as well as a .904 save percentage.
Boston College would get on the board first. Third-year defenseman Casey Fitzgerald corralled a loose puck along the boards and fired a one timer that would hit the pipe on the furthest inside edge possible to count before ricocheting beyond the crease and being cleared. Replay would confirm the goal and give the Eagles the 1-0 lead just 2:47 into the period. The goal was Fitzgerald’s fifth of the year. Albeit this was one of the weirder goals scored on the Black Bears this season. Nonetheless, it took the momentum away.
“To get an unlucky bounce like that, it does knock the wind out of you, and it takes the fans out of it. There was still plenty of time in the game, so it should not have been any excuse,” Vesey said.
Boston College would add onto the lead with 9:31 to go in the first when second-year center Julius Mattila stuffed one past Swayman on a short rebound. Mattila’s 11th goal of the season would give the Eagles a 2-0 lead.
The Eagles kept the barrage coming, as second-year right wing Zach Walker found the back of the net from the slot to put Boston College up 3-0. The goal was Walker’s first of the season.
It would not take long for the Eagles to score to open the third period. Fitzgerald found first-year right wing Logan Hustko, who fired a one timer past Swayman to put the Eagles up 4-0. That would be the end of the night for Swayman, who was pulled for third-year goaltender Rob McGovern.
Tempers had flared throughout the night, but oddly enough, only one penalty was called, when Fitzgerald was sent to the penalty box for slashing. That was until there was a scrum behind the net, starting a fight that led to five players going to the penalty box. Fitzgerald received a five minute major for spearing, ending his night early. A minute later, two more offsetting penalties were called.
The scoring would end with a minute and a half left. Second-year left wing Graham McPhee juked two Black Bear defenders and potted the empty netter. BC is not a team to waste opportunities and they showed it.
“I like the way our teams played. We’re trying to win a pennant and the teams are close together. We have been a bit Jekyll and Hyde this year, so this was a great performance to get us in the right direction,” Boston College Head Coach Jerry York said.
Swayman would finish the night with 20 saves in his two periods of action, while Woll finished the shut out with 33 saves. Maine acknowledges that some of their opportunities were wasted.
“It wasn’t clicking for us tonight. We didn’t play to our full potential like they did, and they walked all over us. We have a lot to look at on film. Woll made some big saves, and we gave him easy opportunities,” second-year center Chase Pearson said.
The good thing about this team is that they fought back throughout the course of the season.
“This team has been good with dealing with adversity for most of the season, whether that has been during a game or after a poor performance. Now we have an opportunity to do that again, just pick up the pieces and move forward,” Maine Head Coach Red Gendron said.
The Black Bears and Eagles will face off again on Feb. 23 and 24 down at the Conte Forum in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts. Puck drop will be 7 p.m. both nights.