The University of Maine men’s ice hockey team has been on a dominant run over the past two weeks, sweeping the then No. 4 Boston College Eagles and the Merrimack College Warriors in separate back-to-back weekend series. The Black Bears kept that streak going in their lone contest against the No. 12 Northeastern Huskies, defeating their divisional foe 4-2.
The Black Bears took to the ice for the first period with hot sticks, cranking out 10 shots in just as many minutes against Huskies’ fifth-year southpaw goaltender Craig Pantano. However, the Huskies tender held his own long enough for Maine to accrue a penalty. First-year Adrien Bisson, picking up a streaking Northeastern forward, went for a stab at the puck, but ended up tripping up his opponent, sending him to the sin bin for a two-minute minor. With the power play on their side, and the Black Bears not overwhelming their defensive zone, the Huskies went on the attack and a deflected shot off of third-year goaltender Jeremy Swayman’s pads was tapped in by third-year forward Zach Solow, giving Northeastern the early advantage.
With both teams back at full strength on the ice following the score, Maine held the puck in the Northeastern zone for a few minutes, cranking out a multitude of shots once more, but impressive play from Pantano kept the Black Bears scoreless heading into the first intermission.
Tearing back onto the ice for the middle frame, both teams played some very undisciplined hockey, with Northeastern accruing two staggered interference penalties and Maine’s second-year defenseman Simon Butala getting two minutes for a holding penalty. After Butala finished his time in the box, Maine found themselves on a power-play of their own and did not waste time leveling the score. Fourth-year forward Patrick Shea found the puck in front of the net from a feed off the stick of first-year defenceman Levi Kleiboer and beat Pantano glove side on the sliding tally.
With the additional score, the Black Bears continued to lay on the offensive pressure, forcing 14 shots on goal to just four shots on goal for Northeastern. As pristine as Pantano had been, eventually the constant offensive assault got one past him when
second-year forward Jacob Schmidt-Svjestrup tore past the Northeastern blue line and found a streaking second-year forward Adam Dawe uncovered on the opposite side for the easy clapper.
Butala got himself into the penalty box once more for Maine, getting called for interference a minute before the second intermission, putting the Black Bears a man down to start the third period. However, they held strong until the manpower was leveled. Maine’s offensive chemistry, passing and shooting continued to be on display, as they rattled off another eight shots at Pantano compared to the Huskies’ four. An underrated statistic for Maine on the night was their faceoff wins, where they won the puck 29 times out of 49 attempts.
With another faceoff win at the hands of first-year forward AJ Drobot, Maine tore back down the ice to attack the Huskies’ net. Drobot tore down the blue line on the boards and dished the puck off to fourth-year forward Ryan Smith. Smith played the puck over to a cruising third-year forward Eduards Tralmaks, who took advantage of the odd-man rush and fed the puck back to an open Smith for the easy tally. Shortly following the goal, Northeastern accrued a major penalty, as fourth-year forward Biagio Lerario was tossed in the box for cross-checking, giving Maine a comfortable advantage to skate out the period on, or so they thought.
Less than a minute later, Schmidt-Svjestrup was called for slashing, leveling the man advantage and giving each team four attackers. First-year forward Matt Demelis corralled a pass from fourth-year defenseman Ryan Shea, and went scorching down the ice, past the Black Bears defense. With the matchup against Swayman in front, Demelis deked out Maine’s tender for the tally, making the score 3-2.
On the ensuing faceoff, fourth-year forward Mitchell Fossier didn’t win, and his fight for the puck gave Tralmaks enough time to get behind the Huskies defense. Once Fossier fought the puck away from Solow, he hit a streaking Tralmaks to give him the one-on-one opportunity against Pantano. Tralmaks, an experienced shooter, wound up from the slot and sent a wrister over Pantano’s stick-side shoulder. The final tally of the game was the icing on the cake for Maine, and, though the 4-2 box score doesn’t show it, the Black Bears held the true advantage throughout the contest.
Swayman finished with 20 saves on 22 shots, while Maine took 36 shots on goal. The Black Bears snapped their eight-game losing streak to the Huskies, and are now tied for third place in the Hockey East standings with Boston College. Their record is 15-9-4 overall and 9-7-2 in Hockey East play. Maine will return to the ice next Friday, Feb. 14, when they will host the University of Connecticut Huskies. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:30 pm.