On Friday night, the University of Maine men’s hockey team picked up their fourth win of the year over Boston College (BC). While BC has been going through a recent slump of their own, UMaine has started to pick up their game. The Black Bears had only one win in their first 17 games, not including shootouts. In their last six games, UMaine has picked up three regulation wins, a feat that seemed unthinkable if you watched them play last semester.
BC had yet to pick up a win in their first six contests of 2022 coming into the game, and was without their leading scorer fourth-year forward Jack McBain. McBain was out with an injury on Friday, but will be playing for the Canadian hockey team at the 2022 winter Olympics in Beijing. Two other BC Eagles who did play on Friday will also be in Beijing. Third-year defenseman Drew Helleson and fourth-year forward Marc McLaughlin will also be representing the United States.
BC always seems to have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to talent, and the term ‘embarrassment’ seems fitting considering they had seven NHL drafted players in their lineup and looked like the inferior team for most of Friday’s contest.
UMaine started the scoring just over six minutes into the game when UMaine fourth-year defenseman Jakub Sirota put one in the net. Sirota received a pass from fourth-year forward Grant Hebert, made a nifty backhand to forehand move and shot over the right shoulder of BC fifth-year goalie Eric Dop.
Goaltending has been a struggle for BC all year. BC goalies combine on the year for an .890 save percentage through 25 games. This is a far cry for a team that usually produces elite goalies, with past stud goalies such as Thatcher Demko, Corey Schneider, Joseph Woll and most recently Spencer Knight.
UMaine seemed to exploit this weakness in the first period. Fourth-year forward Adam Dawe received the puck from fifth-year forward Keenan Suthers off a faceoff win and beat Dop topshelf with under five minutes in the period. This goal put UMaine up 2-0 heading into the first intermission after scoring on two of their 11 shots.
The second period saw UMaine second-year goalie Victor Ostman stand on his head. Ostman stopped 14 of 15 BC shots in the period, and if it was not for Ostman’s multiple denials on grade A chances by the Eagles, this game could have ended up as a loss instead of a win. Ostman ended up receiving the first star of the game for his efforts, stopping 32 of BC’s 33 shots in the game.
The lone goal surrendered in the second period came off of a shot from the point by BC first-year defender Cade Alami that squeaked through Ostman and into the crease, where McLaughlin pounced on the loose puck and put it in the net to cut the deficit to one for the Eagles.
Going into the third period, UMaine was posed with a task not frequently afforded to them: to close out a hockey game in the final period with a lead. Despite not having much experience at it this season, they did a great job limiting BC of high quality chances and shutting down their attacks.
UMaine secured the win with a goal late in the third period. With a BC defender losing their stick, UMaine took this momentary advantage by hemming BC in their own zone. BC cracked under the pressure when good puck movement by UMaine led to a shot by first-year defenseman David Breazeale that went off the boards behind the net and directly onto the stick of Hebert who was camped out in front of the net and put it in.
This gave Maine a 3-1 lead with under six minutes left in the contest. In the dying moments of the game, BC pulled their goalie to get an extra attacker. This strategy did not work and Hebert scored his second goal of the period on the BC empty net to make the final score 4-1.
“It felt different tonight, you know, mentally,” UMaine head coach Ben Barr said after the win. “Earlier in the year, we found a way to lose that game. I give the guys credit. The guys played composed today. We haven’t played composed most of the year, and that’s a mental step– that’s a culture step we need to take.”
“Hopefully we can go to BU and win a game on the road,” Barr said, alluding to the fact that UMaine has yet to win an away game thus far this season. UMaine will have two opportunities to change that with a road series next weekend that sees them play Friday and Saturday night at Boston University.