The University of Maine Black Bears faced off against Providence College Friars in a weekend series. While the first of two was a very close 3-2 offensive showing, the second was a defensive clinic put on by the home team. The Black Bears won 3-0 with very little resistance, beating the Friars for the first time since January 2021.
UMaine entered the weekend series sitting at 9-12-2 coming in on a two-game losing streak after losing last weekend to Boston University. Providence entered this series sitting at 12-7-6 and also on a two-game losing streak after losing to Merrimack College and Princeton.
The Black Bears drew the first blood three minutes into the game after fourth-year forward Didrik Henbrants’ shot missed. He peeled back behind the net where second-year forward Nolan Renwick found him wide open with a backhand pass to give UMaine a 1-0 lead. The Friars would match Henbrants’ goal near the end of the first when third-year forward Nick Poisson, the younger brother of fourth-year Black Bear forward Ben Poisson, scored after UMaines’ goaltender, third-year Victor Ostman, fell and lost his glove. This allowed Nick to score thanks to assists from first-year forward Brady Berard and second-year defenseman Taige Harding. After review, the goal stood and the score remained tied at one going into the break.
It was Providence who started off the scoring five minutes into the second when fourth-year forward Craig Needham tipped a redirect from fourth-year defenseman Cam McDonald that Ostman was not able to save. UMaine would respond with just over seven minutes left in the second period when after first-year defenseman Brandon Holts’ shot was saved, it was not covered by Providences’ first-year goaltender Philip Svedebäck. This gave third-year Donavan Villeneuve-Houle the chance to rebound it and tap the puck to third-year forward Lynden Breen for the score, tying it up once again going into the break.
With just under seven minutes left in regulation, Black Bears’ captain, fifth-year defender Jakub Sirota, gave UMaine back the lead that they would not lose when Renwick found Sirota wide open near the blue line. His wrist shot went straight past Svedebäck, allowing for the goal that gave the Black Bears the 3-2 advantage. UMaine looked like they were about to put the game away when third-year forward Michael Mancinelli scored for the Black Bears. However, after review, it was called back for goalie interference, much to the annoyance of the Black Bear fans. Even though UMaine was called for a penalty with less than a minute left and had to play six-on-four, their defense came through as they held on to win 3-2.
Ostman was terrific all game long, saving 29-31 shots with one of those goals being off of a fluky play. Svedebäck was solid as well, saving 32 of 35 shots, though his costly mistake of not covering the puck cost Providence the game.
The Black Bears won the faceoff battle going 35-21 with Breen leading the team and winning 12 of 18. Only one goal was scored off the power play, that being Breens’, with UMaine going 1-3. Even though Ben Poisson got a five-minute major in the first and was ejected for it, it did not result in any points as Providence went 0-5 on power plays.
On Saturday, the Black Bears would struggle offensively. However, on the opportunities they got, they made them count. On UMaine’s very first shot on goal all game on the power play, Luke Antonacci skated the puck up the far side boards and found Thomas Freel, who quickly dished it to Breen, who was able to tap it in for the goal of the night and only goal of the first two periods as the Black Bears had only nine shots on goal compared to Providence’s 35. Ostman saved everything, including what could have been a momentum-swinging goal 12 minutes into the game.
In the third, UMaine finally started getting the puck on their side of the ice, and it paid dividends. Nearing the halfway point, Villeneuve-Houle was able to score on a one-timer off of the heel of his stick from a pass from Breen and Freel. With 14 seconds left in the game, Henbrant scored on an empty net officially putting the final nail in the coffin on an impressive 3-0 victory by the Black Bears.
Ostman was unreal for UMaine. As the offense was ineffective for most of the game, it fell on his shoulders and he more than delivered with an incredible 52 saves including 19 in the second period alone while making highlight-reel saves along the way. Svedebäck only saw the puck 18 times all game but did not play well as he only saved three of those.
The Black Bears were terrific on the power play. They scored on half of their power play opportunities which ended up being the difference maker in this one as Providence did not score on any of their three. Faceoffs were near even as the Friars had 34 compared to UMaine’s 32. Breen did most of the faceoffs as he went 16-29.
UMaine faced off against Boston University on Friday, Feb. 3 at 7:05 pm. They also faced off against Merrimack this past Sunday, Feb. 5 at 2:05 p.m.