Photo by Mac White

The University of Maine men’s ice hockey team continued their hot streak last weekend with two commanding home victories over conference foe Boston College.

Friday’s game resulted in an explosive 6-3 win for Maine, while Saturday’s contest was a tightly contested 2-1 victory, won on the back of third-year goaltender Victor Ostman’s 31 saves. 

First-year forward Aidan Carney kicked off the scoring on Friday with his second collegiate hockey goal, crashing the net, collecting a rebound and burying it in the twine. 

Near the end of the first period, third-year forward Donovan Villenueve-Houle tacked on to the lead after receiving a beautiful breakout pass from third-year forward Lynden Breen and using the breakaway opportunity to sneak a shot just under the crossbar.

Ahead by two goals, the Black Bears did not take their foot off the gas. First-year defenseman Luke Antonacci capitalized on Maine’s first power play opportunity of the night to put his team ahead by three. Antonacci is one of many first and second-year skaters that have made a noticeable contribution to this Black Bear team and will continue to do so for some time as the program completes its rebuild.

While the Black Bears dominated the game all night, they did struggle to stay out of the penalty box. Maine committed six penalties for the game, three of which resulted in power-play goals for Boston College. 

After going down 3-0, the Eagles needed to capitalize on any opportunity handed to them. Two consecutive power-play goals by first-year forwards Andre Gasseau and Cutter Gauthier cut Maine’s lead to 3-2. On a power play opportunity of their own, Maine stretched the lead to 4-2 after fifth-year defenseman and captain Jakub Sirota scored on a shot that caromed off of a BC defender and into the goal. First-year forward Felix Trudeau further increased the lead to 5-3 after grabbing a loose puck early in the third period.

Nikita Nestorenko scored for BC midway through the third, but shortly thereafter, Lynden Breen would slam the door on any comeback hopes with an empty net goal. The final of Friday’s contest was 6-3 Black Bears. It was a rough night for Boston College’s fifth-year netminder Mitch Benson, who allowed five goals and made just 23 saves. 

Fans packed the Alfond for game two on Saturday, and they were treated to yet another gem of a game from Ostman, allowing just one goal while making 31 saves. 

The Black Bears came out a little flat on Saturday after their big game one win, but still managed to score first when second-year forward Nolan Renwick tipped home a power play goal off of a feed from first-year defender Grayson Arnott. 

Contrary to the Friday contest, it was the Eagles who found themselves in the penalty box four times in the first period alone, and five times total for the game.

Maine jumped to a 2-0 lead when Arnott fired a slap shot on net which was redirected by Villenueve-Houle past Benson.

Boston College brought themselves to within one goal as Cutter Gauthier went five-hole on Ostman moving unimpeded down the nearside boards. There was controversy on the call, as Antonacci was interfered with on his way to challenge Gauthier, but the officials missed the call, and the goal stood. 

Fortunately for Maine, Ostman locked it down the rest of the way, and 2-1 was the final, as Maine completed the three-game season series sweep of the Boston College Eagles. 

The pair of weekend wins lifted Maine into sixth place in Hockey East, into a tie with the Providence Friars. The Black Bears have defeated Providence, a former nationally ranked team, both times they have met this season. 

The Hockey East playoff format permits all eleven teams to make the playoffs. The top five seeds are rewarded with a first round bye, while the bottom six seeds must play in a preliminary playoff round. 

As it sits now the Black Bears are slated to host Vermont, a team they swept this year, at the Alfond in a preliminary round game. However, there is one more weekend series to go before the standings are set in stone.

If the Black Bears sweep UMass Amherst next weekend, and UMass Lowell is swept by Northeastern, Maine could earn a first-round bye in the Hockey East playoffs.