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New Hampshire eliminates Maine in Hockey East playoffs

On Wednesday night in the first round of the Hockey East playoffs the University of Maine men’s ice hockey team lost 7-2 to rivals the University of New Hampshire. The game was close, until the third period when UNH put their foot on the gas pedal and Maine just could not keep up. This season was not pretty for the Black Bears, who finished with a record of 3-11-2. UMaine’s defense and goaltending was inconsistent all year, and UNH exposed that in this playoff game.

On the bright side, this was UMaine’s first home game all season. The UMaine men, like the women, played all of their regular season games on the road. Unlike the women’s team, the men’s team was lucky enough to host a playoff game at the Alfond Sports Arena. Fans were not allowed to attend, and sadly the home ice advantage was not noticeable at all with how things played out on the ice.

The lone goal of the first period was for UNH. Second-year defender Kalle Eriksson found the back of the net for the Wildcats on a shot from the blueline through traffic. UMaine first-year goalie Victor Ostman had a great first period, stopping 18 of 19 shots, but he was unable to track the shot from Eriksson. UNH went into the first intermission up 1-0.

The start of the second period was chaos. Each team would score twice within the first six minutes of the period. UNH would open the scoring in the second period with a scrappy net front power play goal by fourth-year forward Eric MacAdams, after an interference penalty by UMaine fourth-year defender Veli-Matti Tiuraniemi. Maine would strike right back, just 46 seconds after the UNH goal. It came at 4-on-4 play after both teams took roughing minors. Second-year defender Adrien Bisson would take advantage of the extra space, walk in and snipe one past UNH fourth-year goalie Mike Robinson to make the score 2-1.

The Wildcats responded with another goal just 35 seconds later, still at 4-on-4. Similar to the goal by Bisson, UNH’s third-year forward Jackson Pierson walked into empty space and sniped one past Ostman. UMaine would respond quickly again:, less than two minutes later first-year forward Lynden Breen would cut the deficit back down to one with another snipe. These four goals were all of marksman-like quality, and came within a little less than three minutes of each other.

The real dagger for UMaine came halfway through the second period. UMaine would go on the powerplay after UNH’s Eriksson took a penalty for holding. Just 16 seconds into the powerplay, the Wildcats third-year forward Tyler Ward was awarded a breakaway after a UMaine turnover and Ward beat Ostman to put UNH up 4-2. From this point on the UNH Wildcats took control, and left UMaine in the dust.

UNH started the third period with a goal in the first minute of the period by third-year forward Filip Engaras to go up 5-2. Engaras hit a bullet of a one-timer from point blank, Ostman had no time to react to this shot. UMaine struggled to respond, and eventually pulled their goalie fairly early to try and get a goal. This tactic did not work, and UNH was able to score on the empty net to seal the deal with four minutes left in the game. UNH added a seventh goal on a powerplay in the dying minutes of the game. The final score ended up being UNH 7, UMaine 2.

This loss against archrivals UNH was a hard finale to an underwhelming season for the Black Bears, which may just be a season to forget. Fans knew it was going to be a tough season after losing graduating captain Mitch Fossier and Richter-award-winning goalie Jeremy Swayman, who left after his third year to play professionally with the Boston Bruins organization. However, few could have imagined that the season would pan out this way, and the string of losses for the Black Bears left fans and teammates alike wanting.

As head coach Red Gendron’s contract is set to expire in June, the future of the Black Bears is uncertain. Many fans have expressed concern over the fact that Gendron was unable to maintain the team’s prior momentum, as the Black Bears haven’t made the Hockey East semifinals since 2012. Despite Gendron’s uneasy relationship with fans, UMaine’s inability to host games with spectators and a stadium that needs some tender loving care, the Black Bears can only move forward and train for success in the 2021-22 season.

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