The No. 11 ranked University of Maine Black Bears men’s hockey team faced off against their arch-rival, the No. 15 ranked University of New Hampshire Wildcats, on Friday, Dec. 1, to a sellout arena for the fourth consecutive game. While it was expected to be a tight game after the Wildcats scored first, it was all Black Bears as they scored five unanswered and won 5-2, with UNH scoring a garbage time goal.
“It was a chippy game, and it wasn’t pretty, but they played hard,” UMaine head coach Ben Barr said after the game. “Our first powerplay was not very good, but the second one was a big momentum goal.”
The Black Bears entered the contest coming off losing to Boston University last Friday and Saturday, 3-2 and 5-4. UNH entered the contest after splitting last weekend’s series against No. 20 ranked RPI, losing 5-4 and then winning 4-3 in overtime.
It was the Wildcats who struck first on a two-on-two fast break. Fourth-year forward Harrison Blaisdell scored from the right face-off circle to give UNH the 1-0 lead. With seven seconds left in the first, Wildcats third-year forward Robert Cronin was called for tripping. Three seconds later, UMaine’s fourth-year center Lynden Breen won the faceoff and passed to first-year forward Bradly Nadeau, who found his brother, first-year forward Josh Nadeau, wide open for the slapshot goal, tying the game at one heading into the break.
It took just 23 seconds into the second period for the Black Bears to score once more as third-year forward Harrison Stott found second-year forward Thomas Freel close to the net for the score and the lead. With under two minutes left, the Black Bears had a fast break where, with a beautiful toe drag, Bradly Nadeau backhanded a pass once more to his brother Josh Nadeau for the one-timer and the 3-1 lead going into the third period.
In the third, second-year defenseman Brandon Chabriers’ wrist shot got saved, but fourth-year forward Donavan Villeneuve-Houle was on the doorstep to score. Later in the third, UNH’s fourth-year forward Cam Gendron was called for holding, and seven seconds later, second-year forward Stiven Sardarian was called for high-sticking. This set up Josh Nadeau to score a beautiful backhander on the doorstep for his first career hat trick, with the assist once more coming from Bradly Nadeau. With three minutes left in the game, Sardarian scored a slapshot goal on the powerplay, but it did nothing to change the 5-2 win for UMaine.
“It is something we have worked on early on in life, and we’ve always played with each other,” Josh Nadeau said on his play with his brother. “He makes a great pass, and I finish.”
In his first career start and second game, first-year goaltender Albin Boija, who found out he was starting instead of fourth-year goaltender Victor Östman on Thursday, shined in his first start. While he did not see the puck often, Boija saved 18. Third-year goaltender Jakob Hellsten was solid for the Wildcats, saving 27 shots, but the team failed him on the penalty kill.
“There were long moments where I did not do anything,” Boija said on the game. “You got to just relax in that moment and get ready when the puck comes.”
UMaine dominated the power play, going three of seven, which ended up being the reason the Black Bears could control the entire game. On the other hand, UNH only scored off one power play opportunity out of seven. The Wildcats won the faceoff battle, 32-29, though it did little to aid the team due to the countless mistakes.
“I liked our first period,” UNH head coach Mike Souza said after the game. “Then we took the penalty at the end of the first, and they scored off the faceoff, and then they scored in the first shift in the second, and the momentum of the game completely swung.”
On Sunday, the Black Bears faced off against the University of Connecticut Huskies. Similar to the game with the Wildcats, UMaine had no issues scoring as they won this game 7-3. Two days after his brother scored a hattrick, Bradly Nadeau would respond in kind scoring his own hattrick along with one assist. Chabier himself would finish the night with four points contributing one goal and three assists a career high for himself.
Ostman was back in the net for the Black Bears and made 37 saves. Unlike Friday night, the team would struggle on power play goals going one for seven. UMaine won the faceoff battle 40-31 with Stott leading the team going 12 wins and 11 losses.
UMaine will travel to New York next to face off against Union College on Wednesday, Dec. 6, with puck drop at 7 p.m., before returning to Alfond Arena on Friday, Jan. 5, to face off against Colgate University, with puck drop at 7 p.m.