ORONO, Maine — University of Maine sophomore center Tanner House hit a goalpost and a crossbar in the first period.
But he finally found the back of the net 10:43 into the second period to give the Black Bears some important breathing room and they killed off two extensive two-man disadvantages Friday night to post a hard-fought 3-1 triumph over Union College at Alfond Arena.
Maine is now 9-5-1 overall and extended its home unbeaten streak to six games (5-0-1) while Union fell to 8-6-1.
The teams play again tonight at 7.
“My linemates [Brian Flynn and Gustav Nyquist] keep finding me. I owed them that one,” grinned House.
His goal came at the 10:43 mark of the second period and both linemates assisted on it.
“I lost the faceoff but Gustav is so quick that he jumped their defenseman and jammed him up and Flynn found me,” said House, who was left unattended on the inner half of the faceoff circle to the right of Union goalie Corey Milan.
“I took it on my backhand and brought it to my forehand,” said House. “I tried to get the shot up high. I think [Milan] got a piece of it but it went in.”
Flynn said their line’s chemistry paid off in that situation because, “I knew where Tanner was going to be.”
The Bears spotted the Dutchmen a 1-0 lead on Adam Presizniuk’s goal at the 8:58 mark of the first period but Flynn tied it up off a 5-on-3 power play 3:47 later and Matt Duffy gave Maine the lead for good at the 16:14 mark.
Union had an edge in play at the outset and the Dutchmen were rewarded when Stephane Boileau won a battle for the puck in the corner and slid it back to the midpoint where Lane Caffaro’s wrister was tipped past Maine goalie Scott Darling by Presizniuk.
Flynn drew the Bears level when he positioned himself just beyond the crease and swatted home the rebound of a Will O’Neill one-timer. It was O’Neill’s third power-play assist off a point shot in the last two games.
“The puck deflected off Tanner’s skate and he tied their guy up. I put my shot five-hole,” said Flynn.
Duffy broke the tie when Kyle Solomon won a faceoff to the left of Milan and Chris Hahn tipped it back to Duffy, who took a screened snap shot that sailed over the glove of Milan into the short-side corner.
The Dutchmen, coached by former Maine and Old Town High School assistant Nate Leaman, had a two-man advantage that lasted 1:48 at the end of the second period with a four-second spillover into the third period but the Bears did an exceptional job pressuring the Dutchmen and making important clearances.
“That was the turning point in the game,” said Maine coach Tim Whitehead.
The Dutchmen had another 5-on-3 over the final two minutes of the game and pulled Milan in favor of an extra attacker to make it a 6-on-3.
But Darling made some key stops and his mates cleared the puck out of danger.
“Every time we need [Darling], he steps up for us,” said Nyquist.
“We talked about it during the week and we wanted to be more aggressive on the penalty kill,” said Maine senior defenseman and assistant captain Simon Danis-Pepin, one of the keys to the penalty kill. “We wanted to put more pressure on them.”
Both goalies turned in exceptional performances.
Darling finished with 22 saves including 10 off Grade-A [high-percentage] shots while Milan finished with 35 saves including 14 off Grade-A attempts.
It is the ninth time in 11 starts Darling has held the opponents to two goals or less and it is the sixth time he has allowed one or less.
Whitehead said he was “pleased in general” with his team’s performance.
“It was a good hockey game. We had some great chances to extend the lead in the third period but they had great chances, too,” said Whitehead.
Danis-Pepin called Union a very good team and he and Flynn said the Bears can’t afford to take bad penalties like they did.
“We have to be more disciplined,” said Flynn.
Union was without injured first-line center Jason Walters, who had been one of the Dutchmen’s best players until he got hurt, according to Leaman.