ORONO, Maine — Union College men’s hockey coach Nate Leaman saw first-hand Saturday night how important freshman goalie Scott Darling has been to the University of Maine.
His Dutchmen held Maine to 16 shots on goal and generated five more Grade-A (high-percentage) scoring opportunities (17-12), but Darling finished with 22 saves as Maine triumphed 5-1 to complete the weekend sweep.
“He’s the best goalie we’ve seen, no doubt about it,” said Leaman, a former UMaine and Old Town High School assistant. “We had a number of point-blank shots. Nothing fazes him. We carried the play for most of the game and had the better opportunities. We definitely got out-goaltended. It would be tough to imagine us seeing any better goaltending this season.”
Ten of Darling’s 22 saves came on Grade-A attempts, while Union goalie Corey Milan finished with four Grade-A saves among his 11.
Maine (10-5-1 overall) extended its home unbeaten streak to seven games (6-0-1). Union fell to 8-7-1.
The five-goal output was Maine’s highest of the season.
It was the seventh time Darling has held opponents to one goal or less in 12 starts.
“I felt good again tonight,” said Darling. “The guys played well again. They blocked a lot of shots  and kept a lot of shots to the outside. They had a few big chances, but other than that, the guys played great tonight.”
“Scott Darling was our best player. He was the difference in the game,” said Maine coach Tim Whitehead. “Quite frankly, we were fortunate to win the game. Union deserved a better fate. The score wasn’t reflective of how close the game was.”
Freshman right wing Gustav Nyquist scored his team-leading eighth and ninth goals of the season for Maine with Spencer Abbott, Robby Dee and Lem Randall also scoring.
Mike Wakita scored for Union.
“Both teams had their chances. We hit a couple of posts and missed on a few. They have some good players. They [bore] down and their chances went in,” said Union senior defenseman and co-captain Lane Caffaro. “[Darling] definitely played well.”
Abbott, who was benched for Friday night’s 3-1 victory after producing just one assist in his previous 10 games, opened the scoring 5:31 into the game and Nyquist made it 2-0 on the power play at the 18:44 mark.
Abbott’s goal was set up by Will O’Neill, who faked a shot at the left point before passing the puck down to Abbott at the outside of the left circle.
“I think it went five-hole,” said Abbott.
Nyquist scored moments after the Dutchmen had generated a multiple-shot flurry just outside Darling’s crease in an attempt to tie the match.
“I counted five [saves] and a post,” said Darling. “It was crazy. After that, I knew I’d be good to go for the game.”
Nyquist’s goal came off the rebound of a Matt Duffy shot that missed the near side and came out the far side. Nyquist shoveled it to the net as Milan tried to scramble across to the near post.
“I got a little lucky. It hit one of their defenseman and deflected in. It wasn’t the hardest shot, but it went in and I’m happy about that,” said Nyquist.
Maine took three consecutive penalties in the second period and two overlapped, providing Union with a 41-second two-man advantage.
However, the Bears killed them off en route to a perfect 14-for-14 performance on the weekend (7-for-7 each night).
Maine went 2-for-9 on the power play Saturday to extend its streak to four games with at least one power-play goal (6-for-27).
Randall made it 3-0 with a minute left in the period when he fought his way to the crease and swatted a Keif Orsini rebound out of the air and into the net.
Darling made another important save with four seconds left when he closed his pads on John Simpson’s one-timer off a Matt Cook feed.
Dee expanded the lead to 4-0 4:09 into the third period when his deflection of a Jeff Dimmen wrister trickled through Milan’s pads.
Wakita cut the lead to 4-1 with a rising 25-foot wrister into the far corner off a Stephane Boileau pass, and moments later, Union scoring leader Adam Presizniuk had a power-play breakaway only to have Darling get his glove on the shot to again bail out the Bears.
Wakita received a five-minute major and game disqualification for leaving the penalty box to join in an altercation prompted by a Dee body check as the final second ticked off the clock.