ORONO, Maine — It was the most prestigious win for the Bentley University Falcons and, perhaps, the worst defeat for the University of Maine men’s hockey program.
Senior left wing Jeff Gumaer scored a pair of goals in the final 2:59 of the first period and freshman goalie Kyle Rank made them stand up with a magnificent 35-save performance as the Falcons shocked the reeling Black Bears 3-1 at Alfond Arena Friday night.
Brian Flynn’s power-play goal with 10:01 left in the third period pulled Maine within 2-1, but Erik Peterson’s empty-net goal iced it.
Bentley of Waltham, Mass., improved to 9-11-1 while the Black Bears fell to 10-9-2 and had their winless streak extended to five games (0-4-1).
Maine hosts surging Providence College, winner of four straight, on Sunday at 2 p.m.
Atlantic Hockey member Bentley, with the equivalence of just eight scholarships compared to Maine’s 18, entered the game with an 0-8 career record against Hockey East schools and the Falcons were coming off a 2-1 overtime loss at Connecticut on Wednesday night.
“This is the biggest win in the history of our program,” said Bentley coach Ryan Soderquist. “When you come up to this arena with the tradition and the national championship banners [it’s quite an accomplishment].”
“I was very impressed with Bentley,” said Maine coach Tim Whitehead. “I’ve seem some of these games in the past like when Holy Cross beat Minnesota [in the NCAA Tournament’s West Regional in 2006], but when it happens to you, it really stings.
“From our perspective, not taking anything away from Bentley’s effort and their win, but this is a very embarrassing loss for us as a Hockey East team losing to an emerging conference team.”
“We outcompeted them the whole game,” said Bentley senior center Tony Canzoneri, who set up Gumaer’s goals. “The first key was Kyle. He stood on his head. He was phenomenal.”
“I saw the puck real well,” said Rank. “I need to give a big hand to our defense. They blocked a lot of good shots at good times and let me see shots through traffic real well. They did a great job clearing rebounds and I thought I did a good job controlling them.”
He finished with 19 Grade-A (high-percentage) saves among his 35.
Maine dominated the first period, but as has been the case in recent games, it allowed a pair of late-period goals.
The Bears have given up seven goals in the final four minutes of a period over their last five games.
Gumaer opened the scoring against the run of play with 2:59 left in the first period.
He skated on to a pass from Canzoneri and, while skating backward down the slot, swiped a backhander past Maine goalie Dave Wilson.
“I’ve been snakebitten lately. I’ve been thinking too much, so I just figured I’d shovel it on net and see what happened and it went in,” said Gumaer.
It was just the Falcons’ third shot on goal in the period compared to Maine’s 11.
“It hit the bottom of my blocker and trickled in,” said Wilson.
Just 2:46 later, Gumaer was battling Will O’Neill for a loose puck in the low slot before finding it and sweeping a 10-foot wrister between Wilson’s right skate and the post.
“It was in their defenseman’s feet. I stepped aside, found it and put a low shot on net,” said Gumaer. “Neither was a great shot, but they went in the net.”
“I tried to extend my toe, but I wasn’t quick enough,” said Wilson.
That was the score line until Flynn one-timed a 12-footer past Rank off a pass from behind the net by Spencer Abbott.
But that was the only time the Bears could beat Rank as he stymied them repeatedly.
Maine had one glorious chance to tie it when Flynn maneuvered past a Falcon defenseman to create a two-on-none with Chris Hahn.
But Hahn misread the situation and turned back up the ice as Flynn’s pass rolled harmlessly into the corner.
“We just couldn’t get the puck in the net tonight. They did a good job. They worked hard in front of their net and protected it well. But we should have won the game,” said Maine freshman right wing and leading scorer Gustav Nyquist, who stickhandled around Rank early in the first period but had his backhander hit the inside of the post and stay out.
Maine outshot Bentley 36-24.
“We kept things simple. We weathered the storm in the first 10 minutes. We bent but never broke, and we got confidence as the game wore on,” said Gumaer.
Whitehead said the late first-period goals deflated his team and by the time they recovered, it was the third period and “it was too late.”