CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. — The defending national champion Boston College Eagles needed an elixir to jumpstart them and the University of Maine Black Bears proved to cure the ills.
A fluke second-period goal by senior defenseman Tim Kunes proved to be the game-winner and freshman left wing Barry Almeida’s third-period goal, which finished off a textbook three-on-one, gave the Eagles some breathing room en route to a 4-1 men’s hockey victory over the Black Bears.
Maine’s winless streak was extended to eight games (0-6-2) dating to Dec. 13.
BC had entered the weekend series winless in six (0-4-2) going back to Nov. 30 but beat the Bears 6-3 on Saturday night to snap the skid before completing the sweep.
BC improved to 11-8-3 overall, 7-7-3 in Hockey East, while Maine fell to 10-11-3 and 5-8-2, respectively.
Joe Whitney’s first-period goal gave BC a lead it would never relinquish and Kunes expanded the lead 2:50 into the second period before Maine sophomore defenseman Mike Banwell scored his second career goal and second of the weekend to cut the lead in half midway through the middle period.
BC had a golden opportunity to extend the lead early in the third period with a two-man advantage that lasted 1:57.
The Bears gained momentum by killing it off but Almeida scored just 2:18 later to make it 3-1.
The puck bounced over the stick of Maine defenseman Josh Van Dyk at the blue line and that set the three-in-one in motion.
Tim Filangieri and Ben Smith broke into the Maine zone and worked a nice give-and-go with Smith receiving a return pass in the low slot. Maine goalie Dave Wilson read the play well and scrambled over to Smith but Smith quickly passed it across to Almeida, who tapped it in the open net.
“I slid across but he made a nice back door pass,” said Wilson.
Maine coach Tim Whitehead said that play and a botched three-on-one by his Bears in the first period epitomized one of the differences in the game and the weekend series.
“We had a three-on-one but we overhandled the puck and didn’t get anything out of it,” said Whitehead, who felt the Eagles did a better job putting shots on net and crashing the net front for rebounds.
“Most goals are scored in the paint,” said BC senior left wing and captain Brock Bradford, who iced the game with 2:55 left by jamming home a rebound off a multi-shot flurry.
“We work on that in practice all the time: stopping in front of the net to get second and third chances.”
“They got to the net really well,” said Maine sophomore center Tanner House.
Maine had an opportunity to climb back into the game courtesy of a four-minute power play midway through the third period.
But, just 15 seconds later, Maine senior center Chris Hahn was assessed a five-minute major for hitting from behind and a game misconduct, and that negated Maine’s power play.
“We were relieved when that happened,” said BC coach Jerry York.
“That was the turning point in the game,” said Whitehead.
Whitney opened the scoring 13:17 into the first period when Jimmy Hayes poked the puck into the slot where Whitney did a 180-degree spin and fired a slapper over Wilson’s glove.
“It happened so fast and the puck was wavering. I didn’t have time to react,” said Wilson.
Kunes made it 2-0 when he wristed a soft floater from the left point that deflected in off the glove of Maine defenseman Simon Danis-Pepin, according to Wilson.
But a wide open Banwell got the Bears on the board when Matt Duffy dug out a puck near the blue line and slid it over to him and took a stride and blasted a 40-foot slap shot over the glove of BC goalie John Muse.
York said the fact he was able to play four lines consistently and get contributions from all four was a “big plus.
“This was just what the doctor ordered,” said York.
Whitehead felt his team turned in an honest, hard-working effort Sunday and praised the 22-save effort turned in by Wilson, who was replacing the slumping Scott Darling (3.77 goals-against average, .859 save percentage over his last six games).
Muse finished with 25 saves.