ORONO, Maine — The University of Maine Black Bear men’s hockey team hadn’t won a game since Dec. 13 and became the first team in the history of the program to go winless in January.
But the Bears welcomed February in dramatic fashion at the Alfond Arena on Sunday as they snapped their nine-game winless streak (0-7-2) by receiving a goal from sophomore defenseman Jeff Dimmen with 26.5 seconds left in regulation for a 2-1 triumph over UMass.
Maine improved to 11-12-3 overall, 6-9-2 in Hockey East. UMass fell to 11-12-3 and 6-8-3, respectively.
It was the Black Bears’ fifth straight Alfond Arena win over the Minutemen.
Matt Duffy’s power-play goal just 44 seconds into the game staked Maine to a 1-0 lead but UMass’ Casey Wellman equalized on the power play with 1:28 left in the second period.
Maine received 21 saves from junior Dave Wilson, including seven Grade-A (high-percentage) stops.
Paul Dainton made 27 stops for UMass, including five Grade-A’s.
“This was a huge win for our team,” said Wilson, who had made 35 saves in a 3-2 loss to UMass Lowell on Friday night. “We need the points for the playoffs and it was a great win, overall, to stop the slump.”
“We got the monkey off our backs,” said senior center Chris Hahn, who set up Dimmen’s game-winner with a cross-ice pass from the right circle to a wide open Dimmen in the middle of the left circle.
Spencer Abbott also assisted on the play.
“I picked the puck up in the right corner and I really didn’t have to think because as soon as I started curling up the ice, I heard Dimmen screaming in the slot,” said Hahn.
“Their weak-side winger cut down by the goal and Hahn feathered a nice pass across. I was just trying to get a good shot on net and it went in,” said Dimmen who one-timed it into the far corner.
“I came off the left post [to the right] and stepped out and he put it over my left [glove] shoulder,” said Dainton.
“We had a real positional breakdown,” said UMass coach Don Cahoon. “You should never have a guy standing alone in the slot. You can’t leave Main Street unattended.”
Wilson preserved the win with a glove stop off Matt Irwin’s slapper from the midpoint with 10 seconds left.
Duffy opened the scoring when he one-timed a Will O’Neill pass past a screened Dainton.
“It was a good shot. I heard it ring off the post or the cross bar,” said Dainton.
Wellman, the top freshman point-producer in Hockey East, collected his 24th point when his screened wrist shot from the top of the left circle slid through traffic and between Wilson’s pads.
But the Bears put together their best period in the third period, outshooting UMass 14-6 and being rewarded for it.
“The most pleasant surprise was our poise and discipline in the third period,” said Maine coach Tim Whitehead who was pleased with his team’s overall performance.
“We defended well, Dave Wilson was sharp again and our special teams were very good,” said Whitehead.
“We played much better defensively tonight,” said Wilson. “The guys blocked a lot of shots.”
Maine finished with 14 blocked shots.
“Maine played well and we didn’t show a lot of poise offensively,” said Cahoon. “We didn’t shoot the puck the way we need to shoot it. If you score one goal, you aren’t going to win games.”
“Wilson played a great game,” said Dainton.
Wilson’s most important saves came midway through the third period when an unattended Cory Quirk attacked the net from the corner and had an initial shot and several rebound whacks from the top of the crease.
“I stayed with him as long as I could. I made the initial save with my pad and he tried to whack in some rebounds but, luckily, I was there,” said Wilson.
Maine visits New Hampshire for games in Durham and Manchester next Friday and Saturday nights, respectively.