AMHERST, Mass. — It was a strange weekend for the University of Maine’s hockey team but the outcome was the same.
After squandering three one-goal leads in a 4-3 overtime loss to the University of Massachusetts on Friday night, the Black Bears clawed their way back from a 4-0 deficit with three third-period goals Saturday night only to drop another 4-3 decision.
UMass, courtesy of its third straight win, improved to 14-15-3 overall, 9-11-3 in Hockey East. It was UMass’ seventh consecutive victory over Maine at the Mullins Center.
Maine fell to 12-16-4 and 7-13-3, respectively. Maine is now 2-11-3 in its last 16 games.
First-period goals by Cory Quirk and Topher Bevis and second-period scores by James Marcou and T.J. Syner supplied the Minutemen with a seemingly comfortable 4-0 lead.
But Brian Flynn’s five-on-three power-play goal made it 4-1 at the 8:33 mark; Jeff Dimmen’s four-on-four goal cut the lead to 4-2 4:07 later and Flynn’s four-on-four tally with 5:07 left in regulation made things very interesting.
Maine had an opportunity to tie it on the power play but UMass goalie Paul Dainton made a couple of vital saves to preserve the win.
Maine outshot UMass 18-7 in the third period.
“We finally hung it all out there in the third period,” said Maine senior center Chris Hahn. “When you’re down by four goals, you don’t have much of a choice.
“I don’t know what our problem is. [Maine coach Tim Whitehead and his staff] came up with a good game plan for us but then we came out and played tentative. We finally went after it [in the third period] and they took penalties. It started to snowball on them a bit but it wasn’t enough in the end, though,” said Hahn.
“The guys showed a lot of heart. I was proud of how they competed. They really competed with poise and made plays. They left everything out on the ice. There’s a lot to build on,” said Whitehead whose Bears host Vermont for two next weekend.
Quirk opened the scoring just 2:15 into the game when he shoved a stationary puck over the goal line after goalie Scott Darling made an initial save.
Bevis one-timed an Alex Berry pass over the glove shoulder of the screened Darling and into the far corner from between the top of the left circle and the blue line.
Marcou scored 3:59 into the middle period on a tap-in when the speedy Minutemen created a transition two-on-one and he was fed perfectly by Casey Wellman.
Syner made it 4-0 5:01 later by sweeping home a Shawn Saunders rebound.
A Black Bear miscommunication left the puck in the right corner and Saunders collected it, wheeled out to the right circle and fired a wrister that Syner converted.
“The rebound was lying right there and I just tapped it in,” said Syner.
Flynn began Maine’s comeback when he flipped home a Will O’Neill rebound.
With UMass’ top two defensemen, Justin Braun and Martin Nolet serving 10-minute misconducts, Dimmen made it 4-2 by beating Dainton through the pads with a wrister off a Gustav Nyquist drop pass.
Flynn’s third goal in two games came about when he shielded the puck from a UMass defenseman, cut across the low slot and “backhanded it into the far right side,” according to Dainton.
But Maine couldn’t get the tying goal.
Even though Maine gave UMass just two power-play chances while earning eight themselves, three ill-advised Black Bear penalties while they were on or about to go on a power play deprived the Bears of 4:32 of power-play time. Two came in the third period.
Dainton made 31 saves including 13 Grade-A [high-percentage] stops. Darling had 23 saves including 10 Grade-A’s.