SCHENECTADY, N.Y. — After a listless first period in which the University of Maine men’s hockey team managed just four shots on net against Union College and found itself trailing 2-0, Black Bears head coach Tim Whitehead’s message was loud and clear.
“I was very disappointed with how we came out for the start of the game,” said Whitehead, whose Bears wound up losing 6-3 as Union completed the weekend sweep. “There’s no excuse, after getting beaten the previous night (4-1), to come out flat. I was very surprised. From the first whistle to the last, you have to go all out.
“This won’t happen again,” he insisted.
“We really let ourselves down,” said sophomore right wing Gustav Nyquist, who had goals 2:22 apart in the third period to pull the Bears within 5-3 after they had fallen behind 4-0 and 5-1.
“We didn’t play as a team. We weren’t ready for the task here. We have to come out flying every game,” said Nyquist.
It is just the second time in the last 24 seasons the Bears have started with back-to-back losses. The previous time came during the 2007-2008 season when they were swept in Denver by the Pioneers.
Union College doesn’t have athletic scholarships but had a much more seasoned team with eight players having at least 70 career games under their belts.
Maine, which has the full complement of scholarships (18), didn’t have a player with more than 69 career games as 13 of their 19 players were freshmen and sophomores.
The Bears have now won just 28 of their last 82 games (28-47-7) and three of their previous 25 (3-19-3).
Maine was without junior center and captain Tanner House (leg injury) and senior left wing Jeff Swallow (shoulder) along with defenseman Ryan Hegarty and goalie Scott Darling. Hegarty is serving a three-game suspension for violation of the school’s student-athlete code of conduct and Darling was completing a two-game suspension for also violating the code. Both incidents occurred last spring.
Union College junior center John Simpson and freshman left wing Jeremy Welsh scored 1:55 apart midway through the initial period to give the Dutchmen a lead they would never relinquish.
Simpson scored on a breakaway just moments after his younger brother Wayne had been robbed on a shorthanded breakaway by Maine senior goalie Dave Wilson.
“Jeremy Welsh took out both of their defensemen. They both went to him and he just chipped it by them to give me a breakaway,” said Simpson. “[Wilson] covers the net low, my brother shot low and he got it [with his right pad]. So I tried to put it up top and it worked out.”
Simpson snapped his wrist shot over Wilson’s glove.
Welsh then used his 6-foot-3, 200-pound frame to create space for himself in the middle of the slot and accepted a precise no-look pass out of the corner from Kelly Zajac before taking a stride and snapping the puck into the far corner.
“It went just inside the post, blocker side,” said Wilson.
Maine did come out and play with a sense of urgency in the second period and created a host of good scoring chances including one by Robby Dee in which he was set up alone in front of the exposed net by Nyquist and just needed to direct it into the net.
“I tried to stick my stick out to deflect it but the puck hopped over my stick and it went high,” said Dee. “[Nyquist] made a great play. I should have turned my stick a different way to re-direct it into the net.”
Moments later, Brian Yanovitch made it 3-0 at the 7:54 mark and Adam Presisniuk extended the lead 1:48 later.
Maine finally got on the scoreboard when freshman left winger Adam Shemansky scored a power-play goal for the second straight game. He was positioned to the right of Union College goalie Corey Milan and swiped Josh Van Dyk’s floater from the point out of mid-air and into the short side.
That came with 7:33 left in the period and Milan shut the door the rest of the period with several important saves, including a gem off an unattended Matt Mangene who was set up by Kyle Beattie.
Maine continued to carry play at the outset of the third period but Mario Valery-Trabucco scored off a faceoff 1:20 into the period to re-establish a four-goal cushion.
He scored with a rising wrist shot past Wilson’s glove from just beyond the faceoff circle to Wilson’s right. Jason Walters won the draw back to him.
“What hurt us was we came out hard in the second period but they scored the first two goals and we came out hard again in the third period and they scored the first goal,” said Whitehead.
Nyquist made it 5-2 on the power play at the 7:36 mark when he scored off a wild scramble by batting the puck out of the air and he made things interesting 2:22 later when he fought his way to a Van Dyk rebound, spun around and swept the puck behind Milan.
But the Dutchmen followed with a couple of strong shifts in which they kept the puck inside the Maine zone and that interrupted Maine’s momentum.
“We settled down and were able to regroup,” said Union College coach and former Maine assistant Nate Leaman.
Maine took a pair of late penalties that finalized the result and Brock Matheson capped the scoring on the power play with 36 seconds left.
Milan finished with 26 saves including 13 off Grade-A (high percentage) shots.
“He might have been the difference in the game,” said Leaman.
The Dutchmen blocked 11 Maine shots.
Wilson also wound up with 26 stops with nine Grade-A’s.
Maine plays its home openers Friday and Saturday nights against Michigan State.