Saturday night’s 5-3 victory over Michigan State was the University of Maine men’s hockey team’s first regular season win since Feb. 7 when it upset New Hampshire 1-0 in Manchester, N.H.
Maine had since gone 0-10-1 in regular-season play, including three losses this season.
“It goes to show what we learned as freshmen last year. Now that we’re sophomores, we know what the situation requires [in order to win],” said sophomore goalie Scott Darling, who made 24 saves to pick up his first win after turning aside 29 shots in Friday night’s 5-3 loss to the Spartans.
“We know a game can change in two seconds. We can’t let up at all,” added Darling. “The win was huge for us. If you lose your first four games, you could completely deflate. This team has a lot of heart and we’re going to take what we learned into UMass this weekend.”
Maine opens Hockey East play at UMass on Friday night before traveling to Durham, N.H., for a Saturday night game against New Hampshire.
Darling was pleased with his performance on Saturday night with the exception of the third goal, an Andrew Rowe centering pass from the corner that glanced in off the goalie’s skate.
“Other than that goal, I thought I played pretty well,” said Darling. “Their other two goals were hard-earned goals. I made a couple of key saves. We got the win and that’s what I’m happy about.”
MSU coach Rick Comley said Darling was outstanding.
“That darned second period, again. He made some great saves,” Comley said.
Darling made 11 second-period saves on Saturday, including seven Grade-A (high percentage) stops.
He missed the season-opening series at Union College (N.Y.) due to a two-game suspension for violating the school’s Student-Athlete Code of Conduct last spring.
Maine lost both games.
“Scott bounced back with a real strong performance Saturday,” said Maine coach Tim Whitehead. “He settled down. He was a lot calmer on first shots as well as second shots. He was bound to be nervous the first night and our team didn’t play as well defensively as they did on Saturday.
“I was really pleased with Scott’s improvement and I expect him to keep getting stronger as the year goes on,” added Whitehead who was also happy with his team’s third-period play on Saturday as Maine outshot MSU 8-5 and had six Grade-A scoring chances to MSU’s one.
Nemec, House sidelined
Maine will be without redshirt freshman defenseman Mark Nemec (broken thumb) this weekend and junior center and captain Tanner House (knee) is doubtful.
Whitehead intends to keep senior Brett Carriere back on defense rather than at forward.
“He was solid both nights,” said Whitehead. “He has experience. We’re going to keep him there while our freshmen [Mike Cornell and Nick Pryor] adjust to this level of play. We’re going to work them in when we can.”
Cornell has played in two games and Nick Pryor has appeared in one.
Comley was impressed with Maine.
“They work hard and they’re well-coached,” he said. “They’re a team that’s going to go forward and come on just like ours.”