ORONO, Maine — The University of Maine’s power play has been one of its bright spots this season. The goaltending hasn’t been.
Both were superb on Friday night as Scott Darling turned in a 31-save masterpiece and Maine scored three power-play goals, two by freshman left wing Adam Shemansky, and went on to post a badly-needed 4-1 victory over the University of Vermont Catamounts at Alfond Arena.
Maine improved to 2-5 overall, 1-2 in Hockey East, while Vermont fell to 2-3 and 1-2, respectively.
Maine snapped an eight-game Hockey East regular season losing streak and 10-game winless streak (0-9-1) dating back to last season.
Maine’s Kevin Swallow scored a shorthanded goal to open the scoring and Jeff Dimmen had the other power-play goal.
Freshman Matt Marshall scored his first collegiate goal for Vermont.
Maine sophomore goalie Scott Darling finished with 31 saves, including three breakaways among 18 Grade-A (high-percentage) stops.
Vermont’s Rob Madore was equally stellar as he turned aside 35 shots, including 24 Grade-A stops.
“I came out and played with confidence tonight,” said Darling, who entered the game with a 4.19 goals-against average and a .851 save percentage. “The coaches told me all week they had confidence in me.”
Darling said the biggest reason for his struggles was his “nerves.
“I hadn’t been getting off to good starts but I made a couple of saves early and that helped,” said Darling. “It’s nice to have a concrete game.”
“Scott gave us tremendous goaltending tonight. I’m proud of him,” said Maine coach Tim Whitehead.
Swallow’s shorthanded goal opened the scoring at the 5:23 mark and Shemansky tallied a power-play goal 3:48 later.
Marshall scored for Vermont 5:58 into the second period and the Catamounts had several great chances to get the equalizer but Darling was superb and enabled the Bears to take the lead into the intermission.
Colin Vock had a shorthanded breakaway with eight seconds remaining in the middle period but Darling held his ground and squeezed his pads to rob Vock. Vock tried to tuck a backhander between the goalie’s pads.
“I came out aggressively to take the shot away. I wanted to make him go around me,” said Darling. “He opened me up but I was able to pinch my knees together.”
Dimmen extended the lead on the power play 18 seconds into the third period and Shemansky scored his second of the game on the power play with 6:48 remaining.
Swallow started the scoring as the result of a hustle play by freshman Matt Mangene.
Mangene maneuvered his way around Vermont defenseman Dan Lawson and got off a backhander from a sharp angle that Madore kicked out with his left pad.
“It was a great play by Mangene. He did all the work. I had just come off the bench and the puck was just sitting there for me,” said Swallow, who swooped on the rebound and fired it home as Madore desperately dove across the net.
Shemansky made it 2-0 when he was parked to the right of Madore at the bottom of the left circle and pushed Spencer Abbott’s pass behind Madore.
“They were running around and Spencer got it down to me and I just steered it in,” said Shemansky.
Marshall beat Darling with a slapper from the right circle that slipped under the goalie’s right knee.
Dimmen made it 3-1 when he took a diagonal pass from Robby Dee as he busted down the right wing and wristed a 20-footer inside the far post.
“I drove to the net earlier in the game and was called for charging,” said Dimmen, who switched the puck from his backhand to his forehand. “So I just tried to get a quick shot off and I think I surprised him. I didn’t get a lot on it but it beat him low to the blocker side.”
Jack Downing had a breakaway midway through the third period but Darling stacked his pads and made the save.
“He was in tight so I jammed my paddle [stick] out and covered the low part of the net with my pads,” said Darling.
Shemansky iced it when he batted the puck past Madore after trying to center the puck from behind the net.
“It banked in off the goalie’s pad,” said Shemansky.
Vermont coach Kevin Sneddon said Darling played very well “but I also thought Maine outplayed us from start to finish. And when we’d try to make a run, we’d take a penalty.”
“Scott played great and our special teams capitalized,” said Dimmen.
Maine went 3-for-10 on the power play and has now scored a power-play goal in all seven games. Maine has scored two or more power-play goals five times.
Maine held the Catamounts scoreless on five power-play chances.
“Our penalty killing was much improved,” said Whitehead.