ORONO, Maine — Penalty-killing hasn’t been a strength for the University of Maine men’s hockey team his season. Sophomore right winger Gustav Nyquist certainly has been.
Both were instrumental in Friday night’s hard-fought 3-1 win over Providence College as the Black Bears killed off all eight Friar power plays and Nyquist, the nation’s second-leading scorer, scored goals 3:21 apart in the second period to erase a 1-0 deficit.
Matt Mangene added a shorthanded empty-net goal with 41.5 seconds left.
Maine is now 7-7-1 overall, 5-4-1 in Hockey East, after winning its third straight game. Maine is now unbeaten in four consecutive and is 6-2-1 in its last nine games.
Providence fell to 7-6-1 and 2-4-1, respectively.
The teams play again tonight at 7.
Providence freshman Tim Schaller opened the scoring 6:01 into the second period when he found open real estate between the two faceoff circles and one-timed a pass out of the corner from Chris Rooney over the glove of Maine goalie Scott Darling.
Nyquist answered just 14 seconds later when he stole the puck in the high slot near the boards, maneuvered cleverly between a pair of PC defensemen in a one-on-three and slid a short wrist shot along the ice into the short-side corner past Friar goalie Alex Beaudry.
“I lifted a guy’s stick. I don’t think he saw me,” said Nyquist, who then cut from right to left across the slot. “I came in one-on-two, pulled the puck back to my forehand and shot it as quickly as possible.”
Nyquist figured Beaudry would be moving across with him because that’s what “goalies do in that situation.”
“He slid it right along the ice,” said Beaudry.
“We sagged in too much,” said PC coach Tim Army. “We played that soft.”
PC junior left wing Ian O’Connor said Nyquist “has great hands and great vision. He can make something out of nothing.”
“That goal was a big spark for us. That killed their momentum,” said Maine junior center and captain Tanner House.
Nyquist scored again off a well-executed passing sequence involving linemates Brian Flynn and House.
Flynn intercepted an attempted breakout pass in the middle of the high slot and tapped it across to House, who touched it back to Nyquist for a rising wrist shot over the glove of Beaudry.
“That was a nice goal,” said Nyquist.
“It was a great shot,” said Beaudry.
“Gustav can take a game over with his skills,” said Maine goalie Scott Darling, who finished with 22 saves, including 10 of the Grade-A (high-percentage) variety.
Nyquist extended his points streak to five games (5 goals, 5 assists).
Nyquist appeared to have completed his first collegiate hat trick 57 seconds into the third period when he directed Will O’Neill’s diagonal slap-pass from the left point into a half-empty net.
But the goal was reviewed and it was waved off because Nyquist was ruled to have directed it into the net with his skate.
Maine, which killed off four power plays and 37 seconds of another in the game’s first 21 minutes, thwarted three Friar power plays in the third period and Mangene scored from the far blue line after Army had pulled Beaudry in favor of an extra attacker to create a six-on-four power play.
“The defense and the penalty-killers played unbelievable,” said Darling. “I didn’t have my best game, but they made things easy for me.”
“They stopped our power- play rushes, and they always had two people on the puck when they were killing penalties,” said PC senior defenseman and captain Mark Fayne. “They won a lot of battles for the puck.”
“Their penalty-killers outworked our power-play people,” said Army. “We only had 10 shots on eight power plays.”
“Our penalty-killing is much improved,” said Maine coach Tim Whitehead. “It was nice to get a bounce-back goal [Nyquist’s first goal]. We had given those goals up earlier this season. And I liked the fact we didn’t let the disallowed goal affect us. I really liked Providence’s team. It’s going to be even tougher Saturday night.”
Maine limited Providence to four shots on goal in the third period.
Beaudry was stellar, also, as he made 27 saves, including 13 Grade-A’s.