BURLINGTON, Vt. — The University of Maine’s power play snapped out of a mini-slump Friday night and it couldn’t have come at a better time.
Maine’s power play, ranked first in the nation at 27.6 percent efficiency despite a 1-for-14 drought, scored four goals in six chances en route to a 6-3 win over the University of Vermont Catamounts at the Gutterson Fieldhouse.
Gustav Nyquist opened the scoring with an even-strength goal early in the first period before Brian Flynn and Tanner House converted on the power play to give Maine a 3-0 lead after the first 20 minutes.
Wahsontiio Stacey answered on the power play for UVM early in the second period but Kyle Beattie’s first college goal, an even-strength tally, and Jeff Dimmen’s power play goal expanded the lead to 5-1 later in the period.
Vermont’s Justin Milo and Sebastien Stalberg made things interesting with third-period goals before Klas Leidermak added his first college goal on a power-play late in the game to ice it for Maine.
Maine received a 31-save outing from Scott Darling in his return to action following a three-week absence due to a knee injury.
Maine is now 12-9-2 overall, 9-6-1 in Hockey East while Vermont fell to 12-9-2 and 6-8-2.
The teams will play again tonight at 7.
“This was a great win for us,” said Maine coach Tim Whitehead. “There’s a bunch of us fighting for home ice in the [Hockey East] playoffs. It was important for us to get out of the gate fast and we did.”
“That’s the best first period we’ve played on the road this season,” said Nyquist, who opened the scoring by captitalizing on a Vermont turnover.
“They tried to make a D-to-D [defenseman to defenseman] pass and the defenseman missed it and it came right to me,” said Nyquist, who beat Rob Madore with a wrist shot from the right circle at the 6:22 mark.
“I put it low blocker side,” said Nyquist.
Flynn made it 2-0 with the first of the two power play goals in the period as he finished off a textbook 3-on-2 with Spencer Abbott and Adam Shemansky. Abbott slid the puck across to Shemansky who quickly shoveled it to the oncoming Flynn at the far post and Flynn one-timed it into the short side corner.
House made it 3-0 with five seconds left in the period as he broke down the middle of the ice with his stick on the ice. Will O’Neill carried the puck into the offensive zone down the left side and snapped it across to House, who directed the puck just inside the far post.
“I knew there wasn’t much time left and Will made a great pass. One of their defenseman left me for some reason. I just angled my stick a little and re-directed it,” said House.
UVM’s Stacey got one back on the power play in the second period when Drew MacKenzie’s shot deflected across the slot and he deposited the puck into the half-empty net.
Maine took three consecutive penalties but the Black Bears, who had allowed 10 goals in the opponents’ last 34 chances, killed them off.
Beattie scored his pivotal goal with 4:14 left in the period as Shemansky fed Dimmen for a one-timer at the top of the right circle and Beattie capitalized on the rebound.
“I had just come out of the penalty box and I kept going to the front of their net. The puck deflected over to me and I put it in,” said Beattie, who was just outside the crease.
“That was a big goal for us,” said Maine captain House.
Dimmen made it 5-1 as he closed from the left point and one-timed a diagonal pass from Nyquist over Madore’s stick side shoulder. Dimmen didn’t get a lot on the shot but it dropped over Madore’s shoulder.
Milo tapped in a cross-ice pass from Kevan Miller at the 1:52 mark of the third period and Stalberg fired a loose puck into the far corner past Darling a little later.
Darling came up with several important saves before Leidermark closed out the scoring off a four-on-one rush by tapping a rebound home with 2:24 left.
Maine has scored seven power play goals in 16 chances in two wins over Vermont this season.
Whitehead said he was pleased with Darling’s play.
“He came up big when we needed him,” said Whitehead.
Vermont did score two power play goals but the Catamounts had 10 chances and Maine was able to kill them off at crucial times.
Whitehead used veterans like Nyquist and House to help out on the penalty kill and it paid off.
“Our penalty kill game up big. It gave us momentum,” said House.
Vermont coach Kevin Sneddon called his team’s performance “pretty embarrassing” over the first two periods.
“We got beat by a much better hockey team tonight, no question about it,” said Sneddon. “The only positive was our freshman line [Tobias Nilsson-Roos, Stalberg and David Pacan]. We left Rob Madore out to dry.”
Vermont outshot Maine 34-25.
O’Neill had three assists while Shemansky and Nyquist had two assists each.