Dave Wilson had a unique way to celebrate the University of Maine’s 3-2 overtime win over UMass Lowell in the third and deciding game of their Hockey East quarterfinal series Sunday night.
“I watched tape of the game. I can do a lot better and the team can play better,” said the senior goalie. “It’s going to be pretty exciting next weekend.”
He was referring to Friday’s 8 p.m. Hockey East semifinal against Boston University at the TD Garden in Boston. It will be the Black Bears’ first trip to the semifinals since 2006.
Wilson entered the UML series having never won a playoff game, with a career record of 5-17-1, a 3.11 goals-against average and a .889 save percentage.
But he limited the senior-laden River Hawks to just four goals while making 68 saves as the Bears rallied from a 2-1 Friday night loss to win 2-0 Saturday night before eliminating UML on Sunday night.
Wilson replaced suspended sophomore goalie Scott Darling between the pipes.
“[Wilson] was awesome. He barely played all year, he got his chance and he played amazing,” said freshman center Matt Mangene.
“He was solid,” said UML senior goalie Carter Hutton.
He made his first start since Oct. 10 on Friday night.
How did he persevere throughout the season?
“I kept myself ready through practice,” said Wilson. “I’m a very competitive person. I wasn’t going to let myself get beat a lot in practice.”
He was happy to get the chance to prove himself in the playoffs.
He had lost his previous two playoff starts against Massachusetts during his freshman season.
“I couldn’t be happier about contributing to the team like that. It’s a great feeling,” said Wilson. “I’m pretty confident in my ability and the defense did a great job this weekend.”
He said one of the most pleasing aspects of the weekend was the fact he didn’t allow a “soft” goal.
“I thought that was of my strong points. Weak goals can deflate a team, even more so [in the playoffs],” said Wilson.
“He was great,” said Maine coach Tim Whitehead. “He was rock solid. He made big stops when we needed it and showed a lot of poise in the net. He played with great determination and really competed for loose pucks. He gave our team a lift.”
Mangene excels on defense
Mangene learned from Whitehead Sunday morning that he might be moved back to defense for the deciding game.
Junior defenseman and assistant captain Jeff Dimmen suffered a leg injury at the end of Saturday night’s game.
Dimmen tested the leg in warm-ups and couldn’t play so Mangene moved back and turned in a memorable performance. He also played up front on the power play and penalty kill.
He was paired on defense with sophomore Will O’Neill and assisted on O’Neill’s game-tying goal in the third period by faking a shot and slipping the puck over to him for a one-timer.
Mangene was plus-two in plus-minus. A player receives a plus-one if he is on the ice when his team scores an even-strength or shorthanded goal and a minus-one if his team allows an even-strength or shorthanded goal.
“He was unbelievable,” said Whitehead. “He was just tremendous on defense. He was 7-0. He contributed to seven Grade-A scoring chances for us and wasn’t at fault for any chances against us.”
Mangene said he played a lot of defense for the New Hampshire Junior Monarchs last year “so I was pretty used to it.”
“I thought I played pretty well. I got more comfortable as the game went along. It helped being out there with O’Neill. He’s a veteran guy who knows what he’s doing and he kept things positive the whole game. Everyone was giving me a boost,” said Mangene.
“I focused a little more. I knew what I had to do and wanted to make sure I did it right. I didn’t want to make a big turnover that cost us,” added Mangene, who is one of the fastest skaters on the team and was able to use that speed to help break the puck out of the defensive zone and also jump into the attack.
Mangene was on the ice when Tanner House scored his game-winner and he said it was “awesome. It was insane when that [goal] light went on and we all tackled [House]. The Alfond crowd was going crazy. It doesn’t get any better than that.”
He is hoping Dimmen, who gave a pep talk to the team before the third period and whom he considers a great leader, returns to the lineup against Boston University but if he doesn’t, he’ll be ready to fill in.
“I’m ready to play wherever they want me to,” said Mangene, who was playing in his seventh game since returning from a torn muscle in his arm that sidelined him for eight games.
Whitehead said Dimmen is doubtful for Friday’s game.