ORONO — The University of Maine Black Bears were the fourth-highest scoring team in the nation a year ago (3.67 goals per game). That average was helped by 11 goals in their last two Hockey East Tournament games.
The Bears picked up where they left off against a youthful UMass Lowell team Friday night, scoring the game’s first six goals en route to an 8-2 victory in a mutual season and Hockey East opener in front of 4,433 at Alfond Arena.
Sophomore right wing Joey Diamond, who had three goals and an assist in the 5-2 semfinal win over Boston University and 7-6 overtime loss to eventual national champion Boston College last season, had a pair of goals and two assists and Tanner House scored twice with Robby Dee, Adam Shemansky, Kyle Beattie and Spencer Abbott scoring the others. Dee and Abbott had an assist apiece to go with their goals and sophomore defenseman Mike Cornell had two assists.
Scott Campbell snapped Maine’s scoring string with a power play wraparound late in the second period.
Fifteen Black Bears notched at least one point.
“Having this kind of (scoring) depth is huge for us,” said senior center and captain House, who centers Maine’s top line between Brian Flynn and Gustav Nyquist, who had an assist apiece.
The Black Bears were the consummate opportunists in the first period as they built a 4-0 lead despite the fact the terriotorial play was even.
In fact, UMass Lowell attempted 23 shots to Maine’s 18. Maine had the edge in shots on goal 16-13.
Maine had the nation’s best power play a year ago at 27.7 percent but the Bears’ first-period goals were all of the even-strength variety.
Senior center Dee opened the scoring just 1:09 into the game.
Abbott won a faceoff draw to the left of UML freshman goalie Doug Carr and got it back to Mike Cornell at the right point.
Cornell wristed the puck to the net and Carr kicked it out. However, the unattended Dee jumped on the rebound while cutting right to left across the low slot and he tucked it inside the far post.
“We knew they had some freshmen defensemen and freshman goalies so we wanted to jump on them early,” said Dee.
Sophomore left wing Shemansky extended the lead with a similar type of goal 4:03 later.
Josh Van Dyk kept the puck in at the left point and took a snap shot that made its way to Carr.
“Josh shot (to create) a rebound and it was a good hard shot,” said Shemansky. “The puck landed on my stick and I put it in. You can’t miss from there.”
Sophomore right wing Beattie made it 3-0 at the 11:38 mark when freshman Mark Anthoine of Lewiston fed him a pass just inside the offensive blue line and Beattie snapped a wrister inside the far post from the right circle before Carr could extend his right pad.
“Mark made a great play. He fumbled the puck a little and their defenseman went over to him,” said Beattie. “He regained the puck and got it over to me. Because the defenseman went to him, that gave me time to look up and pick my spot.”
Diamond capped the scoring when he picked off a lazy point-to-point pass, broke in alone and beat Carr with a 25-foot wrister.
“(Abbott) pressured one of their defenseman and he made a bad pass,” said Diamond. “I went in and put it five-hole.”
UMass Lowell had plenty of chances including several on a power play in which it sustained offensive zone pressure for all but 10 seconds of the two-minute power play.
But Maine sophomore goalie Shawn Sirman made eight Grade-A (high-percentage) saves in the period.
“The guys did a great job in front of me all night,” said Sirman. “The defensemen cleared the puck away so they didn’t get second shots and the forwards came back.”
“We had plenty of opportunities in the first period but we didn’t capitalize and they did,” said UML senior defenseman and alternate captain Maury Edwards.
“Shawn was sharp,” said Maine coach Tim Whitehead.
Diamond expanded the lead 1:16 into the second period when Cornell slotted a diagonal pass to him at the base of the left circle and Diamond snapped a wrister inside the near post past freshman goalie Marc Boulanger, who replaced Carr at the outset of the second period.
House scored Maine’s only power-play goal on the night when Jeff Dimmen slid the puck ahead to him and he swatted it in the air and it knuckled into the far corner.
House made it 7-1 55 seconds into the third period when he found some open space in the low slot behind a River Hawk defenseman and directed a Flynn centering pass between Boulanger’s pads.
“We talked about getting out of the gate fast and we scored in the first two minutes of every period,” said Whitehead.
“You’ve got to give Maine credit. They played an exceptional game. They started each period on fire and set us back on our heels,” said UML coach Blaise MacDonald. “They’ve got quality, quantity and depth.”
Abbott one-timed a Dee pass behind Boulanger later in the period from the inner half of the right circle.
Michael Budd scored from in tight for the River Hawks to cap the scoring. Campbell had one of the assists for two-point night.
Sirman made 18 saves on 19 shots before freshman Dan Sullivan came on and made two saves on three shots.
Maine outshot UML 42-22.
Maine will host the University of Connecticut Saturday night at 7.