ORONO — The University of Maine Black Bears knew they would have their hands full with the University of North Dakota Fighting Sioux Saturday night following Friday night’s convincing 7-3 men’s hockey triumph.
But the Black Bears weathered a strong first period showing by the nation’s second-ranked team and erased a 1-0 deficit with four unanswered goals en route to a 4-2 victory at Alfond Arena.
Freshman goalie Dan Sullivan, making his first home start in front of the largest Alfond Arena crowd (5,361) since Jan. 25, 2008 (vs. Boston College), made 23 saves, including 14 of the Grade-A (high-percentage) variety, to backstop the win.
Maine improved to 3-1-2 while North Dakota fell to 3-2-1.
Fighting Sioux sophomore goalie Aaron Dell also turned in an exemplary performance with 31 saves, including 15 Grade-As.
North Dakota’s Ben Blood broke a scoreless tie with 6:35 left in the second period but Gustav Nyquist’s power-play goal 2:39 later and Joey Diamond’s even-strength goal with 1:43 left in the period enabled the Bears to take a 2-1 lead into the intermission.
Brian Flynn made it 3-1 just 54 seconds into the third period with his third goal of the weekend and Spencer Abbott scored on a 5-on-3 at the 6:39 mark.
Matt Frattin’s shorthanded snap shot 1:32 later closed the gap but Sullivan made some important saves down the stretch and his mates did an efficient job clearing rebounds.
Maine, aided by nine power plays (2-for-9) compared to North Dakota’s four (0-4), outshot UND 35-25 and attempted 62 shots to UND’s 31.
“This is the best 60-minute game I’ve seen since I’ve been here,” said junior left wing Flynn, who had three goals on the weekend. “We worked hard for 60 minutes. We kept our feet moving all night, which is our strength.”
“We played the way we talked about playing,” said Abbott, who had an assist to go with his goal as did Nyquist. “We got pucks deep (into the offensive zone), we didn’t turn it over at the blue line, we got puck support, we got guys going to the net with and without the puck, we got pucks to the net and we screened the goalie. We did everything well tonight.”
He also lauded the performance turned in by Sullivan.
“For a freshman to play like that against the number two team in the country, that’s pretty crazy,” said Abbott.
“He did a good job,” agreed UND’s Dell.
Sullivan thought he played a “relatively good game. Everyone contributed and made it a lot easier for me out there. They kept the shots to the outside.”
Blood opened the scoring by flipping home a Frattin rebound.
But Nyquist tied it on the power play when he flipped the rebound of a screened Abbott point shot into the open short-side corner.
The line of Robby Dee, Flynn and Diamond created the go-ahead goal by cycling the puck behind the net until Diamond muscled his way to the side of the net to Dell’s left and jammed it home.
“We had a little breakdown in those last four minutes of the second period and they popped a couple of goals in,” said senior right winger Frattin, who had an assist to go with his goal. “Then they got a quick one on us in the third period. We tried to fight back but we didn’t make it.”
Flynn was the recipient of a fortuitous bounce on his early third-period goal as he came off the bench on a line change and when Jeff Dimmen’s pass deflected of a UND defenseman, the puck squirted right into Flynn’s path and he one-timed it past Dell.
“(The deflection) slowed it down just enough. I shot it far side,” said Flynn.
Abbott scored with a one-timer from the top of the left circle seconds after Maine coach Tim Whitehead called a timeout to go over details for their five-on-three.
“(Whitehead) said keep it simple, get the shots on net and let the guys in front bury the rebounds,” said Abbott. “Will (O’Neill) and I talked about it before the draw. Whoever was open was going to get the puck. Will gave it to me right away and Tanner was screening.”
“I never saw it,” said Dell.
“Their power play was hot and you can’t give good teams those chances,” said UND senior center Brad Malone.
Dee had two assists.