CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. — It was a forgettable evening for the University of Maine Black Bears in a rink that has produced plenty of nightmares for them.
Senior goalie John Muse, who already has two NCAA men’s hockey championships to his credit, was sensational and the Eagles received first-period goals 4:12 apart from Paul Carey and Brian Gibbons en route to a 4-0 victory that ended Maine’s six-game unbeaten streak (5-0-1).
BC, ranked ninth in one poll and 10th in another, improved to 7-4 overall, 5-3 in Hockey East while third-ranked Maine fell to 6-2-3 and 4-1-1, respectively.
BC is now 6-0-1 in its last seven meetings with Maine at the Conte Forum and 11-2-3 in the last 16.
Muse finished with 32 saves, including 21 of the Grade-A (high-percentage) variety as Maine outshot BC 32-28. Maine goalies Dan Sullivan and Shawn Sirman combined for nine Grade-A saves.
Maine had 27 Grade-A scoring attempts to BC’s 17.
The teams will play again Sunday at 1 p.m. at Conte Forum.
The Black Bears missed a penalty shot by Gustav Nyquist that could have staked them to a 1-0 lead, had a costly turnover by freshman Sullivan that resulted directly in Gibbons’ goal and were also hampered by an early second-period ankle injury sustained by senior defenseman and assistant captain Jeff Dimmen.
Dimmen re-injured the left ankle he hurt earlier this year. Maine coach Tim Whitehead said he won’t play on Sunday with freshman Brice O’Connor taking his place.
Maine is already without junior defenseman Will O’Neill, who is sidelined with a knee injury. O’Neill and Dimmen combined for 61 points last year.
Sophomore right wing Tommy Atkinson scored his first career goal in the second period, and Pat Mullane added a third-period power-play goal.
Muse set the tone for the game in the opening minute of play when he flashed out his right pad to rob Spencer Abbott, Maine’s leading goal scorer. Abbott was unattended in the slot and one-timed a Nyquist pass toward the far corner only to see Muse kick it out.
Nyquist was hauled down by Joe Whitney on a breakaway and was awarded a penalty shot.
Nyquist skated down the left wing, made a few head fakes and moved the puck from his backhand to his forehand only to have Muse smother the shot with his right pad.
“I made a few moves and got him leaning, but I couldn’t lift it, and he made a great save,” said Nyquist. “It might have been a whole different game if I had scored.”
“I tried to keep my pad as close to the puck as I could (so he couldn’t lift it),” said Muse.
Carey opened the scoring on a 5-on-3 when he created space for himself at the top of the slot and re-directed a Gibbons pass from the right corner past Sullivan.
“It went five-hole,” said Sullivan.
Gibbons made it 2-0 while the Eagles were shorthanded when Sullivan tried to pass the puck to the corner but didn’t get much on it. Gibbons pounced on it and wheeled in front before firing it into the upper short-side corner while Sullivan tried in vain to scramble back into the net.
“I faked a pass (to Dimmen), but (Gibbons) read it like a book,” said Sullivan, who had Dimmen behind him.
“Just about every forward I know would have gone toward the defenseman but not (Gibbons),” grinned Muse.
Twenty seconds into the second period, Dimmen was racing down the slot waiting for a pass when he was hauled down by Jimmy Hayes.
Dimmen slid into the net and the net came off its moorings.
Dimmen had to be helped off the ice. He tried to skate during a timeout later in the game but didn’t return to action.
Atkinson made it 3-0 when his initial shot from the right circle was blocked but he regained the rebound and snapped a wrister that broke in off Sullivan’s body.
“I thought I had it. I don’t know how it went in,” said Sullivan, who said it squeezed between his arm and body and trickled in as he fell backward.
Maine had a two-man advantage for 1:44 later in the second period, but Muse came up with some good stops and Maine missed the net on a couple of occasions. Whitehead called a timeout prior to the power play.
Mullane capped the scoring with a screened wrister into the short-side corner in the third period.
Sirman replaced Sullivan after the Mullane goal. Sullivan had allowed two goals in each of his five previous starts.
BC went 2-for-4 on the power play, while Maine went 0-for-7. Maine is now just 3-for-29 on the power play over its last four games.
“Special teams cost us,” said Whitehead. “Muse played real well. He made some key stops. That penalty-shot save gave them a big lift. We’ve got to find a way to put the puck in the net on Sunday.”
“We weren’t disciplined and they capitalized on the power play. We also played soft,” said Maine senior defenseman Josh Van Dyk.
Nyquist concurred, saying Maine didn’t play physically enough, particularly on the forecheck.
Muse credited his teammates for their play in front of him.
“We did a great job breaking the puck out of the (defensive) zone. That’s the best we’ve broken the puck out all season,” said Muse.
Sophomore defenseman Brian Dumoulin of Biddeford had two assists for BC.
Maine hadn’t been shut out since a 6-0 loss at UMass Lowell on March 7, 2009.