PROVIDENCE, R.I. — University of Maine freshman goalie Martin Ouellette hadn’t played since a 3-3 overtime tie against the University of Connecticut on Oct. 9.
But it didn’t show based on his performance on Saturday night.
The 6-foot-2, 175-pound native of St.-Hippolyte, Quebec, native made 32 saves, including nine of the Grade-A (high-percentage) variety, and Gustav Nyquist and Brian Flynn snapped out of goal-scoring slumps with early third-period goals as Maine blanked Providence College 5-0 at Schneider Arena.
Joey Diamond’s first-period goal proved to be the game-winner and Spencer Abbott scored a crucial goal against the run of play with 2:58 left in the second period before Nyquist, Flynn and Kyle Beattie sewed up Maine’s first win since Nov. 13.
Maine snapped a three-game winless streak (0-2-1) and improved to 7-3-4 overall, 5-2-2 in Hockey East.
Providence fell to 6-6-4 and 3-3-4, respectively. It was the Friars’ first loss at Schneider Arena after three wins and three ties including Friday’s 3-3 overtime tie with Maine.
“I felt great,” said Ouellette. “I was a little bit nervous at the beginning. But after the first few saves, I felt comfortable.
“I just kept it simple. I tried to control my rebounds and square myself to the shooters. I didn’t try to do too much.”
He credited his teammates, particularly his defense corps, for their exemplary play in front of him.
“They cleared out rebounds, had good gaps and let me see the shots,” said Ouellette, a seventh-round draft choice of the Columbus Blue Jackets.
“He stood on his head,” said Providence senior defenseman Eric Baier. “He controlled his rebounds pretty well.”
“He played an unbelievable game,” said Nyquist. “For a freshman who had played only one game, he showed a lot.”
Ouellette made a couple of important pad saves off tricky re-directions in the first period among his 13 saves and had three saves in a second-period flurry on a Friar power play that included two rapid-fire point-blank rebound whacks by Derek Army.
Maine caught a few breaks on its first two goals.
Diamond scored his fourth goal in six games at the 12:16 mark of the initial period when he pulled the puck around PC goalie Alex Beaudry and threw it on net from a near-impossible angle along the extended goal line to Beaudry’s right.
PC’s Tim Schaller had hustled back to protect the net but his stick was facing the net and Diamond’s shot glanced in off his stick.
“(Diamond) made a good play throwing it out front,” said Beaudry. “Then it took a lucky bounce.”
Abbott scored off a high flip pass from Flynn originating in the neutral zone. Abbott was busting down the right wing and skated on to it as Friar defenseman Alex Velischek fell down.
“I saw that (Velischek) was flat-footed and Spencer had some good speed going so I tried to flip it out there and let him race on to it and he won the race,” said Flynn.
“That was an outstanding play by Brian. That was the only way he was going to get the puck to me. It was perfect,” said Abbott, who broke in alone on Beaudry.
“I put the puck out to my forehand, brought it over to my backhand and just got it over his pad,” said Abbott whose goal was his third of the weekend.
“That goal was the turning point in the game,” said PC coach Tim Army, whose Friars outshot Maine 11-4 in the second period.
Nyquist, a 2009-2010 Hobey Baker Award Hat Trick (final three) finalist, ended a four-game goal-scoring drought 38 seconds into the third period when he latched on to a bouncing puck after Tanner House’s shot from the right circle deflected off a Friar stick and tapped it past Beaudry.
“(Beaudry) went after it but I was able to poke it just by him,” said Nyquist.
“(Nyquist) got his stick on it just in time. I was trying to freeze it but it squeaked over my pad,” said Beaudry.
Flynn snapped a seven-game goal-scoring drought 4:17 later when a perfectly-threaded pass by Abbott sent him in alone down the left wing.
“Spencer hit me with a nice one-touch pass and I saw a little room on the glove (far) side,” said Flynn.
Beattie capped the scoring at the 8:12 mark with a one-timer from the low slot off a Matt Mangene pass from behind the net.
Diamond, Flynn, Nyquist and Abbott each had an assist to go with their goals.
Both teams finished with 32 shots on goal, marking the first time this season Maine hasn’t outshot its opponent.
Beaudry made 23 saves on 28 shots before being replaced by Justin Gates (4 saves on 4 shots).
Maine hosts archrival New Hampshire on Friday night at 7:30 and UMass on Sunday afternoon at 4.
“It was a hard-fought victory,” said Maine coach Tim Whitehead. “It didn’t come easy. The score didn’t reflect how the game played out. We had a strong third period. (Ouellette) was great. He showed a lot of poise and a lot of confidence in a very tough situation. He hadn’t played in forever. I was really proud of him.”