ORONO — University of Maine junior defenseman Will O’Neill and sophomore left wing Joey Diamond were cognizant of a new rule pertaining to icing and used it to full advantage Saturday night at Alfond Arena.
Diamond came out of the penalty box and won the race to the faceoff dot in the offensive zone to negate a potential icing on O’Neill’s long dump-in and then came out from behind the net and scored with 7:22 remaining to break a 2-2 tie and give Maine a badly needed 4-2 victory over Vermont.
The victory snapped Maine’s six-game winless streak (0-4-2), three-game losing skein and three-game home winless streak (0-2-1).
The Black Bears, who hadn’t won since beating Boston College 4-1 on Jan. 16, improved to 12-10-6 overall, 9-8-4 in Hockey East.
Vermont, which was already without two top-notch veteran defensemen due to injury and lost senior defenseman Kyle Medvec with an upper body injury sustained in the first period, fell to 7-16-5 and 5-12-4.
“This was a good bounce-back game for us,” said Maine coach Tim Whitehead, whose Bears were thumped by UVM 7-2 on Friday night. “The big thing was our team defense was so much better. It was a great team effort.”
UVM coach Kevin Sneddon said Diamond’s goal was “the difference in the game” and credited Maine for doing a “great job putting Friday night’s game (behind them).” He also lauded his team, saying, “I was extremely proud of them. They battled hard for 120 minutes this weekend and some were playing positions they had never played before.”
Junior right wing Gustav Nyquist extended his goal-scoring streak to four games (7 goals) with a pair of goals including one just six seconds into the game that broke the school record for quickest game-opening goal. His empty-netter iced it with 22 seconds left.
First-period power-play goals by Sebastian Stalberg (5-on-3) and Jack Downing supplied the Catamounts with a 2-1 lead but Brian Flynn tied it on the power play with 6:08 left in the second period, snapping Maine’s 0-for-14 drought with the man advantage.
On Diamond’s team-leading fourth game-winning goal, Robby Dee won a faceoff from just outside the Maine blue line back to O’Neill.
Diamond exited the penalty box and broke for the Vermont end.
O’Neill said he had waved his stick at Diamond to let him know that he was going to fire the puck to the end boards behind the UVM net.
“I took a step to give Joey a little bit of time to go (down the ice). Then I sent it down,” said O’Neill. “Joey won the foot race and made a great move on their guy.”
“I knew if Will was able to fire it up the ice, their defenseman (Lance Herrington) would be flat-footed because he would have to turn around (to chase the puck),” explained Diamond. “So I got a couple of steps on him, I was able to beat him to prevent the icing and then beat him to the puck behind the net. I stopped short and got low and he kind of rolled over me so I was able to take it to the front of the net.
“I had some time in front, I shot low to the far corner and it went in off one of their defenseman’s (Anders Franzon’s) shin pads,” said Diamond. “That rule helped us out.”
UVM goalie Rob Madore said, “I didn’t feel like I gave him anything to shoot at. But it hit our defenseman’s shin pad in front. That’s just one of those bounces. Sometimes they go your way and other times they don’t.”
Flynn’s tying goal came as the result of an adjustment on the power play.
“We shifted to a 2-3 (two point men and three across the low slot) instead of the overload (two point men, two down low and Nyquist at the half-boards), which hadn’t been working,” explained Flynn. “We spread it out a little more down low. We tried to get some one-timers from the point and we had Tanner (House) in the middle and (Nyquist) and me crash the net from the sides.”
Flynn swept the rebound of a Spencer Abbott point shot past the helpless Madore. Nyquist had fed Abbott for the one-timer.
Flynn provided the screen on Nyquist’s record-setting goal after Nyquist carried the puck down the left side off House’s faceoff win and fired a 15-footer into the short side.
“It’s pretty cool (to set the record),” said Nyquist. “I got a great screen from (Flynn). I wouldn’t have scored without him.”
But Vermont answered 1:33 later with a one-timer into the far corner from the left circle and Downing put them ahead with a re-direction off Chris McCarthy’s point shot for UVM’s fifth power play goal on the weekend.
Madore frustrated the Bears with an exceptional performance, making 35 saves including 21 Grade-A (high-percentage) stops.
Sophomore Shawn Sirman was solid between the Maine pipes with nine Grade-A stops among his 17.
“This feels great. We needed this,” said Sirman. “The guys played so well in front of me. They kept everything to the outside.”