ORONO — It will be difficult to produce a better Seniors Night script than the one that was displayed during the University of Maine men’s hockey team’s 7-1 triumph over the nation’s No. 4 team, the Merrimack College Warriors, at Alfond Arena Saturday night.
Four of the five seniors playing in their last regular season home game figured in the scoring as Maine extended its winning streak to five games.
Defenseman Jeff Dimmen had a pair of goals and an assist; Josh Van Dyk, who ended a 51-game goalless drought in Friday night’s 4-0 triumph over the Warriors, had a goal and two assists for his first career three-point game; center and captain Tanner House had three assists and center Robby Dee had an assist.
Only defenseman Mike Banwell didn’t figure in the scoring but he helped anchor another impressive defensive effort as Maine has allowed just one goal in its last four games.
“This could be our last game here and we wanted to go out on a high note,” said Dimmen. “We left it all out there. We had a great weekend.”
The Black Bears improved to 16-10-6 overall and 13-8-4 in Hockey East while Merrimack, loser of two straight for the first time this season, fell to 21-7-4 and 15-7-3.
Maine is now 21-0-2 in its last 23 Alfond Arena meetings with Merrimack.
Maine sophomore defenseman Mark Nemec snapped a 16-game pointless streak with the only goal of the first period before Brian Flynn and Dimmen expanded the lead to 3-0 with goals 34 seconds apart in the first 1:15 of the second period.
Jeff Velleca ended freshman goalie Dan Sullivan’s school record-setting shutout streak at 202:49 by scoring 1:34 after Dimmen’s goal but Van Dyk’s power-play goal at the 14:20 mark and Kyle Beattie’s even-strength goal 2:27 later gave Maine breathing room.
Gustav Nyquist and Dimmen added third-period power-play goals as Maine went 4-for-8 with the man-advantage.
Beattie, Flynn and Nyquist each had an assist to go with their goals.
“You couldn’t have asked for a better way to send the seniors out,” said Nemec. “They have been tremendous for our program. They’ve been tremendous role models.”
“They’re phenomenal guys. I’m just happy to be able to play behind those guys,” said Sullivan, who finished with 18 saves including just four Grade-A (high-percentage) stops as his teammates turned in a near flawless defensive performance in front of him.
Maine can’t finish any lower than fifth in the Hockey East standings and has a remote chance for fourth place and a home ice berth in the league’s best-of-three quarterfinal series.
Nemec opened the scoring when Joey Diamond dug out a puck behind the net and passed it to him off the boards. Nemec one-timed the puck from the right point into the short-side corner over the glove of Merrimack goalie Joe Cannata.
“My focus recently has been to try to get the puck towards the net. Fortunately enough, it went through,” said Nemec.
“I never saw it. It went through a couple of guys,” said Cannata.
Flynn made it 2-0 41 seconds into the second period during a delayed penalty on Merrimack.
Nyquist circled the net and backhanded a pass in front that Flynn swatted past Cannata.
“The puck was bouncing everywhere and I took a swipe at it and it went far side,” said Flynn, who was camped out just beyond the crease. “It was pretty lucky.”
Maine went on the power play and Beattie fed Dimmen for a 40-foot blast from the high slot.
“It was a nice cross-seam pass from Kyle and I was wide open. I just let her trip and, luckily, it went five-hole,” said Dimmen. “Tanner had a couple of great screens (on my goals).”
Velleca gave the Warriors some life when he capitalized on a deflected pass from Chris Barton.
Merrimack established some sustained pressure but Van Dyk recaptured the momentum by ripping a House pass past Cannata’s glove.
“It was a great pass and I just shot it at the net. Joey Diamond provided a great screen. I don’t think (Cannata) saw it,” said Van Dyk.
“That’s a save I have to make,” said Cannata.
Beattie made it 5-1 when he drove to the front of the net on a three-on-two and flipped the puck into the open short- side corner after Cannata had made two rapid-fire saves on Dee.
Nyquist made it 6-1 as he carried a Flynn pass around back-up goalie Sam Marotta before sliding it into the open net.
Dimmen added a slapper from the midpoint.
Maine outshot Merrimack 39-19.
“We weren’t very good in any aspect of our game and they were good in pretty much all the aspects of their game,” said Merrimack coach Mark Dennehy.