AMHERST, Mass. — The University of Maine Black Bears extended their winning streak to six games Friday night, but it wasn’t easy.
Maine built a 4-1 lead and then withstood a UMass rally to beat the Minutemen 4-3 in a men’s hockey game at the Mullins Center.
Maine ended an eight-game losing streak at the Mullins Center. The two teams conclude the regular season Saturday at 7 p.m.
Maine is 17-10-6 overall and 14-8-4 in Hockey East. Merrimack’s 6-1 win over Providence means Maine will finish fifth in Hockey East and travel for the quarterfinals next weekend.
UMass is 6-21-5 and 5-16-5 and is 1-10 in one-goal games. UMass is winless in its last 11 (0-9-2).
The win could prove extremely costly for the Bears due to third-period injuries sustained by productive right wings Joey Diamond (leg injury) and Kyle Beattie (possible concussion). They play on the power play as well as playing their regular shifts.
Diamond is Maine’s fourth-leading goal scorer with 11 and is their grittiest forward and Beattie has racked up three goals and three assists in his last eight games.
Maine had 35 shots on goal through the first two periods to UMass’ 17, but Spencer Abbott’s power-play goal at the 12:19 mark of the first period represented the game’s only scoring.
That trend changed dramatically in the third period as the teams combined for six goals, including four in a span of 1:27, three by the Minutemen.
The Black Bears received early third-period goals 2:42 apart by Matt Mangene (shorthanded) and Josh Van Dyk to build the lead to 3-0.
Adam Phillips got the Minutemen on the board with 9:14 remaining, but Robby Dee snapped a 13-game goal-less drought 17 seconds later to restore a seemingly comfortable three-goal cushion.
However, the youthful Minutemen came roaring back as Danny Hobbs scored on the power play 1:03 after Dee’s goal. Right off the ensuing center-ice faceoff, Michael Pereira maneuvered down the middle of the high slot and snapped a wrister over Maine goalie Dan Sullivan’s glove to make it 4-3 with 7:47 left. Pereira’s goal came just seven seconds after Hobbs’ goal.
But the Black Bears were able to hang on despite being outshot 17-5 in the third period.
Sullivan made a couple of saves down the stretch, but his mates did an efficient job keeping the shots to the outside and not allowing the Minutemen to get any second- or third-chance shots.
“We played well at times, but we didn’t play consistent team defense,” said Maine senior defenseman Van Dyk. “We’ve got to clean up our play in the defensive zone. We kept turning back with the puck (instead of chipping it out of the defensive zone).”
“That third period was crazy. But it was good to get the two points,” said Mangene.
UMass coach Don Cahoon said his team was unable to sustain the momentum created by the piggy-back goals by Hobbs and Pereira.
“Maine did a good job defensively. They defend the Grade-A (high-percentage) area well. They’ve had three shutouts (recently),” said Cahoon. “Sullivan was solid and they played with composure.”
Cahoon said Dainton kept his team within striking distance with his play over the first two periods.
Mangene scored 1:30 into the third period when he took a pass from Brian Flynn and scored off his own rebound.
“(Assistant coach Bob Corkum) told me to try to shoot five-hole instead of going to the far side,” said Mangene. “(Dainton) made the first save, but I had a second shot at it and knocked it in.”
The puck just crossed the goal line and a review upheld the goal.
Van Dyk scored his third goal in three games when he pounced on a loose puck and wristed it into an open net. Gustav Nyquist had tried to pass to Flynn, but it deflected over to Van Dyk.
“I don’t know where the goalie was, I just tried to put it on net,” said Van Dyk.
Adam Phillips’ goal from the top of the right circle off a Marc Concannon feed made it 3-1 before Dee finished off a pretty passing sequence by one-timing an Abbott drop pass through the pads of Dainton from the left circle.
“It always feels good to score, especially when it helps the team win,” said Dee.
Hobbs scored during a scramble in front as the puck pinballed to him to the left of Sullivan and he deposited it into the half-empty net.
Then Pereira scored with Brandel Gracel assisting.
“We found a way to win,” said Maine coach Tim Whitehead. “After they made it 4-3, we had to tighten up (defensively) and we did.”
Nyquist set up the first goal as he beat a UMass defenseman and circled the net before sliding the puck to Abbott, who one-timed it into the far corner from the right circle past the blocker of Dainton.
The Black Bears had several other scoring chances, but Dainton was rock solid.
Sullivan had 17 saves through the first 40 minutes. Although he wasn’t nearly as busy as Dainton, he was still required to make some Grade-A (high-percentage) saves, especially late in the first period when the Bears had some defensive lapses.
Maine outshot UMass 40-34.
Sullivan finished with 10 Grade-A saves among his 31, while Dainton wound up with 19 Grade-A’s among his 36.