DURHAM, N.H. — The University of New Hampshire’s success against the University of Maine at the Whittemore Center continued Saturday night.
The Wildcats picked up their ninth straight win over Maine at their on-campus arena by building a 3-0 lead and hanging on for a 3-2 triumph.
Freshman center Jay Camper’s first-period goal and second-period goals by Dalton Speelman and Nick Sorkin staked the Wildcats to their lead and the Wildcats survived two Spencer Abbott goals to post a 3-2 triumph.
UNH is now 18-5-1 against Maine at the Whittemore Center.
UNH won its fourth straight game and extended its unbeaten streak to five games (4-0-1). UNH is now 4-4-1 overall, 3-3 in Hockey East. Maine fell to 3-4-1 and 3-3, respectively.
“It’s frustrating,” said senior left wing Abbott. “If we play that way, we’re going to win nine out of 10 games against anyone in Hockey East. We can hold our heads high. We just had a couple of breakdowns.”
Maine outshot UNH 33-28 and had 26 Grade-A (high-percentage) scoring chances to UNH’ 14. Four of UNH’s Grade-A’s came on a wild flurry in front of the Maine net on the power play in the game’s final three minutes.
“It’s a tough loss. We outplayed them. We should have won,” said Maine sophomore goalie Martin Ouellette, who finished with 25 saves, including eight Grade-A’s.
UNH senior goalie Matt Di Girolamo finished with 31 saves, including 11 Grade-A’s.
“This was a huge win,” said UNH coach Dick Umile. “Maine is as good a team as we’ve played this year. (Di Girolamo) was on his game. He gave us a chance to win. We were fortunate to win. Nobody has taken it to us like Maine did.”
Camper, younger brother of 2011 Miami University (Ohio) Hobey Baker Award finalist Carter Camper, scored his first collegiate goal at the 3:13 mark of the first period courtesy of a pinpoint pass from Kevin Goumas.
Goumas gathered the puck behind the Maine net to the right of Ouellette and fed it to the far post where the unattended Camper simply had to tuck it into the half-empty net.
Maine had players in good defensive position but they got caught puck-watching as Camper snuck in and scored.
Maine rebounded and carried the play for the rest of the period but they couldn’t put the puck behind Di Girolamo.
Stu Higgins was stationed in the middle of the slot but fired a John Parker pass wide of Di Girolamo’s blocker.
Brian Flynn was nicely set up by Joey Diamond in the left circle, but Di Girolamo was able to square himself to Flynn and absorb the shot in his midsection.
Maine had 11 Grade-A (high-percentage) scoring chances to UNH’s three in the first period.
A wide open Speelman scored 25 seconds into the second period when he positioned himself just beyond the top of the crease to the right of Ouellette and one-timed a Sorkin pass out from behind the net past Ouellette into the short-side corner.
“If you get the puck to good players (like Speelman), they’ll bury the puck,” said Sorkin.
Ouellette had good position at the near post and said, “I thought I had it. It must have gone between my arm (blocker-side) and my body,” said Ouellette.
Sorkin made it 3-0 on the power play when he converted a deflected Stevie Moses pass from the doorstep.
Ouellette said Moses’ pass from the right wing “hit one of my defenseman’s sticks and landed on my right pad” before dropping into the crease where Sorkin tapped it home.
Abbott scored with 6:10 left in the second period as he jammed home a loose puck after Will O’Neill threw the puck in front from the right point and it pinballed around in the crease.
“I think (Jon) Swavely kicked it over to me,” said Abbott.
Abbott pulled Maine within 3-2 only 5:14 into the third period when he wristed a screened shot from the left circle through Di Girolamo’s pads off a Joey Diamond drop pass.
Maine pressed for an equalizer but couldn’t tie it.
The Wildcats did a nice job protecting their net in the third period as Di Girolamo was forced to make just one Grade-A save thanks to his teammates’ seven blocked shots including two in the final 30 seconds with Ouellette on the bench in favor of the extra attacker.
Ouellette had kept the Bears within one with four rapid-fire saves on a power play after Diamond was assessed a hooking penalty with 2:51 left.
“Maine has a good team. They pushed the pace and they have a big defense corps,” said Sorkin.
Maine senior defenseman and co-captain O’Neill said they knew they had to play with more grit and determination than they did in Friday’s dismal 5-1 loss at Boston College. “We had to impose our will. We had our chances.”
Maine coach Tim Whitehead said his top line of Flynn between Abbott and Diamond and the top defense tandem of O’Neill and Matt Mangene played much better than they did against BC.
“They responded with a very strong game,” said Whitehead.
“The bounces just didn’t go our way,” said Maine freshman right wing Parker.
Maine went 0-for-3 on the power play and has now gone four games without a power-play goal (0-for-14).