ORONO, Maine — The cream rose to the top.
The University of Maine men received a stern test from the U.S. National Team Development Program’s Under-18 hockey team, but the top line of Brian Flynn between Spencer Abbott and Joey Diamond combined for three goals and six assists to lead Maine to a hard-fought 6-4 exhibition win at Alfond Arena.
Goals 4:34 apart in the second period by Diamond and Abbott snapped a 3-3 tie and gave Maine a two-goal lead that it would never relinquish as the Bears improved to 8-0 against the Under-18s.
Abbott gave the Bears some breathing room with a screened power-play blast from the middle of the blue line 1:08 into the third period before Stefan Matteau scored his second of the game for Team USA with 2:31 remaining.
Even though it was an exhibition game and doesn’t count on the season record, it is the first time Maine has tasted victory since a 3-1 win over Providence on Oct. 29.
Maine is 0-4-1 in November.
“We got a win and that’s the main thing,” said Abbott, who finished with two goals and two assists. “Hopefully, we can build off that.”
“I thought we played a really good game,” he added.
Maine went 3-for-6 on the power play, and Diamond said it was nice to have the power play continue its recent trend.
Maine had scored on four of its previous seven power-play chances spanning its last three regular-season games.
Maine coach Tim Whitehead noted that the Under-18s have a “lot of talent,” including several players who will be in the National Hockey League some day and that gave his team a valuable test.
“It was good for us,” said Whitehead, who was pleased with the the power play as well as the play of freshmen Pietro Antonelli and Billy Norman, who have yet to play a regular-season game.
“I was disappointed with the penalty killing,” said Whitehead, whose Bears allowed two power-play goals on six chances.
USA coach Danton Cole said he was pleased overall with his team’s play.
“We did some things better than we had been, like scoring goals,” said Cole, whose team was held to three goals in two losses to United States Junior Hockey League teams Green Bay and Tri City last weekend.
“We also did a decent job in the neutral zone,” said Cole.
Under-18 co-captain and defenseman Seth Jones said, “we made some crucial mistakes, but (overall) we’re pretty happy with the way we played.”
Team USA is now 9-11-1 and 2-6 against college teams.
Maine’s Adam Shemansky and USA’s Brendan Silk had swapped early second-period goals to leave the score 3-3.
Diamond’s go-ahead goal was shorthanded as USA defenseman Jacob Trouba lost control of the puck in the high slot, enabling Diamond to break in alone on Collin Olson.
“I faked pulling it to the backhand, stopped and tucked it in (the short side),” said Diamond, who had an assist to go with his goal.
Abbott expanded the lead off a faceoff play.
Flynn won the puck back to Diamond, whose wrist shot was saved high on the body by Olson. But the rebound came right out to the unattended Abbott, and he swept it between the goalie’s pads.
“That was a good faceoff win by (Flynn), and Joey got off a shot,” said Abbott.
It was the second of Flynn’s three assists on the night.
Shemansky had made it 3-2 with a shot from a difficult angle from the extended goal line.
USA goalie Jared Rutledge was replaced by Olson after that goal.
Silk tied it by breaking down the right wing and snapping a wrister through the pads of Martin Ouellette, who was promptly replaced by Dan Sullivan.
Sullivan finished with 13 saves on 14 shots after Ouellette allowed three goals on eight shots.
“Dan did a nice job settling things down,” said Whitehead.
Maine jumped out to a 2-0 lead on freshman John Parker’s four-on-four goal and senior defenseman Will O’Neill’s power-play goal.
But the U.S. Under-18s responded with a pair of power-play goals by Matteau, who will attend the University of North Dakota in the fall, and Wisconsin-bound Nicholas Kerdiles.
Parker opened the scoring when he snuck behind the Under-18 defense along the left wing boards and accepted a long pass from Nick Pryor and beat Rutledge with a wrister from the left circle.
O’Neill extended the lead when he was set up perfectly by Abbott in the right circle and swept a one-timer into an empty net.
Matteau was able to get some separation from a Maine defenseman and one-time Riley Barber’s pass from the middle of the slot inside the far post.
Ryan Hartman was the distributor on the Kerdiles goal.
Hartman did a nice job prying the puck loose and fed it across to the far post to Kerdiles, who jammed it through Ouellette.
Maine outshot Team USA 29-22.