ORONO, Maine — The University of Maine men’s hockey team dug out its blueprint for success just in time on Friday night, enabling the Black Bears to erase a 3-0 deficit against Alabama-Huntsville with three third-period goals and win it in overtime.
They followed the blueprint to the letter Saturday night, working hard and smart from the opening whistle, winning loose pucks and limiting the Chargers’ time and space with the puck en route to a convincing 5-0 triumph at the Alfond Arena.
Maine jumped out to a 2-0 lead just 6:05 into the game and never looked back.
Maine extended its winning streak to six games and unbeaten skein to seven (6-0-1). Maine is now 16-8-3. Alabama-Huntsville fell to 2-26-1.
Mark Anthoine’s power-play goal and Brice O’Connor’s first career goal opened the scoring before Brian Flynn and Matt Mangene added second-period power-play goals to extend the lead to 4-0.
Maine went 3-for-6 on the power play and has now scored at least one power play in 19 straight games (35-for-97).
“They have a great power play. They move the puck well,” said Chargers junior left wing and assistant captain Sebastian Geoffrion.
“They create a lot of havoc on the power play,” said UAH junior defenseman and captain Curtis deBruyn. “We tried our best to stay in [shooting] lanes and block shots, but it was difficult.”
Senior left wing and assistant captain Spencer Abbott added a third-period goal to cap a four-point night (1 goal, 3 assists), and sophomore Dan Sullivan notched his first shutout of the season and fourth of his career with a solid 20-save performance.
Abbott leads the nation in scoring (47 points) and assists (32).
“Our big focus was to get a lead and build off that, and that’s what we did tonight,” said Abbott. “We had a real good first period. We got pucks and bodies to the net and it paid off.”
“Getting the lead really helped and then we extended it,” said Maine coach Tim Whitehead. “There were a lot of good, honest efforts. We won a lot of loose puck battles.”
“There were a lot of positives tonight. I’m happy for [Sullivan] and for Brice getting his first goal,” added Whitehead.
“We were definitely a lot sharper tonight,” said senior center and co-captain Flynn.
Anthoine’s ninth power-play goal opened the scoring at the 3:18 mark.
Abbott broke his stick on a one-timer from the top of the left circle but the puck rolled into the slot where Flynn took a “whack at it” and it slid across to the far post to Anthoine, who simply tapped it home.
“I just had my stick down and it was one of those that happened so fast. It was just a reflex,” said Anthoine. “[Abbott] and [Will O’Neill] did a good job shooting the puck and creating rebounds if they didn’t go in.”
Sophomore defenseman O’Connor, who had seven assists in 30 career games entering Saturday’s game, scored 2:47 later by converting his own rebound.
He sprinted from the right point to the right circle and one-timed a diagonal pass from Kyle Beattie that trickled through the pads of UAH goalie Clarke Saunders. It was rolling toward the goal line and the alert O’Connor followed it up and poked it into the net.
“There’s a lot of weight off my shoulders now,” said O’Connor. “We’ve been working on that a little, but the coaches have told me that I had been coming in too early so I was catching the pass in my skates. So I slowed down, waited for the play to develop and it worked out well.”
“I’d like to have that one back,” said Saunders. “I know I can make that save.”
Maine outshot UAH 19-6 in that first period.
Flynn made it 3-0 26 seconds into the second period by skating down the slot toward the near post, taking a pass from Abbott and roofing a short backhander to the near (blocker) side.
“The puck was bouncing a little bit and got through their defenseman. I got it, pulled it to my backhand and it went under [Saunders’] arm,” said Flynn.
“I was a little slow reacting,” said Saunders.
Mangene was well-positioned for his goal as he was parked just to the left of Saunders and shoveled home an Abbott rebound that came off the back boards.
The Chargers had an opportunity to climb back into the game when they had a five-on-three that spanned 1:14 later in the middle period.
But they weren’t able to capitalize as Ryan Hegarty, Mark Nemec and Mangene did an exemplary job blocking shots and limiting UAH’s chances.
“They did an unbelievable job keeping the puck to the outside,” said a grateful Sullivan.
“It would have been nice to generate a little momentum off that [by scoring] and see where it would lead. But it is what it is,” said UAH coach Chris Luongo, who felt his team took a lot of needless penalties.
Abbott capped the scoring by sweeping home a Jake Rutt rebound.
Maine outshot UAH 35-20.
Saunders had eight Grade-A (high-percentage) saves among his 30 while Sullivan had just two among his 20.
“The guys turned in a great defensive effort,” said Sullivan.
Junior left wing Adam Shemansky suffered a possible concussion in the third period and skated off the ice with trainer Paul Culina. His status is unknown, according to Whitehead.