PROVIDENCE, R.I. — The University of Maine’s six-game winning streak and seven-game unbeaten streak came to an end Friday night.
The Providence College Friars, losers of three straight and five of six, jumped out to a 3-0 lead and used a crucial third-period goal from junior center Tim Schaller to beat the Black Bears 4-3 in men’s hockey action at Schneider Arena.
Providence improved to 11-14-2 overall, 9-10-1 in Hockey East. Maine fell to 16-9-3 and 11-8-2.
Maine will visit UMass Lowell on Saturday night.
“Providence came out ready to play and we didn’t,” said Maine coach Tim Whitehead. “I was disappointed with our start. We were sloppy, especially on our breakouts. Providence deserved the 3-0 lead. We battled back in the second and third periods but it was too little, too late.”
Schaller scored off a two-on-one 7:02 into the third period to make it 4-2.
Whitehead pulled goalie Dan Sullivan in favor of an extra attacker with 1:45 left and Joey Diamond tipped home a Matt Mangene wrister 35 seconds later to pull Maine within one. But the Bears couldn’t get the equalizer.
“We had only three power-play chances. We didn’t have any in the first period because we didn’t work hard enough to draw any,” said Whitehead.
Schaller notched the crucial goal when Matt Bergland pushed the puck around Maine defenseman Mike Cornell at the defensive blue line, enabling Schaller to skate on to it and carry the puck down the left wing.
“I looked over at Drew Brown (racing to the far post) and then I saw their goalie was cheating over (toward Brown) so I took advantage,” said Schaller, who beat Sullivan cleanly with a wrister past his blocker into the short-side corner.
“That was a big goal for us,” said Providence coach and former Maine assistant Nate Leaman.
Senior left wing Bergland gave the Friars a 2-0 lead with goals 3:03 apart
midway through the first period and freshman right wing Shane Luke extended it at the 18:22 mark.
Mangene and Spencer Abbott pulled Maine to within one with second-period goals.
“You can’t come out and give up three goals in the first period against a team like that and expect to come back,” said Abbott. “They outworked us and outmuscled us in the first period. We came out flat.”
“The effort wasn’t there in the first period. They came out flying and we were back on our heels,” said Maine senior defenseman Ryan Hegarty.
The Friars looked like anything but a team that had scored just seven goals in its previous six games over the first 20 minutes.
They were a step quicker and more physical than the Black Bears and won most of the puck battles.
They were able to sustain their forecheck and force turnovers with their pressure.
Maine’s sustained forechecks were few and far between.
Providence generated 10 Grade-A (high-percentage) scoring chances to Maine’s three.
“We’ve been focusing on getting off to a better start,” said Bergland. “It was nice to be able to play with a lead.”
Bergland opened the scoring at the 9:23 mark.
Schaller took a shot from the top of the right circle that Sullivan kicked out.
The puck deflected into the middle of the slot and Bergland and Maine’s Diamond got tangled up.
Begland took a shot and it carried into the net with the body of the sliding Diamond.
Bergland scored again off a Drew Brown rebound.
Brown came out of the corner and snapped off a shot from just beyond the crease. Sullivan made the save but the rebound spilled into the right circle where Bergland converted with a rising wrister into the short side.
Luke finished off a pretty passing sequence for the 3-0 lead.
Stefan Demopoulos controlled the puck in the corner and fed a short pass to Ross Mauermann. Mauermann slipped it across to the far post where Luke flipped it home.
Mangene reduced the lead to 3-1 3:50 into the second period.
Nick Pryor wristed the puck to the net from the right point and a scramble ensued.
Several Bears had whacks at the puck and Mangene was able to jam it home.
Sullivan kept the deficit at two when he robbed Andy Balysky, who busted down the right wing on a breakaway while the Friars were shorthanded.
Sullivan was able to get his blocker on Balysky’s wrister from the base of the right circle.
Abbott sliced the lead to 3-2 with 1:52 left when he converted a two-on-one off a pass from Brian Flynn, one-timing Flynn’s pass inside the near post.
Maine had some great chances to equalize over the final 1:52 but PC goalie Alex Beaudry came out with some important saves off some point-blank shots by Diamond, who was at the edge of the crease to the goalie’s right.
Providence outshot Maine 32-30 and ended Maine’s streak of consecutive games with at least one power-play goal at 19. Maine went 0-for-10 on the power play against Providence in three games this season, including 0-for-3 on Friday.
Beaudry finished with 27 saves including nine Grade-A’s. Sullivan had 28 stops including 12 Grade-A’s.