June 21, 2018
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Weninger stymies slumping Maine hockey team as Saints complete sweep

By Larry Mahoney, BDN Staff

ORONO, Maine — Better effort, same result.

The University of Maine men’s hockey team turned in a much better performance on Saturday night in the wake of a listless showing in a 5-0 loss to St. Lawrence University on Friday night.

But the Saints rode a spectacular 36-save goaltending performance by junior Matt Weninger, two goals and two assists from junior left wing Greg Carey and two goals from senior center Kyle Flanagan to a 5-1 victory at Alfond Arena.

St. Lawrence improved to 3-1 while the Black Bears fell to 1-4.

Maine coach Tim Whitehead noted that his team played better than Friday night but said it’s the result that counts.

“We worked hard but everybody works hard. You’re supposed to work hard. That’s not enough,” said Whitehead. “They capitalized on their opportunities and we didn’t. They received strong goaltending and we didn’t. [Dan Sullivan] wasn’t sharp this weekend.”

Sullivan was removed from the game after the first period. He made four saves on six shots. He had been pulled in the third period of Friday’s game after allowing five goals on 22 shots.

The offensively-challenged Black Bears have scored just two goals in their four losses.

Carey sandwiched a first-period goal and a second-period score around a first-period goal by Flanagan as St. Lawrence took a 3-0 lead into the final period.

Mark Nemec cut the lead to 3-1 early in the third period but Flanagan’s power-play goal with 8:51 left iced it and Kyle Essery added an insurance goal.

The Saints were opportunistic as the Black Bears carried the play throughout the game only to be thwarted time and time again by Weninger.

Maine attempted 78 shots compared to 42 for the Saints and had a 37-19 edge in shots on goal.

But Weninger made 14 Grade-A saves and frustrated the Bears, who missed the net 18 times, had 21 shots blocked and hit a couple of goalposts.
“I thought I played well. I’m pretty happy with it,” said Weninger. “It was a funny game. They were throwing pucks to the net. But I thought our guys did a real good job [defensively] five-on-five.”

“He played very well. He was in position all night,” said Maine sophomore center Stu Higgins.

St. Lawrence coach Greg Carvel said Weninger was the difference in the game.

“He made the saves he was supposed to make and he also made some great saves particularly at the end of the second period,” said Carvel.

The Black Bears generated a wild flurry in front of Weninger on the power play in the final minute of the second period and could have gained some valuable momentum with a goal that would have pulled them within 3-1.

But Weninger was immense and robbed Higgins, who was staring at an empty net when a rebound deflected over to him.

Weninger made a head-first dive across the goalmouth to make the save.

“I was able to get it with my blocker,” said Weninger.

“I didn’t understand it,” said Higgins. “I got the puck up like I was supposed to.”

Carey, who was the first freshman since 1982 to lead the Saints in scoring two years ago, opened the scoring at the 7:20 mark of the first period.

Maine senior defenseman Nemec was dispossessed of the puck and Carey took a few strides and beat Sullivan with a rising wrist shot to the glove side from the top of the left circle.

Flanagan expanded the lead 6:55 later with a nifty move at the expense of Maine senior defenseman Nick Pryor.

Flanagan obtained custody of the puck in the neutral zone and skated methodically toward the offensive zone. He then put on a burst of speed and blew around Pryor along the right-wing side before squaring himself in the right circle and snapping a wrister past Sullivan.

Carey made it 3-0 at the 12:21 mark of the middle period when he skated unattended to the far post and re-directed a perfect diagonal pass from the right boards by Gunnar Hughes behind freshman goalie Matt Morris.

Nemec scored 4:29 into the third period with a snap shot from the midpoint off a feed from Joey Diamond.

Flanagan scored the back-breaker by stickhandling around senior defenseman Mike Cornell, slicing across the low slot and beating Morris through the pads from 12 feet out.

Cornell took responsibility for the goal.

“That goal was on me. I tried to keep him to the outside. I thought [Flanagan] was going to dump it in,” said Cornell. “He made a great play.”

Essery capped the scoring by tapping the puck behind Morris off a Hughes pass.

Maine, which went 0-for-5 on the power play and is now 0-for-26 on the season, will open its Hockey East schedule with a pair of games at Providence College next weekend.

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