ORONO, Maine — The University of Maine hockey team’s frustration continues.
The Black Bears turned in one of their best performances of the season but it wasn’t good enough as a third-period power-play goal by sophomore left wing Johnny Gaudreau gave the No. 1-ranked Boston College Eagles a hard-fought 4-2 victory over the Black Bears Friday night at Alfond Arena.
BC improved to 5-1 overall and 5-1 in Hockey East thanks to its fifth straight win.
It was BC’s first win at Alfond Arena since Jan. 20, 2009.
Maine fell to 1-7 overall and 0-3 in Hockey East after losing its fifth straight.
Maine will host New Hampshire on Sunday at 4 p.m.
Maine outshot BC 30-23 and outplayed the Eagles for extended stretches of the game, particularly in the first two periods. Maine finished with 26 Grade-A scoring chances to BC’s 14.
But the Bears took four penalties in the third period and it proved to be their undoing.
With Maine’s Klas Leidermark in the penalty box after a goaltender interference call, Gaudreau capitalized when he jammed home a loose puck from the top of the crease.
“Danny Linell whacked at it and [Maine goalie Martin Ouellette] made the save. It came to me and I took a whack at it and he made another save. Luckily, the puck came back to me and I put it in along the ice,” said Gaudreau.
Steven Whitney added an empty-net goal.
BC’s Parker Milner made 28 saves including two terrific toe stops off wraparound attempts by Jake Rutt and Joey Diamond in the waning minutes of the game.
The save off Diamond with three minutes left was particularly impressive because the net was exposed.
“I was excited [because the net was open],” said Diamond who circled the net and came out to Milner’s left.
“I had more time than I thought I did. I shot it [quick] and put it into his pad. But he made a great save. He got his leg over,” said Diamond.
“I knew he was going to take a quick shot and I couldn’t get my body over so I stuck my pad out and, luckily, it hit it,” said Milner who finished with 17 Grade-A saves among his 28 during a stellar performance.
A late too-many-men-on-the-ice penalty with 1:10 remaining in regulation ruined any comeback bid.
Ouellette also turned in an impressive performance, finishing with 19 saves including several gems.
“This has always been a difficult place to play. Maine played very well. The difference was our power play and Parker Milner,” said BC coach Jerry York.
Following a scoreless first period, the Black Bears displayed a resiliency in the second period as they erased a pair of one-goal deficits with goals less than a minute later.
Junior left wing Kevin Hayes staked the Eagles to a 1-0 lead on the power play 54 seconds into the period but freshman left wing Will Merchant answered 47 seconds later.
It was freshman Merchant’s first career goal.
Junior defenseman Isaac MacLeod restored the lead at the 16:36 mark with his first career goal but sophomore left wing Connor Leen drew Maine level 27 seconds later.
Hayes opened the scoring when he gained custody of the puck at the top of the right circle, took advantage of open ice to close within 30 feet and beat Ouellette with a rising slap shot.
Merchant tied it thanks to some good work by Devin Shore. Shore maneuvered away from traffic in the right corner and alertly fed it across to the far post to an unattended Merchant, who directed it into the empty net.
MacLeod took a Michael Matheson pass at the right point and beat Ouellette with a screened wrister.
Leen tied it thanks to a fortuitous bounce.
Steven Swavely swept the puck to the net front and BC’s Bill Arnold extended his stick and deflected the puck into Milner. The puck glanced off Milner into the shinguards of Leen and back into the net. The goal was reviewed and upheld.
“There were a lot of positives,” said Maine coach Tim Whitehead. “The effort and focus was excellent. The team defense was good and [Ouellette] played very well in goal. In the end, we took too many penalties in the third period.”
BC went 3-for-6 on the power play, including the empty-netter while Maine went 0-for-3.
“We spend a lot of time on the power play with coach [Greg] Brown in practice and it is a big asset,” said Gaudreau.
BC is now 39.1 percent on the power play (9-for-23) while Maine is 1-for-39 (2.6 percent).
“We had a good effort for most of the game but they won the special teams battle,” said Diamond.
“Maine is a lot better than a 1-7 team,” said Gaudreau.
The Black Bears played one of their best periods of the season in the first 20 minutes and both goalies were razor-sharp. Ouellette made two great reaction saves off one-timers by Hayes, who was set up perfectly by Arnold.