LOWELL, Mass. — Freshman right wing Kyle Williams was playing in place of injured Maine senior tri-captain and right winger Joey Diamond Saturday night.
And the Bowdoinham native took full advantage, scoring with 8:50 left in the third period to give Maine a 4-3 win over UMass Lowell and snapping the Black Bears’ seven-game losing streak.
Maine improved to 2-9 overall, 1-5 in Hockey East, while the River Hawks fell to 2-4-1 and 1-3-1, respectively.
Williams sifted to the front of the net and one-timed Mike Cornell’s slap-pass from the right point behind UML goalie Doug Carr.
“I don’t know what to say,” said an elated Williams, who is a defenseman by trade but has also played both wing and center this season. “I’m just happy to help get the team untracked. This is pretty special.”
Diamond is suffering from a back injury.
Williams gave credit to Cornell for setting up the winning goal.
“He made a great play,” said Williams. “He put the puck right on my stick and I was in close so I just re-directed it.”
Carr said, “I didn’t see [Williams] creeping in. I was squaring myself for the shot from the point. I got a piece of it with my elbow but not enough.”
Cornell, who had accepted a pass from Ben Hutton, said he had intended to shoot but he saw Williams “cutting to the net with his stick on the ice. When you drive the net, good things happen.”
Maine coach Tim Whitehead said he was pleased for Cornell, who had cost the Bears a goal in the second period with an ill-advised breakout pass.
Whitehead said Cornell showed a lot of mental toughness to bounce back from his mistake and set up the game-winner.
“Mike made a great play,” said Whitehead,.
Maine will lose the services of junior defenseman Brice O’Connor, who was assessed a five-minute major and a game disqualification with two seconds left for a hit on UML’
Scott Wilson. O’Connor will miss Maine’s Friday night home game against UMass.
Maine led 3-1 in the second period but costly turnovers resulted in goals by Riley Wetmore and Joseph Pendenza to pull the River Hawks into a 3-3 tie.
Maine junior goalie Martin Ouellette, making his second consecutive start for the first time this season, turned aside 27 shots, including 13 in the third period as the River Hawks stormed the net thanks to the momentum they gained from the second-period rally.
Carr finished with 18 stops.
Devin Shore’s first collegiate goal earlier in the second period had staked Maine to a 3-1 lead.
Derek Arnold provided UML with a 1-0 lead on the power play in the first period before Connor Leen’s shorthanded goal and an Adam Shemansky score gave Maine a 2-1 lead.
Shore supplied Maine with its first two-goal lead of the season at the 8:42 mark of the middle period.
O’Connor’s shot from the right point was kicked out by Carr and Ryan Lomberg had a follow-up attempt that Carr also saved. However, the rebound spit out to the left circle and Shore snapped it into the short-side corner before Carr could scramble across.
Wetmore answered 2:59 later.
Wetmore came off the UML bench on a line change and skated on to an errant break-out pass from behind the net by Cornell, who said he was trying to hit an open Mark Anthoine with the pass..
Wetmore cruised unattended down the middle of the slot before wristing a 20-footer over Ouellette’s blocker.
Pendenza tied it with with 30 seconds left in the period on a breakaway after Hutton turned the puck over in the neutral zone.
Arnold staked the River Hawks to a 1-0 lead on the power play at the 10:09 mark of the first period but Leen’s shorthanded goal tied it 2:44 later and Shemansky scored at the 17:10 mark to supply Maine with the lead.
Pendenza set up Arnold’s goal as he skated from right to left through the slot and snapped a pass across to the middle of the slot where Arnold directed it inside the far post from 12 feet out.
Leen drew Maine level when he outraced UML defenseman Zack Kamrass to a loose puck in the left circle and one-timed it over Carr’s glove into the far corner.
Shemansky scored with a one-timer from the left circle after Nick Pryor’s slapper from the right point deflected off the near post over to him.
“That was a hard-fought win,” said Whitehead. “It was good to get the weight off our backs. We showed a lot of mental toughness. We had to fight through a lot of stuff.”
Cornell added, “[Ouellette] played unbelievably well. He kept us in it. And it was exciting to see [Shore and Williams] get their first goals.
Ouellette felt he had a good game,
“I would have liked to have stopped one of those two shots in the second period but I knew I had to come out and shut the door in the third period. The guys played well in front of me,” said Ouellette.
“He played well again,” said Wetmore.