ESTERO, Fla. —- The University of Maine men’s hockey team got a measure of revenge Friday night.
The Black Bears, eliminated in the first round of the NCAA Tournament a year ago by Minnesota-Duluth, used a second-period shorthanded goal from freshman right wing Ryan Lomberg and 31 saves from junior goaltender Martin Ouellette to beat the Bulldogs 1-0 in the Florida College Classic at Germain Arena.
Maine, now 3-11-2, will face 7-3-2 Cornell University in Saturday’s 7:30 p.m. championship game. Cornell, the nation’s 11th-ranked team, beat Ferris State 5-3 in the opener.
The Black Bears snapped a four-game winless streak (0-2-2) while playing in their seventh straight game decided by one goal or less (2-3-2).
Minnesota-Duluth, 7-9-3, will meet 7-8-3 Ferris State in Saturday’s 4 p.m. consolation game.
Maine and Cornell have met five times in the tournament and Maine holds a 4-1 edge, including a 2-0 mark in championship games.
Maine is the defending champ and has won two of the last three Florida College Classics.
Lomberg’s first college goal came on a breakaway 10 seconds after he departed the penalty box.
He had been serving a roughing penalty and Jake Rutt was assessed an elbowing minor 1:38 later, giving UMD a 5-on-3 advantage.
Steven Swavely cleared a UMD rebound into the neutral zone and Lomberg skated onto the puck before beating UMD freshman goalie Matt McNeely.
“I faked a forehand [shot], moved it to my backhand and then went back to the forehand and put it blocker-side,” said Lomberg, the youngest player in Hockey East after just turning 18 on Dec. 12.
“It was a great move,” said Maine coach Tim Whitehead.
Lomberg was the leading scorer for the Muskegon Lumberjacks of the United States Hockey League last season with 22 goals and 18 assists.
He had two assists in nine games entering the game and had missed the last three games due to a suspension for violating team rules.
“I definitely learned a lot (from the suspension) and I’m better off because of it,” said Lomberg. “It was great to get back out there.”
Maine had a chance to extend the lead with a five-minute power play in the third period but was unable to do so.
Minnesota-Duluth stormed the Maine net seeking an equalizer, but Ouellette came up with some important saves to earn his second career shutout.
“I saw the puck real well tonight,” said Ouellette. “I felt good right off the bat in warmups. It was an overall team effort. The guys blocked a lot of shots in front and worked hard for all 60 minutes. They cleared rebounds and got the puck out of the zone. They made my job easier.
“It was nice to get (UMD) back after they ended our season last year,” added Ouellette.
“It was a hard-fought win,” said Whitehead. “It didn’t come easy. There were a lot of positives. It was a good step for us. Marty was very strong. I was very proud of how he played. He has played so well for us lately. It was good to see him get the result.”
Ouellette has a 1.69 goals-against average and a .938 save percentage over his last seven starts.
Maine was without seniors Joey Diamond (neck), Adam Shemansky (mononucleosis) and Nick Pryor (flu), but Whitehead said the team is getting used to being without regulars due to injury or illness because that has been a common theme this season.
“No one mentioned it. No one made excuses. Everyone picked it up,” said Whitehead.
Minnesota native McNeely, who originally gave a verbal commitment to attend Maine but eventually changed his mind so he could play closer to home, finished with 21 saves.
Maine killed off five UMD power plays. The Bulldogs entered the game with the nation’s fourth-best power play at 23.5 percent and they were tied with Union College for the most power-play goals (20).
Maine also went 0-for-5 on the power play.