BURLINGTON, Vt. — The University of Maine Black Bears have fallen out of the Hockey East playoff picture again after suffering a 3-0 loss to the University of Vermont on Saturday night.
The Catamounts used a pair of goals from sophomore Kyle Reynolds, a goal and two assists from senior Chris McCarthy and 19 saves from freshman goalie Brody Hoffman to snap a five-game Gutterson Fieldhouse winless streak against Maine (0-4-1).
Hoffman’s shutout was his second of the season and it was the seventh time Maine has been blanked this season, which is a school record.
With three wins and a tie in its previous four games, Maine had climbed into the eighth and final playoff spot in the 10-team league.
But Vermont moved a point ahead of Maine into eighth and UVM won the season series 2-0-1 so the Catamounts would win a tiebreaker if the two teams are knotted up at the end of the regular season.
Northeastern trails Maine by two points but has played one fewer game.
Vermont improved to 8-14-4 overall, 5-10-4 in Hockey East while Maine fell to 8-15-5 and 4-10-5, respectively.
Maine generated the game’s first nine shots on goal but Hoffman stopped all of them and then his teammates took control of the game, outshooting the Black Bears 32-10 the rest of the way including a 14-1 edge in the second period. It was a season-low in shots on goal in a period for Maine with the previous low being five in a 2-2 overtime tie with UMass on Nov. 16.
“We got out of the gate well but we didn’t capitalize. We had opportunities to take the lead but we didn’t,” said Maine coach Tim Whitehead. “As a result, they surged back in the second period and took the momentum. We almost survived the second period but that late goal was a big momentum swing.”
He was referring to Reynolds’ goal that broke a scoreless tie with just 48 seconds left in the middle period as he deflected a pass from the corner by McCarthy past Maine goalie Martin Ouellette.
“[McCarthy] just threw it to the front of the net and [Reynolds] tipped it five-hole as I was sliding over,” said Ouellette.
Reynolds expanded the lead 3:58 into the third period off a short breakaway after he maneuvered around Maine defenseman Jake Rutt.
“He got past our defenseman, made a move on his backhand and put it five-hole,” said Ouellette.
McCarthy added a power-play goal at the 8:30 mark of the third period courtesy of a fortuitous bounce.
“The puck hit the glass on the door in the corner and it took a weird bounce,” said Ouellette. “I tried to clear the puck but fanned on it. It went on [McCarthy’s] stick and he was able to get off a backhand shot.”
Maine had a pair of glorious opportunities to creep back into the game later in the third period when the Black Bears had a pair of successive two-man advantages spanning 1:09 and 47 seconds.
But the Black Bears could muster only a few scoring chances.
“They did a good job on the penalty kill but I was disappointed we didn’t get better looks,” said Whitehead. “The power play looked pretty good last weekend. We got two goals [in Sunday’s 4-3 overtime win over UMass Lowell]. I was disappointed that we couldn’t get back into the game with at least one goal [on the power play].”
Hoffman’s 19 saves, which included 10 of the Grade-A (high-percentage) variety, gave him 86 on 89 shots in his three outings against Maine this season.
Freshman defenseman Caylen Walls had two assists for the first multi-point game of his career.
Ouellette wound up with 29 saves, including 17 Grade-A’s.
“We came out hard in the first period and every line had the puck in their end,” said Maine junior left wing Mark Anthoine. “We were outworking them. But we let off the gas a little bit, they picked up the physical game and we had some trouble getting the puck out of our defensive zone. They kept coming and worked real hard.”
“They did a real good job defensively,” said Maine senior defenseman and tri-captain Mike Cornell. “They blocked some shots and kept pucks to the outside. We couldn’t generate chances on the rush or get the puck to their net. They also did a good job hemming us in our zone. They were strong on the forecheck.”
Maine returns home to host Boston University for a pair next Friday (7:30) and Saturday (7) nights.