AMHERST, Mass. – Goaltender Martin Ouellette played well enough for the University of Maine hockey team to win on Saturday night. But his counterpart, Massachusetts goalie Steve Mastalerz, simply couldn’t be beat.
Ouellette made 24 saves for the Black Bears, but was done in by two second-period goals in a 17-second span as the Minutemen earned a 2-1 Hockey East victory in front of 3,382 at Mullins Center.
Maine (3-3-1, 0-1-1 HE) put 39 shots on Mastalerz and had seven power-play opportunities for the game, but could only break through once on a 5-on-3 goal by Devin Shore in the third period.
It was only part of a tough weekend for the Black Bears offense, which only scored twice in the series despite holding the 66-58 shot advantage through two games, including a 39-26 edge on Saturday.
“We played hard, really hard,” Maine coach Red Gendron said. “But, we have to get better at finishing off plays. That’s what cost us the game (Saturday). We had our chances. We didn’t finish the chances. It’s pretty simple.”
Shore added: “Half the battle is getting the chances, and we’re working hard and doing that. Then the other half is just bearing down and finding a way to get in. A lot of it has to do with bounces. Sometimes it’s as simply as that, but if you work hard you create your own bounces.”
The root of Maine’s problems this weekend came from Mastalerz, who used his 6-foot-2, 205-pound frame to get in front pucks and made a number of pad saves. He also used his glove to deny Mark Anthoine on an open power-play chance in front of the net with the score 2-0 and less than eight minutes left in the game.
“He’s a very, very good goalie,” Gendron said. “He stopped a terrific shot, made a terrific glove save and he made all the others. We were getting after him and he was there every time.”
Michael Pereira opened the scoring for UMass 8:23 into the second period on a power-play goal off a cross-ice feed in front of the net from Branden Gracel.
Freshman forward Ray Pigozzi scored the eventual game-winner for the Minutemen just 13 seconds later on a deflection of defenseman Colin Shea’s shot from the point.
The Black Bears finally beat Mastalerz with a snap shot from Shore from the slot 6:11 into the third period for his first goal of the season. Ben Hutton recorded his third assist and fifth point on the play.
Ouellette held the Minutemen scoreless for the remainder of the game. But couldn’t outplay his former Kimball Union Academy teammate, Mastalerz.
“I don’t think I played well enough to win because we didn’t win a game (this weekend),” Ouellette said. “Maybe if I could’ve had one of those (UMass goals) we could’ve gone into overtime and the game could’ve turned out differently. The guys played well. Nothing we can do right now.”
Gendron wasn’t satisfied with the outcome, much in part to his team’s lacking offense throughout the weekend.
“We came in here and scored only two goals in two games,” he said. “Generally speaking that doesn’t translate into victories. It was good enough for a tie (Friday), and it was good enough for a one-goal loss (Saturday).
“There are no moral victories. Either you win, or you don’t. No excuses.”
Maine seeks its first conference win of the season Friday at 7 p.m. when it hosts Vermont at Alfond Arena for a weekend series.