ORONO — The American International College Yellow Jackets, 7-1 losers to the University of Maine men’s hockey team on Friday night, stunned the Black Bears by scoring just 31 seconds into Saturday night’s game at Alfond Arena.
But Blaine Byron answered Chris Porter’s game-opening goal 1:38 later and linemates Stu Higgins, Ryan Lomberg and Mark Anthoine teamed up for a pair of goals on successive shifts midway through the second period to send Maine on its way to a 5-1 victory.
Maine’s Dan Sullivan, making his first start since Nov. 4, 2012, made 18 saves while Ryan Kerpan finished with 39 for AIC.
Maine is now 9-6-1, including a 9-1 record at Alfond Arena, while Atlantic Hockey team AIC fell to 3-12 after losing its ninth straight.
After freshman left wing Brian Morgan extended Maine’s lead to 4-1 2:39 into the third period, sophomore right wing Lomberg capped the scoring with a four-on-four goal with 9:59 left. That supplied him with the first two-goal game of his career.
“That [Anthoine-Higgins-Lomberg] line was obviously our top line tonight,” said Maine coach Red Gendron. “They threw pucks to the net low and went for the rebounds. On his four-on-four goal, [Lomberg] shot the puck while his feet were moving and I don’t think the goalie was expecting it. It was a laser. It was great seeing him have a night like that. It was certainly something he’s capable of doing. It took him the whole semester to do it but it’s way better that it’s happening now rather than in the second semester.”
“We pride ourselves on moving our feet. Our strength is to get the puck through the neutral zone with speed, throw the puck to the net low and then flying by the defenseman to get rebounds the best we can,” said Lomberg.
“It’s a nice way to end the semester…on a high note,” said sophomore center Devin Shore. “It was great to see Lomberg, Stu and Anthoine have a good night. They work extremely hard in practice. They deserved it.”
Higgins scored the game-winner at the 8:19 mark and Lomberg extended the lead 1:55 later.
Higgins scored just after Porter found himself alone in front of Sullivan with plenty of time to make a move.
Sullivan held his ground and smothered Porter’s point-blank shot.
“I tried to go low blocker but he made a great save,” said Porter.
“I got my arm on it in the pad-blocker area,” said Sullivan.
“That save was huge. That was the turning point,” said Higgins, who then gave Maine its first lead of the game off the rebound of an Anthoine shot which was set up by a Lomberg pass.
Higgins busted to the net and had his stick tied up initially but he got his stick free and swept the rebound past Kerpan as he was falling to the ice.
“I didn’t get much wood on it because their guy had me tied up. But it trickled over his pad,” said Higgins.
On their next shift, Anthoine took a pass from Lomberg and fired a 30-foot snap shot that was saved by Kerpan. The rebound spilled just beyond the reach of the 6-foot-6 goalie, who tried to pull it into his body with his stick.
Lomberg swooped on the loose puck and backhanded it past him.
“I think it went five-hole. I got a pretty lucky bounce there,” said Lomberg.
In the third period, Morgan scored when Daniel Renouf’s shot deflected over to him in the left circle and he beat Kerpan to the far corner.
Lomberg converted a diagonal pass from Devin Shore in a four-on-four as he snapped a rising wrister into the short side corner from the right circle.
Shore extended his points streak to seven games with the assist (6 goals, 8 assists).
“It was good to get (Lomberg) going,” said Higgins. “For our line to take the next step, he has to be as good as he can be because he’s one of our most talented players.”
Lomberg had one goal in his previous 11 games.
Porter had opened the scoring by crashing the net and shoving a loose puck behind Sullivan but Byron wristed a 12-footer over Kerpan’s blocker off a Cam Brown pass from behind the net.
Sullivan said he was “pretty nervous especially with the start (early goal)” but was happy with his performance.
“It felt great (to get the win),” he said.
“He played great,” said Gendron. “He was poised and made six or seven terrific saves when the game was still tight.”
AIC coach Gary Wright said his team played “much better” than it had on Friday night.
“Maine’s team speed was noteworthy. They were able to sustain pressure in the offensive zone,” said Wright.