PROVIDENCE, R.I. — The University of Maine men’s hockey season came to a crashing halt on Saturday night.
The Providence College Friars scored four unanswered goals to beat Maine 4-2 Saturday night and sweep the best-of-three quarterfinal Hockey East series.
Providence, which ruined Maine’s chance to host a quarterfinal series by sweeping the Black Bears in Orono two weekends ago, extended its unbeaten streak against Maine to eight games (7-0-1) and improved overall to 21-9-6. The Friars have advanced to the Hockey East semifinals for the third straight season, the first time in program history.
Maine concluded a 16-15-4 campaign under first-year coach Red Gendron after a late-season collapse. Maine went 1-5-1 over its final seven games.
Sophomore goalie Jon Gillies made 36 saves while the Maine tandem of Martin Ouellette and Dan Sullivan wound up with 26 stops.
“The guys competed their tails off. This is tough to swallow because they gave everything they’ve had all year. We did a lot of things better tonight than we did on Friday night,” said Gendron. “Our passing was better, our execution was better and our power play was better. But it wasn’t enough.
“We were beaten by a better team. They beat us four times,” added Gendron.
“We battled all night. We just weren’t fortunate enough to get the win. The hockey gods weren’t on our side,” said sophomore defenseman Ben Hutton. “Their goalie was very good.”
“There was no shame in our effort,” added sophomore center Devin Shore.
Providence sophomore left wing Nick Saracino scored a pair of first-period goals to answer Hutton’s game-opening goal and give the Friars a lead they would never relinquish.
Derek Army’s second-period goal extended the lead and Maine goalie Martin Ouellette was pulled in favor of Dan Sullivan.
Ross Mauermann snapped a seven-game pointless streak with a five-on-three goal to make it 4-1.
Steven Swavely gave the Black Bears some life with an early third-period goal but the Bears couldn’t get any closer.
Maine took its first lead in four games against the Friars when Hutton added to his school-record goal total by a defenseman with his 15th at the 3:18 mark. It came on the power play and was Maine’s first goal with the man-advantage in five games.
But Saracino drew the Friars level at the 11:20 mark before putting them ahead on the power play at 15:01.
Hutton opened the scoring when he took a dish from Brice O’Connor at the top of the left circle and wristed the puck through a maze of players past Gillies.
Saracino equalized when he parked in front of the net and re-directed a Steven Shamanski point shot behind Ouellette.
Saracino broke the tie on the power play when he won the puck along the left-wing boards, found some open space and took a stride before beating Ouellette with a wrist shot into the short-side corner. The Friars’ John Gilmour was racing down the right wing and Ouellette seemed to cheat over toward him which gave Saracino some room on the short side.
“Those two goals were important because it enabled us to take the lead [into the intermission],” said Providence coach Nate Leaman.
Army scored 8:31 into the second period when he won a battle for the puck behind the net and tucked a wraparound behind Ouellette.
Gendron said Army’s goal was a crucial one “because we were playing well at that point.”
Mauermann, positioned at the inner half of the right circle, extended the lead to 4-1 when he one-timed a pass from Trevor Mingoia into the short-side corner past Sullivan’s glove.
“I was trying to get it upstairs,” said Mauermann.
“If we hadn’t scored that goal, we wouldn’t have won,” said Leaman. “They’re a good team. We knew they would give us their best punch.”
“That was a very important goal,” said Hutton, who added that they didn’t allow it to get them down.
Swavely scored 2:45 into the third period when he backhanded a Brice O’Connor rebound behind Gillies from the goalie’s right.
Sullivan had an equipment problem, his skate laces broke, and he had to be relieved by Ouellette a few minutes later.
The desperate Bears had several other chances but Gillies came up with a number of quality saves to keep them from getting any closer.
Maine outshot Providence 16-4 in the third period.
With 9:03 left, Maine’s Ryan Lomberg corralled a loose puck behind the Providence net and maneuvered out front only to have Gillies rob him by getting his glove on Lomberg’s glittering opportunity.
“He has been our wall all year,” said Mauermann.
Providence went 2-for-8 on the power play and scored at least one power-play goal in every game against Maine.
The Black Bears went 1-for-6 with the man-advantage.