Northeastern University unleashed a three-goal barrage in the first period to erase an early deficit and earn a 5-3 Hockey East victory over the University of Maine at Matthews Arena in Boston.
The 10th-ranked Huskies (13-5-3, 9-3-1 Hockey East), who extended their unbeaten streak to eight games (6-0-2) scored twice on the power play during a run of three unanswered goals that consumed 4 minutes, 18 seconds, and turned the contest squarely in their favor.
Coach Red Gendron’s 20th-ranked Black Bears (11-8-2, 5-5-1 HE) suffered their first loss in 10 games, having taken a 7-0-2 unbeaten streak into the contest.
The teams will conclude the series at 5 p.m. Saturday. The time was changed from 7 p.m. to 5 p.m. because of the New England Patriots’ NFL playoff game with the Tennessee Titans later that night in Foxborough, Massachusetts.
Cayden Primeau registered 30 saves to backstop the victory for Northeastern, which went 2-for-5 on the power play.
It was the seventh time this season UMaine has allowed at least two power play goals in a game. UMaine is last among the 60 Division I teams in penalty-killing percentage at 72.9 percent.
Jeremy Swayman finished with 33 saves for UMaine, which managed one goal in four tries with the man advantage.
Northeastern outshot UMaine 38-33.
The Black Bears dominated the first 10 minutes of the contest, outshooting Northeastern 7-0 and getting on the scoreboard first while on the power play. Eduards Tralmaks picked up the goal, set up by Rob Michel and Mitchell Fossier at the 9:41 mark of the first period.
It was Tralmaks’ eighth goal of the season.
But the Huskies responded by scoring the next three goals.
Adam Gaudette made it 1-1 only 13 seconds after going on the power play when he one-timed a shot from the left circle off assists by Jeremy Davies and Dylan Sikura.
Gaudette came back only 1:31 later, this time in a 5-on-5 situation, when he converted his 17th goal of the season off a setup by Sikura, whose shot deflected off the skate of UMaine’s Michel and over to him.
Junior defenseman and alternate captain Michel was playing his first game since injuring his knee on Dec. 8 versus Quinnipiac.
Northeastern’s Grant Jozefek made it 3-1 on the power play, cashing in on assists from Matt Filipe and Brandon Hawkins.
The Huskies extended their advantage to 4-1 with 13:39 gone in the second period. Bobby Hampton scored with Collin Murphy and Gaudette assisting.
UMaine began its comeback 3:01 later with Emil Westerlund lighting the lamp after being set up by Canon Pieper and Patrick Shea.
Westerlund scooped up the rebound of Pieper’s shot from the left circle and put it past Primeau.
The Black Bears clawed within a goal just 3:40 into the third period. Fossier made a nifty pass toward the far post where Brady Keeper swatted the puck out of the air and past Primeau to cut the deficit to 4-3.
But Northeastern iced it when Sikura snuck behind the UMaine defense and scored on a breakaway with 1:24 remaining in the contest
“We didn’t have as good a first period as we would have liked,” UMaine coach Red Gendron said. “They sifted a couple of power play goals. It’s no secret they have a pretty good power play and we have to have to do a better job on the penalty kill.
“We took a couple of penalties we certainly didn’t need to and you can’t give a team that lethal those opportunities,” Gendron said.
Northeastern came into the game with the nation’s third best power play percentage at 27.4 percent.
“On the plus side, the team battled hard, went hard to the net and did some pretty good things on the offensive zone grind,” Gendron added. “We just have to execute our game plan with a little more urgency and a little more consistency.
“We battled back in the third. We had a couple of breakaways but we didn’t finish them off. The Primeau boy made some great saves. We certainly had our opportunities,” the Maine coach said. “The game was quite even, to be honest. It was a great college hockey game. I didn’t like the results for obvious reasons but it was still a great game. We have to be that much better in order to win [on Saturday night].”
Gaudette had an assist to go with his two goals for Northeastern and linemate Sigura had two assists to accompany his goal. Brandon Hawkins added two assists.
Fossier had two assists for UMaine.
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