ORONO, Maine — After allowing nine goals in two losses to No. 10 Northeastern University in Boston last weekend, University of Maine freshman goalie Jeremy Swayman spent time with Black Bear assistant/goalie coach Alfie Michaud breaking down his performance.
It certainly helped on Tuesday night as Swayman made 34 saves to earn a 3-1 Hockey East victory over a freshman-laden University of Massachusetts team that thoroughly outplayed the Black Bears for most of the game.
The youthful Black Bears (12-9-2, 6-6-1 HE), who received second-period goals from Canon Pieper, Peter Housakos and Emil Westerlund, snapped a three-game winless streak while the even younger Minutemen fell to 10-10-1 (4-6-1 HE).
The swift-skating and tenacious Minutemen outshot UMaine 35-20 and attempted 60 shots to UMaine’s 40.
Jake Gaudet ruined Swayman’s bid for his second shutout with 34.5 seconds remaining in regulation by swatting home a Niko Hildenbrand rebound after pulling sophomore goalie Ryan Wischow in favor of the extra attacker.
“I felt the Northeastern series was really beneficial in the learning aspect of things,” said Swayman. “They were a strong team and their power play was top of the league. I definitely used the keys Alfie Michaud helped me look through in this game. That helped a lot, especially in the special teams aspect of the game.”
NU scored four power play goals but UMaine, which entered the game with the nation’s worst penalty-killing percentage (72.8 percent), killed all six UMass power plays thanks to Swayman’s 12 shorthanded saves. UMass had a five-on-three for 1:28 in the third period.
Swayman finished with a total of 13 Grade-A (high-percentage) stops among his 34 while Wischow was forced to make just five Grade-A stops among his 17.
“This was a classic example of a goaltender stealing a game. It’s that simple,” said UMass second-year coach Greg Carvel. “Swayman was the difference, far and away.
“I thought my team was outstanding. But we’re a young team that doesn’t know how to score ugly goals real well. Swayman is a real good goalie and if you don’t make it tough on him, he’ll shut the door on you,” added Carvel. “One goalie made saves tonight and the other didn’t.”
UMaine coach Red Gendron was happy to get the victory but felt his team was “mentally tired” and said he wasn’t satisfied with its performance.
“We won the game in large part because we were able to finish some plays and we received outstanding goaltending,” said Gendron. “But for much of the game, we weren’t sharp. We were outworked, especially in the first period.
“Full marks to UMass. They played their tails off the whole night. We weren’t strong over the puck. We were reaching. One guy would be skating and the other two (on the line) wouldn’t and it’s hard to get a forecheck going with only one guy skating,” said Gendron.
Sophomore center and co-captain Chase Pearson set up the Housakos and Westerlund goals win precise passes.
The Minutemen had a decisive edge in play in the first period, oushooting UMaine 12-4, and could have easily been ahead by a couple of goals.
But Swayman stopped two rapid-fire shots by Austin Plevy from the inner half of the right faceoff circle; positioned himself well to reject John Leonard’s redirection of a Mario Ferraro pass; and robbed Jake McLaughlin, who ripped a one-timer from the high slot off a Plevy feed.
Pieper opened the scoring at the 2:35 mark of the middle period when he nudged home the rebound of a Nolan Vesey shot that rang off the crossbar.
Housakos made it 2-0 3:42 later when he came off the bench on a line change and one-timed an exceptional diagonal, no-look, backhand pass by Pearson past Wischow into the short-side corner.
“I cut back a little bit and I took a peak and saw someone streaking (to the far post),” said Pearson. “I just threw it over there and, luckily, it landed on his tape.”
UMass had a glorious opportunity to cut into the lead but Swayman made four saves during a wild flurry in front of his net.
“That was a fun sequence. My defense did the best they could to box out and I did the best I could to protect the goal line,” said Swayman.
A little later, UMaine extended the lead to 3-0 as Brendan Robbins slipped the puck to Pearson and he found Westerlund alone in the low slot for a 15-foot one-timer.
“Robbins made a good play down to me and I was able to find Emil who was parked in front where he’s had a lot of success this year,” said Pearson.
UMaine will host New Hampshire on Friday (7) and Saturday (7:30) nights.
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