BELFAST, Ireland – The University of Maine Black Bears battled No. 10/11 Providence tough in an all Hockey East semifinal at the Friendship Four Tournament, but the Friars snuck away with a 2-0 win at SSE Arena.
The Black Bears special teams killed off an early penalty, even getting the lone shot on goal during the two minutes.
Jeremy Swayman ensured that the Black Bears and Friars entered the first break tied at zero with some nice saves in the last three minutes of the opening frame. He watched a screened point shot in to deny it with his pads and then 10 seconds later, chested down another long distance shot and stuck out his left pad for a toe save on the rebound attempt.
The beginning of the second period replicated that of the first – an early Maine penalty giving way to another Providence penalty and 4-on-4 hockey. Maine’s short man-advantage was productive – with Brady Keeper wristing a tricky shot on goal and Rob Michel popping a shot off the post – but it bore no fruit on the scoreboard. Maine took that momentum, though, and began to create opportunities.
Nolan Vesey picked the puck off in the neutral zone and created space for himself down the left wing before firing a tricky shot that Hawkey had to chest away. Minutes later, Brendan Robbins took a face-off win to the left of Swayman down to the bottom of the left circle near Hawkey and fed Patrick Holway for an opportunity, but it was turned away.
It would be Providence that would sneak out to a 1-0 lead, though, when Bryan Lemos centered a pass from below the goal line that bounced off Ryan Tait’s stick and in.
The teams continued to battle evenly in the early goings of the third period, and when the Black Bears earned a power-play 4:35 into the period, they peppered Hawkey with shots in search of an equalizer. Brian Pinho was able to make it a 2-0 lead near the midway point of the final frame when his wrist shot from the slot snuck inside the left post.
Swayman’s strong presence in the net kept the game within reach for the Black Bears, stopping a couple of close-range shots from the Friars in the second half of the frame. With eight minutes to go, he flashed the left pad to make a save on a Friars’ shot from the bottom of the left circle. The Friars were able to get an empty net goal with 2:05 to play for the final 3-0 score.
Swayman (3-3-0) finished with 34 saves while Hawkey (8-4-0) had 24. Providence had a final edge of 37-24 in shots on goal.
The Black Bears will face the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Engineers in tomorrow’s 10:00 a.m. ET third-place game.