ORONO, Maine — The University of Maine men’s hockey team will be glad to see University of Massachusetts Lowell senior left winger Kory Falite graduate this spring.
Falite scored his seventh and eighth career goals against Maine in the third period after setting up Riley Wetmore’s go-ahead goal with 19 seconds left in the second period and UML salvaged a split of the weekend series with a 4-2 victory at Alfond Arena Saturday night.
“I don’t know what it is. I play well against them,” said Falite, who has seven assists to go with his eight goals in 12 career games against the Black Bears.
“Falite was exceptional tonight. He was the difference-maker, certainly,” said Maine coach Tim Whitehead.
The River Hawks, improved to 16-14-2 overall, 10-11-2 in Hockey East, while Maine fell to 15-12-3, 12-9-2, respectively.
Maine had its seven-game Alfond Arena winning streak and eight-game unbeaten streak (7-0-1) snapped.
The teams swapped power play goals in the first period.
Maine junior defenseman Jeff Dimmen partially fanned on a one-timer but had it trickle though some legs and past UML goalie Carter Hutton.
Freshman right wing Colin Wright equalized 2:21 later when he swatted home a rebound when Ryan Blair’s point shot bounced out of Maine goalie Scott Darling’s glove.
The River Hawks took the lead for good on Wetmore’s goal which came 20 seconds after Maine had killed off a penalty.
The Black Bears never cleared the puck out of their zone and Falite wheeled out of the right corner, slid the puck across to the unattended Wetmore in the middle of the high slot, and he one-timed home.
“I was actually going to get off the ice but Wetmore [forced a turnover] at the blue line and got it in deep,” said Falite. “I got the puck, [Wetmore] found an open spot and I gave it to him. That was a big play by him.”
“It was a great play by Falite,” said Wetmore. “I got open and he just found me. It was really all Falite’s work down low.
“I just got lucky and put it on net. I tried to get the shot off quick because Darling is a great goalie and he goes down in the butterfly quick. It went five-hole” added Wetmore.
“That was a good goal for them and bad timing for us. It set us back on our heels,” said Maine assistant captain Dimmen.
Falite made it 3-1 1:40 into the third period by converting the rebound of an angled shot by Patrick Cey, who found an open lane to the net from the left side.
“The shot went off [Darling’s] right pad and I whacked at it and chipped it over his right pad and off the post,” said Falite.
Brian Flynn, who had a school-record seven points on five goals and two assists in Friday night’s 8-4 win, pulled Maine within 3-2 by firing the puck past a screened Hutton from the top of the left circle with 11:19 left.
But Falite iced it with 6:27 left when he found the upper far corner, stick-side, with a shot through a screen from the top of the right circle.
“Ben [Holmstrom] went to the net and [Darling] had no chance to see it,” said Falite.
Hutton rebounded from a poor relief stint on Friday (18 shots, 5 goals) with a stellar 24-save outing including eight Grade-A [high-percentage] stops. He also handled the puck masterfully and made smart plays with it to reduce Maine’s offensive zone pressure.
“Playing the puck is something I’ve always taken a lot of pride in,” said Hutton, who added that he didn’t dwell on Friday night’s performance.
“What’s behind you doesn’t matter. I came out tonight and went after it. I tried to help out as much as I could,” said Hutton. “The guys got the puck in deep, forechecked real well and kept them pinned in their own zone. They outworked them down low and along the walls.”
The senior-laden River Hawks outshot Maine 31-26. Darling finished with nine Grade-A saves among his 27.
“We played better defensively. We cleared the front of the net and didn’t give them second and third whacks at the puck,” said Falite.
“They played great. They took away our time and space,” said Maine sophomore defenseman Will O’Neill.
“They outworked us. They won the one-on-one battles all over the ice,” said Dimmen.