ORONO — The University of Maine men’s hockey team was frustrated after its season-opening loss to Merrimack on Friday night, and the Black Bears took their frustration out on Northeastern University in a rare Sunday afternoon game.
Adam Shemansky, Spencer Abbott and Kyle Beattie staked Maine to a 3-0 lead in the first period and the Bears never looked back en route to a 6-3 triumph.
Brian Flynn scored a second-period goal and Joey Diamond and Abbott added third-period scores.
Anthony Bitetto scored a late second-period goal for Northeastern and Mike McLaughlin and Vinny Saponari added third-period goals.
Dan Sullivan finished with 24 saves for Maine (1-1) while Chris Rawlings and Clay Witt teamed up for 34 for the Huskies (0-1-1).
“We played harder, we were hungrier and we stuck to the game plan. We played much better defensively, especially in the first period,” said Maine senior left wing and co-captain Flynn. “We didn’t give them much at all in the first period. And we extended our leads, which is something we struggled to do last year.”
Maine dominated the first 12 minutes of the first period, holding Northeastern without a shot on goal until there was 9:02 remaining in the period.
Goals 1:27 apart by Shemansky and Abbott gave the Bears a well-deserved lead and Beattie extended it with 1:33 remaining in the period.
Shemansky’s goal came three seconds after Maine went on a power play.
Brian Flynn won the faceoff to the right of NU’s Rawlings, and Shemansky skated on to the puck, took a stride and wristed a 25-footer into the far corner.
“It has been a while for me. It felt real good,” said Shemansky, whose goal was his first since a 4-1 win over UMass on Dec. 12, 2010. “Flynn and (Diamond) did a great job tying their men up. I saw the middle of the ice was vacated and I wanted to get a quick shot off.”
It was Maine’s 12th shot on goal in the period as the Bears had a 12-0 edge in shots at that point.
Abbott made it 2-0 courtesy of a Joey Diamond forecheck.
Diamond pried the puck free along the left wing boards to Abbott, who skated across the slot before wristing the puck past Rawlings.
“Joey wins a lot of those (puck) battles. He got it down to me and I went low blocker (short side),” said Abbott.
Northeastern got untracked on its first power play and generated some good scoring opportunities, requiring Sullivan to come up with some solid saves.
Beattie expanded the lead when he stationed himself in the middle of the slot and tipped Mark Nemec’s wrister from the right point between Rawlings’ pads.
“Maine came out real strong, which we anticipated because they lost their home opener,” said NU coach Jim Madigan. “They have small forwards who can really skate, and they put pressure on our defense. And we didn’t respond early like we would have liked.”
“That was as good a period as we’ve played all year,” said Maine coach Tim Whitehead. “The guys were very determined. They didn’t just play hard, they executed our systems.”
In an evenly played second period, Sullivan made several important saves to keep the 3-0 lead, including a left pad stop on a breakaway backhander by Alex Tuckerman with 12:41 remaining. The Huskies had a four-on-three, a brief five-on-three and an ensuing five-on-four power play, but Sullivan was sharp.
Flynn made it 4-0 on the power play with 3:16 left in the middle period by finishing off a pretty passing sequence.
Abbott fed him a backhand pass in the high slot, and Flynn passed it to Beattie in the corner.
Beattie returned the puck to Flynn driving the net and Flynn flipped a one-timer into the far corner with Diamond screening Rawlings.
Flynn pointed out that Beattie replaced Shemansky on the first power unit because he is a right-hand shot and “it is easier for him” to pass from the left corner than it is for the left-hand shot Shermansky, who played on the second power-play unit.
Bitetto got one back late in the period when his wrister from the left point bounced past Sullivan.
But Diamond re-established the four-goal lead 3:46 into the third period off a delayed penalty as he was sent in alone by Flynn and snapped a wrister over Rawlings’ glove.
McLaughlin made it 5-2 with a wrister from the left faceoff dot, but Abbott one-timed a diagonal cross-ice pass by Matt Mangene to ice it.
“I was open in the seam and he hit me,” said Abbott.
Whitehead noted that his team answered Northeastern’s goals quickly and that was important.
“That took their momentum away,” said Whitehead.
Saponari added a consolation shorthanded goal on a breakaway with 10 seconds left.
“We stuck to our systems for 60 minutes and we didn’t get frustrated when things didn’t bounce our way,” said Whitehead. “Our backchecking was really strong and it allowed our defensemen to have real good gaps so Northeastern had trouble generating rushes. We made very few poor decisions with the puck.”
He also said his team did a better job getting pucks to the net and getting their shots off more quickly.
Whitehead praised Sullivan’s performance and noted that the Bears’ top players played extremely well.
Abbott had an assist to go with his two goals, Flynn had two assists to go with his goal and Diamond and Beattie each had a goal and an assist.
“Our transition from offense to defense and from defense to offense was a lot better,” said Abbott.
Maine will travel to North Dakota for games on Friday and Saturday nights.