ORONO — The student beat the mentor.
University of Massachusetts Lowell first-year coach Norm Bazin, who received his first coaching job from University of Maine coach Tim Whitehead when Whitehead was the head coach at UMass Lowell, earned his first Hockey East road win, 5-3, over the Black Bears on Friday night.
The River Hawks improved to 4-3 overall, 2-2 in Hockey East, while Maine, which has lost three in a row, fell to 3-5-1 and 3-4, respectively.
The teams play again Saturday night at 7.
“Clearly, the better team won,” said a subdued Whitehead.
Maine outshot UMass Lowell 33-23, but the River Hawks had a 23-19 edge in Grade-A (high-percentage) scoring chances and used their quickness and tenacity to force Maine turnovers and draw penalties. UMass Lowell had eight power plays to Maine’s five.
Despite having three freshmen and two sophomores on defense, their blue-line corps didn’t make any glaring errors and the forwards did an effective job helping out on the backcheck.
“We’re starting to realize we’re a good hockey club,” said UML senior center Matt Ferreira, who had a pair of goals.
Maine junior right wing Joey Diamond, who scored twice, called the loss “embarrassing.”
The River Hawks took a 3-2 lead into the first intermission and expanded it to 5-2 in the third period on goals 2:59 apart apart by Scott Wilson and Ferreira.
Wilson gave the River Hawks some valuable breathing room on the power play by breaking down the left wing, maneuvering around Maine defenseman Matt Mangene in a one-on-one situation and slicing across the low slot before roofing a backhander past Maine goalie Dan Sullivan.
“I was flying down the left side and (Zack) Kamrass passed it over to me,” said Wilson. “I put the puck between (Mangene’s) legs, pulled it to my backhand and put it blocker side (against the grain).”
“That was my fault. I got caught flat-footed,” said Mangene.
“For a freshman to come up here and make a great play like that (says a lot),” praised Ferreira.
Ferreira iced it by converting a pass from Terrence Wallin, who intercepted a Spencer Abbott pass and fed it down to him alone in front of Sullivan.
“The puck went off my stick and hit (Sullivan’s) pads. It came back to me and I put it in,” said Ferreira.
Joey Diamond’s second goal of the game, coming with 2:57 left, gave the Bears some life, as he ended Maine’s 0-for-18 power-play drought by deflecting Kyle Beatte’s pass up into the far corner.
But UML goalie Doug Carr came up with a couple of great saves off Beattie and Abbott to stymie Maine’s comeback bid.
Josh Holmstrom gave UMass Lowell a 1-0 lead 2:26 into the game before the Bears’ Stu Higgins collected his first collegiate goal and point to tie it 3:31 later.
Ferreira’s shorthanded goal and Riley Wetmore’s power-play goal 2:20 apart extended the lead to 3-1 before a highlight-reel goal by Diamond with 3:47 remaining in the period narrowed the gap.
Maine sophomore goalie Martin Ouellette was pulled in favor of fellow sophomore Sullivan after allowing three goals on seven shots.
Holmstrom scored a few seconds after Ouellette robbed Wilson, who took a Holmstrom pass and cut across the top of the crease. The puck eventually squirted back against the grain and Holmstrom calmly flipped the puck into the short side.
Higgins tied it when he took a pass from Ryan Hegarty, took advantage of a fallen UML defenseman and skated alone down the slot before sliding the puck under the pad of Carr.
Ferreira had his goal gift-wrapped. Ouellette came out of his crease to play the puck and sweep it away from a River Hawk only to put on Ferreira’s stick. Ferreira simply deposited the puck into the vacated net as Ouellete tried to scramble back into position.
Wetmore made it 3-1 when he stationed himself at the near post, just beyond the crease, and jammed a pass out from behind the net by David Vallorani into the short side corner.
That ended Ouellette’s evening.
Diamond answered by taking a long pass from Brian Flynn, spinning away from a River Hawk defenseman and, with his back to the goal, flipping the puck between his legs and into the net.
Diamond almost tied it seconds later when we set up alone in the middle of the slot, but Carr made a good chest save on his one-timer.
The River Hawks had a golden opportunity to extend the lead in the second period when Higgins was assessed a five-minute major and game misconduct for hitting from behind.
But the Bears did a nice job keeping the River Hawks to the outside and protecting the front of the net.
The River Hawks also missed the net on several occasions.
Bazin said he was “pleased to get points, especially in a hostile environment” and felt one of the turning points was his team’s ability to kill a penalty right after they had failed to convert on their five-minute power play.
“That was a big, big deal for us,” said Bazin.