BOSTON — The University of Maine men’s hockey team is going to need help if it is going to land a home-ice berth for the Hockey East quarterfinals.
But the Black Bears helped themselves on Saturday night with a resounding 7-1 victory over Northeastern.
The win, which snapped a two-game losing streak, and Merrimack College’s 2-2 overtime tie with UMass Lowell, gave Maine a one-point lead over Merrimack for fourth place and the final home-ice spot for the quarterfinals.
Maine trails third-place UMass Lowell by one point and plays its final regular-season game against New Hampshire Saturday in Orono.
Teams receive two points for a win and one for a tie.
Merrimack plays a home-and-home series with UMass, which is tied with Northeastern for the eighth and final playoff spot, and UMass Lowell plays a home-and-home with seventh-place Providence College.
Merrimack and UMass Lowell both own the tie-breaker against Maine because they won the season series .
On Saturday night, junior right wing Joey Diamond had two goals and two assists and senior left wing Spencer Abbott had two goals and an assist as the Black Bears avenged Friday night’s 4-2 loss.
“We played with more intensity and more composure tonight,” said Maine coach Tim Whitehead. “We executed better as a team and Dan Sullivan was very good, especially in the first period.”
“They wanted it more than we did,” said NU standout sophomore defenseman Anthony Bitetto.
Maine improved to 19-11-3 overall, 14-10-2 in Hockey East. Northeastern fell to 12-15-5 and 8-13-4, respectively.
Adam Shemansky, Theo Andersson and Mark Anthoine had the other goals and Matt Mangene had three assists.
Vinny Saponari scored for Northeastern.
“We played hard (Friday night) but we didn’t really execute our game plan very well,”
said Abbott. “Tonight we did. We got pucks to the net a lot more often and that was the biggest key for us. We didn’t try to do too much at the offensive blue line and we put the puck at the goalie’s feet.”
Shemansky and Andersson scored just 1:12 apart early in the first period and, after Saponari cut the lead in half on the power play, Anthoine scored his 10th power-play goal to restore the two-goal lead.
Diamond and Abbott extended the lead with second-period goals before Abbott and Diamond added third-period scores.
Sullivan made 21 saves for the Black Bears before senior Josh Seeley finished up with one save over the final 4:25.
Chris Rawlings, Clay Witt and Bryan Mountain all tended net for NU and combined for 19 saves.
Sullivan made a nice pad save off Zak Stone’s 12-foot backhander to set the play in motion that led to Shemansky’s game-opening goal 4:14 into the game.
Joey Diamond gathered in the puck and fed it up to Kyle Beattie, who carried the puck down the right side in a three-on-one rush.
Beattie fed the puck across to Shemansky, who one-timed it into the exposed net.
Andersson expanded the lead off a three-on-three rush as Jon Swavely lugged the puck down the middle before slipping it over to Andersson, whose 35-foot wrister seemed to catch Rawlings by surprise and beat him to the blocker side.
“I got the puck from (Swavely), looked up and ripped the puck,” said Andersson. “It was kind of far from the net but (Rawlings) wasn’t ready and it was a quick release.”
Saponari scored with a screened wrist shot from the high slot as he beat Sullivan to the blocker side.
But Anthoine answered by finishing off a clinical passing sequence involving Matt Mangene and Shemansky.
Mangene rimmed the puck behind the net to Shemansky, who one-touched a pass to the base of the right circle where Anthoine one-timed it inside the far post.
“That’s what’s been working for us, especially with (Shemansky) behind the net,” said Anthoine, who is tied for the nation’s lead in power-play goals. “You just have to put your stick on the ice and he’ll find your stick. You just have to whack it.”
That ended the night for Rawlings, who was replaced by Witt.
Diamond made it 4-1 3:25 into the second period.
Mangene sped down the right wing with Diamond and Anthoine driving the net front.
Mangene waited until Diamond reached the low slot before feeding it across. Diamond was able to get inside position on a Northeastern defenseman and tipped it past the helpless Witt.
“Matt made a great play and I was able to get my stick on it,” said Diamond.
Abbott made it 5-1 with 1:21 remaining in the period.
Brice O’Connor made a point-to-point pass to Jake Rutt and Rutt sent a wrister along the ice toward the net.
Abbott was able to deflect it past Witt.