AMHERST, Mass. — The University of Maine men’s hockey team was in desperate need of a win against UMass Friday night in its battle to earn a Hockey East playoff berth.
And the Black Bears were without their leading point-getter and hottest scorer in senior right wing Joey Diamond (6 goals, 3 assists in the past five games) due to back problems.
But junior goaltender Martin Ouellette made 30 saves in posting his second shutout of the season and third of his career and Maine received second-period goals 4:37 apart from freshman defenseman Ben Hutton and junior right wing Mark Anthoine to pick up a valuable 2-0 victory at the Mullins Center.
Maine’s third Hockey East road win in its last four games elevated the Black Bears into eighth place, one point ahead of the Minutemen. They also pulled within two points of seventh-place Vermont, a 4-3 loser to New Hampshire.
Maine is 5-11-6 in Hockey East, 9-16-6 overall, while UMass fell to 7-14-1 and 10-17-2, respectively.
UMass has now lost five straight.
The two teams will play again Saturday night at 7.
Maine outshot UMass 32-30.
“The guys played well in front of me and I had a good game,” said Ouellette, who had allowed 14 goals in his last four games after surrendering just eight in his previous five. “I had a good week in practice to be ready for this weekend and it paid off.”
“Marty had an unreal game. He had a couple highlight-reel saves tonight,” said Hutton, who scored with a wrister on the power play with 5:46 left in the middle period.
“Jake [Rutt] made a nice play and got the puck over to [Devin Shore] who made a nice pass over to me,” said Hutton, who was at the midpoint. “Steven Swavely set a good screen and [UMass goalie Kevin Boyle] never saw it. It went glove side off the post and in.”
It was Maine’s eighth power play goal in its last 28 chances.
The goal ended a 12-game goalless drought for Hutton.
”It has been a while. It felt good. That’s for sure,” Hutton said.
Anthoine ended a 13-game pointless skid with a wrist shot from the right circle with 1:09 left in the second period.
“Someone chipped the puck out of the [defensive zone] and we had a three-on-one,” Anthoine said. “Their defenseman gave me plenty of room to shoot it and I went high glove-side [short-side].”
Mike Cornell and Stu Higgins picked up assists.
Boyle was lifted after the goal and replaced by Steve Mastalerz.
Anthoine said everyone contributed to the win.
“We played well as a team and Marty was the best player on the ice yet again,” Anthoine said. “We played real well defensively. All of our lines were going and everyone was coming back to the slot on the backcheck. And the defense cleared the rebounds.”
Ouellette made a terrific save in the second period when a cross-crease pass left K.J. Tiefenwerth with an open net.
But Ouellette dove head-first across the crease and made the save.
“The pass went to the back door but I was able to dive and make a lucky save. I got my glove on it,” Ouellette said.
He also stopped a shorthanded breakaway by Conor Sheary in the final two minutes of the third period.
“We had a defenseman coming back, putting pressure on him so he couldn’t make a move. He tried to go five-hole but I got my stick on it,” Ouellette said.
Maine coach Tim Whitehead was pleased with the win.
“Marty led the way but the guys helped him a lot. They got into shooting lanes, forced wide shots and blocked quite a few,” Whitehead said. “The first goal took a little pressure off Marty and Anthoine’s goal was a great shot. It would have been a goal in any league.”
Whitehead said Ouellette elevated his play.
“He was very sharp. He was a little more aggressive coming out and his rebound control was very good,” said Whitehead. “He made some great saves. And our guys did a much better job protecting the back door.”
Maine is now 4-6-1 on the road in Hockey East and 1-5-5 at home.
“I guess we’re more road warriors this year,” said Anthoine.