ORONO — The University of Maine men’s hockey team was severely tested by a Merrimack College team that has just one road win this season, but sophomore right wing Ryan Lomberg scored a pair of goals and senior goalie Martin Ouellette made 23 saves as Maine triumphed 2-1 at Alfond Arena on Friday night.
Maine is now 14-10-3 overall, 8-5-2 in Hockey East. Maine is 11-1 at home. Merrimack fell to 7-17-3 and 2-11-2. The Warriors are 1-12-2 on the road.
The teams will play again at 7 p.m. Saturday.
Maine outshot Merrimack 30-24.
Lomberg staked Maine to a 1-0 lead 10:18 into the game, but Vinny Scotti equalized on the power play 4:34 later.
Lomberg scored what proved to be the game-winner at the 11:26 mark of the second period.
Lomberg’s tie-breaking goal came against the run of play as the Warriors controlled play for the first 10 minutes of the period.
The Warriors had cycled the puck effectively and kept the Black Bears pinned in their own end for long stretches.
But Ouellette came up with some timely saves to keep the game tied and the Black Bears did a credible job protecting the net front.
Maine was finally able to generate some pressure in the Merrimack end, and it paid off when Devin Shore made a neat diagonal pass to an unattended Mark Anthoine at the base of the left circle.
Anthoine pulled the puck across the net front and got off a short wrister from the top of the crease. Rasmus Tirronen made the save, but Lomberg converted the rebound.
“I just kept whacking at the puck,” said Lomberg whose goal was his sixth over the last eight games and his 10th of the season.
Shore said they caught a break because his pass to Anthoine deflected off a Merrimack stick en route to Anthoine.
Merrimack’s Brian Christie had a golden opportunity to draw the Warriors level with 4:46 remaining in the period as he sliced across the top of the crease unopposed but Ouellette made a terrific reaction save.
“I tried to pokecheck him but I missed the puck and he went all the way across [to the far post]. I got my right toe on it,” said Ouellette who lost sight of the puck but heard teammate Jake Rutt telling him where it was so he was able to cover it with his glove.
Lomberg opened the scoring in the first period off a Shore rebound.
Shore wheeled and took a wrister from the top of the right circle that hit Tirronen’s glove and spilled across to the far post where Lomberg swept it into the vacated net.
“That was a lucky bounce,” said Lomberg.
Maine coach Red Gendron pointed out that both goals were the result of his players’ determined net-drive.
But the Warriors answered when Scotti positioned himself at the edge of the crease to Ouellette’s right and tipped Justin Mansfield’s low wrister past him for his fourth of the year.
Gendron called it a “solid win” against a tough opponent.
“They’re a pretty good grinding team. They worked hard. They had us back on our heels in the second period but one of the reasons was we weren’t getting the puck deep and we weren’t moving well as a unit. We’d have one guy skating (with the puck) and the other four guys watching,” said Gendron whose team bounced back to do an impressive job protecting the lead in the third period.
Maine held Merrimack to five third-period shots.
Merrimack coach Mark Dennehy said his team played a “pretty good road game.
“Our defensemen played very well but our forwards have to do a better job getting to the net. It’s hard to score goals and our forwards were trying to make too many plays,” said Dennehy.