ORONO, Maine — It took University of Maine center Chase Pearson 18 games to score his first goal last season.
He wasn’t about to let that happen again.
The junior co-captain Pearson scored two goals, one short-handed and one on the power play, and the Black Bear men’s hockey team overcame a sluggish first period to post a hard-fought 3-1 victory over the youthful St. Lawrence University Saints in a mutual season opener Friday night at Alfond Arena.
“It was a good win against a gritty opponent. St. Lawrence played really, really hard,” said UMaine coach Red Gendron. “We played better as the game went along.”
The teams play again Saturday night at 7.
Pearson, who slumped from 14 goals to seven last season, opened the scoring with a short-handed goal in the second period and his power-play tally capped the scoring later in the period.
All the scoring came in the second period.
“This was a good confidence builder for me,” said Pearson, whose short-handed goal came at the 8:28 mark. “I didn’t score my first goal until Christmas [Dec. 30] last year.”
Junior right wing Ryan Smith extended UMaine’s lead to 2-0 at the 10:46 mark of the second period before sophomore defenseman Philip Alftberg answered 2:08 later on the power play for the Saints.
Pearson restored the two-goal lead at the 16:33 mark.
Both goalies turned in outstanding performances.
Sophomore Jeremy Swayman made 16 saves for the Black Bears including 10 Grade-A stops. The much busier Arthur Brey, a senior, made 34 for St. Lawrence including 12 high-percentage saves.
Pearson’s short-handed goal was a flukey one. Smith pushed the puck ahead to Pearson, who broke in alone on Brey. St. Lawrence defenseman Cameron White tripped Pearson and was assessed a penalty but a collision ensued involving Pearson, White and Brey, and the puck trickled slowly across the goal line.
[That goal was] “huge because we had begun generating scoring chances but hadn’t scored yet,” Gendron said.
Smith made it 2-0 as he wheeled around at the top of the left faceoff circle and wristed a shot toward the net that found its way through a couple of players and beat Brey.
“Sam Becker gave me a nice pass. I shut down in the zone and waited for people to get to the net,” said Smith.
Alftberg scored following a scramble in front of Swayman. The puck rolled out to the high slot and Swayman, who had gotten tangled up during the flurry and was down the ice, couldn’t recover in time to get across. Alftberg whistled a slap shot into the half-empty net.
But the Black Bears answered on the power play as Jacob Schmidt-Svejstrup slid a short pass ahead to Pearson at the bottom of the left faceoff dot. Pearson darted across the top of the crease and roofed a backhander.
“Jacob gave me a good pass and I cut across and lifted it over his glove,” said Pearson.
Swayman preserved the two-goal lead early in the third period when he made an important save off a short-handed 2-on-1.
Kaden Pickering skated down the right wing and slid it across to Michael Laidley in the middle of the slot. Laidley one-timed a wrist shot but Swayman came out and squeezed his pads to make the save.
“I just squared myself to the shooter and tried to stay on my feet,” said Swayman, who credited his defense with an outstanding performance.
The Black Bears blocked 12 shots.
Alexis Binner and Keith Muehlbauer provided assists for UMaine as did Becker and Smith. Carson Gicewicz and Ryan Garvey assisted on Alftberg’s goal for the Saints.
UMaine outshot St. Lawrence 18-4 in the second period after holding an 8-7 edge in the first period and finished with a 37-17 advantage for the game.
The Saints had the better of the play in the first period, limiting the Black Bears to few sustained forechecking opportunities while generating several themselves.
The Black Bears took three penalties in the first period while St. Lawrence was whistled for one.
But UMaine had the best chance of the period while shorthanded as a Mitch Fossier pass sent Brendan Robbins in alone on Brey.
Robbins made a few head fakes and fired a rising wrist shot from 16 feet out but Brey flashed out his glove and made the save.
He had several other gems over the course of the game.
“In the first period, they taught us the difference between an exhibition game and a regular-season game,” Gendron said. “I didn’t think our effort in the 1-on-1 battles was good enough.”
“We came out flat but we readjusted after the first period and played our game,” said Pearson.
St. Lawrence coach Mark Morris said his team dominated the first period but was victimized by young mistakes later in the game.
“Those two quick goals hurt us,” said Morris.
UMaine went 1-for-7 on the power play while SLU went 1-for-8.
“You can’t give a team like them that many power play opportunities,” said Morris.