August 20, 2019
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Gritty goals lift UMaine men’s hockey team past Colorado College

Pete Warner | BDN
Pete Warner | BDN

ORONO, Maine — The University of Maine men’s hockey team has struggled to score goals this season and went into Wednesday night’s game against Colorado College ranked 52nd among 60 Division I schools in goals per game (2.12).

The Black Bears got back to basics, attacking the net and scoring some gritty goals en route to a 4-2 triumph in an entertaining and fast-paced affair at Alfond Arena.

UMaine erased a pair of one-goal deficits and scored three unanswered second-period goals to snap a streak of nine games in which it scored three goals or less. UMaine hadn’t scored four goals in a game since a 4-3 win over UMass Lowell on Nov. 2.

It was only the third time all season UMaine had scored more than three goals in a game.

Brendan Robbins, Tim Doherty and Patrick Shea scored in the second period for UMaine (6-9-2), which ended a three-game winless streak (0-2-1), a three-game home losing streak and a six-game non-conference skid.

All three had been mired in slumps of various degrees.

Junior center Doherty, UMaine’s second-leading goal scorer with five entering the game, had gone seven games without a goal. Senior left wing Robbins, Doherty’s linemate and an 11-goal scorer last season, had just one this season and junior center Shea had gone nine games without a goal.

Shea’s goal was his third.

“It was good to see guys getting back on the score sheet,” said Shea. “We did the little things better tonight. We got the puck deep, made plays, forechecked hard and put the pucks on net. They weren’t pretty goals, they were gritty. And that was the difference.”

Colorado College, a 5-1 winner at Merrimack College on Monday, fell to 8-10-2.

Jeremy Swayman finished with 33 saves for UMaine and Alex Leclerc made 21 for National Collegiate Hockey Conference team Colorado College.

Erik Middendorf and Trey Bradley had sandwiched early first-period goals around one by UMaine co-captain Chase Pearson.

“We’re all sick of losing. We had the mentality in the locker room that we weren’t going to lose this game,” said Pearson, a junior center. “We came out and grinded and got it done.”

The Black Bears used their size and strength advantage against the smaller, quicker Tigers to effectively sustain their forecheck.

“After a sloppy first period, we played pretty well and took control of the game in the second,” said UMaine head coach Red Gendron, whose team was outshot 14-8 in the first period.

“That was much more like the way we want to play,” he added. “That’s our identity as a team. It was a solid win.”

Robbins scored at the 8:06 mark of the middle period off a sustained forecheck. Doherty eventually fired a wheel-around shot from the right circle that was saved by Leclerc but Robbins sprinted to the net front and shoveled the rebound into the net with Adam Dawe screening at the edge of the crease.

“I just wanted to put it on net, we had a screen and (Robbins) tapped it in,” said Doherty.

Just 3:01 later, Doherty intercepted an errant pass by Ben Israel in the low slot, took a stride and fired a wrist shot past Leclerc’s blocker.

“I saw (Israel) coming around on his backhand so I knew it was going to be a hard play for him to make so I put my stick in the lane and he put it right on my stick,” said Doherty.

Shea scored just six seconds after CC coach Mike Haviland called a timeout. The Black Bears had been enjoying a lengthy spell of puck possession in the CC end.

Rob Michel evaded a Tiger at the midpoint and wristed the puck toward the net and Shea deflected it past Leclerc.

The game got off to a whirlwind start with the teams combining for three goals in a span of 1:54 over the first 4:35.

Middendorf staked the Tigers to a 1-0 lead at the 2:41 mark with his fourth goal of the season before Pearson answered 3:54 later with his team-leading 10th tally.

But Bradley responded 41 seconds later with his sixth of the season.

Colorado College’s goals came on its first two shots on goal but Swayman stopped the the next 33 including 12 first-period stops.

Pearson said Swayman shouldered the blame for the first-period deficit and told the team he was a “going to play better the rest of the way. He played great and when your goalie is on, it gives you a lot of confidence.”

“Maine came out hungry in the second period and put a lot of pressure on us,” said Haviland. “They turned it up. We made some mistakes and they made us pay.”

Middendorf opened the scoring when Troy Conzo passed to him from behind the net and Middendorf beat Swayman to the far side with a 15-foot one-timer from the inner half of the right faceoff circle.

Pearson tied it by darting out of the corner to the left of Leclerc and beating the goalie to the far post before sliding it home.

Bradley answered swiftly when he was sent in down the right wing by Mason Bergh before pulling the puck to his backhand and flipping the puck over Swayman’s shoulder into the short-side corner.

Swayman had 14 third-period saves and he caught a break when Zach Berzolla’s shot on a delayed penalty hit the crossbar with 10 minutes left.

UMaine plays Yale at 7 p.m. Monday at Cross Insurance Arena in Portland.

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