ORONO, Maine — The University of Maine’s men’s hockey team did something it hadn’t done in over a year on Saturday night and its sophomore goalie, Jeremy Swayman, regained the form that earned him a berth on the All-Hockey East Rookie Team last season.
The Black Bears scored three power play goals in a game for the first time since they notched three in a victory over Vermont on Dec. 2, 2017, and Swayman made a career-high 53 saves as UMaine upset the No. 2 University of Massachusetts Minutemen 4-3 at Alfond Arena.
The wildly entertaining shootout saw the two teams combine for 128 shot attempts of which 89 went on goal. UMass held a 76-52 edge in attempts and 55-34 advantage in shots on goal.
Second-period power-play goals by Alexis Binner, Eduards Tralmaks and Brady Keeper provided a 4-1 lead for UMaine (9-12-3 overall, 5-6-3 HE) after Emil Westerlund and UMass’ John Leonard had swapped first-period scores.
The Minutemen (19-5, 11-3 HE) rallied to pull within one on Jacob Pritchard’s power-play goal and Mitchell Chaffee’s short-handed goal just 1:54 apart midway through the third period.
But the Black Bears survived a late 6-on-4 power play as UMass coach Greg Carvel pulled goalie Matt Murray (30 saves) in favor of an extra attacker for the final 1:30.
Swayman stopped Leonard’s penalty shot 49 seconds into the second period with the score tied 1-1 and UMaine capitalized twice on a five-minute contact-to-the-head major assessed to Jake Gaudet to take a 3-1 lead.
“That five-minute major really swung momentum in our favor,” UMaine junior center and co-captain Chase Pearson said. “We’ve been working on the power play quite a bit and watching a lot of film and it translated tonight.”
“Special teams were a big factor, obviously,” UMass coach Greg Carvel said. “But, to me, the penalty shot was a turning point. We could have been up 2-1 but instead we were down 3-1.”
“That was a big, big save,” Pearson said. “If they had scored, they might have potted another one and it would have been a whole different game.”
Leonard skated down the middle of the ice, made a head fake and pulled the puck to his left only to have Swayman slide over and get his blocker on the shot.
“He tried to go five-hole and I got a piece of it,” Swayman said.
Just 5:03 later, Gaudet was called for his five-minute major at the expense of UMaine senior defenseman and co-captain Rob Michel. Both players were shaken up and received medical assistance before gingerly skating to their locker rooms.
Michel did eventually return to the game.
Binner scored seven seconds into the major and Tralmaks expanded the lead 3:29 later.
Binner scored off a screened wrist shot from the midpoint off a Mitch Fossier pass.
“We were told to shoot all the time. I waited for Tralmaks to get in the way and he set a great screen,” Binner said.
Tralmaks scored with a screened wrister from the inner half of the right circle off a Jakub Sirota pass.
“I saw a little opening far post and funneled the puck through hoping to create a rebound. But the puck went in,” Tralmaks said.
The Black Bears went back on the power play at the 13:10 mark and Keeper scored 46 seconds later when he the period when he busted toward the net front and redirected a Fossier pass past Murray’s glove.
Pritchard cut the lead to 4-2 7:29 into the third period with a one-timer off a diagonal pass from Marc Del Gaizo and Chaffee took advantage of a UMaine turnover to create a two-on-one and he sailed a wrist shot past Swayman’s glove.
Pritchard had a glorious opportunity to tie it when he gathered in the puck in the right faceoff circle and skated across the goalmouth in a one-on-one with Swayman. But Swayman made the save.
“I knew he didn’t have much leeway. He had to try to stuff it or take it wide. He tried to put it five-hole and I sealed the bottom,” Swayman said.
In the final minute, Brendan Robbins blocked a Cale Makar shot with his wrist during a wild scramble to help preserve the win.
“The guys really sold out [to block shots]. Without them, this win wouldn’t have happened,” said Swayman, who had 20 Grade-A (high-percentage) saves among his 53 while Murray wound up with 16 among his 30.
Westerlund opened the scoring by swatting home a Canon Pieper rebound before Leonard tied it with a wrister off a Pritchard drop pass.
“In the third period, we lost our discipline a little bit and they made a couple of plays and got back into the game. Kudos to them,” UMaine coach Red Gendron said.
“But we composed ourselves the last three or four minutes and made it tough for them,” Gendron added. “Swayman was terrific.”
“This will be a big confidence booster,” Tralmaks said.