The home team finally won a game in the University of Maine-Quinnipiac University hockey series.
Sophomore left wing Wyatt Bongiovanni’s goal 3:20 into the third period turned out to be the game-winner Saturday night as Quinnipiac nipped the Black Bears 4-3 to earn a split of their weekend series at People’s United Center in Hamden, Connecticut.
UMaine’s 4-2 victory on Friday night had marked the sixth consecutive time the visiting team had triumphed in the series between the Hockey East Black Bears and the Bobcats of the ECAC Hockey League.
Quinnipiac, which went into the series ranked eighth in one national poll and 10th in the other, improved to 3-1. UMaine fell to 3-2 after having its three-game winning streak snapped.
UMaine freshman goalie Matthew Thiessen, a seventh-round draft pick of the Vancouver Canucks, made his college debut but surrendered three goals on six shots in a span of 3:02 early in the first period. He was replaced by junior Jeremy Swayman.
Jacob Schmidt-Svejstrup opened the scoring for UMaine just 3:22 into the game but Michael Lombardi tied it up 38 seconds later. Ethan Leyh gave the Bobcats a lead they would never relinquish 2:17 after that and Ethan de Jong made it 3-1 only 45 seconds later.
Sophomore left wing Schmidt-Svejstrup converted on a two-man advantage at the 8:26 mark of the second period to pull UMaine within one but Bongiovanni scored off a faceoff 3:20 into the third period and the Bobcats survived an Eduards Tralmaks goal with 8:01 left to collect the win.
UMaine head coach Red Gendron defended his decision to start Thiessen even though Swayman had posted a 1.31 goals-against average and a .957 save percentage in his previous three starts, including Friday’s 31-save outing.
Swayman finished Saturday’s contest with 31 saves on 32 shots.
“[Thiessen] is a good goalie. He is an NHL draft pick,” Gendron said. “Starting him was the best thing for our team, long-term. today. We believe he can win games. But it didn’t turn out that way.”
Senior left wing and captain Mitch Fossier said the goals weren’t Thiessen’s fault.
“In the first 10 minutes, we had too many breakdowns. He hung him out to dry,” Fossier said. “It was his first college game and it was an away game against a top-10 team and we didn’t help him out. That’s on us.”
Schmidt-Svejstrup opened the scoring by ripping a wrist shot off a J.D. Greenway pass past Keith Petruzzelli.
Lombardi capitalized on a failed UMaine attempt to clear the puck 38 seconds later as Leyh roofed a shot off a William Fallstrom pass. Then de Jong converted an Odeen Tufto feed.
Schmidt-Svejstrup’s one-timer off a Doherty pass cut the deficit to one and the Black Bears still had a one-man advantage for 4:43 because Desi Burgart picked up a five-minute major for cross-checking.
However, the Black Bears failed to get the equalizer.
Bongiovanni gave the Bobcats some breathing room when his shot through a maze of players off a faceoff beat Swayman. Tufto picked up an assist.
Tralmaks scored his team-high sixth goal of the season off a pass from senior center and alternate captain Tim Doherty and the Black Bears had several opportunities to tie it but couldn’t put the puck past Petruzzelli, who finished with 22 saves.
“We fought back and came inches away from tying it,” Fossier said. “We had some good looks. There were a lot of positives.”
“We showed we can play with a top-10 team on the road,” Doherty said. “We had an opportunity to take four points [two wins]. I was really happy with the effort the guys put forward.”
Tufto posted two assists for Quinnipiac and Bongiovanni logged an assist to go with his goal.
Tralmaks, Fossier and Doherty each extended their points streaks to four games.
Tralmaks registered an assist to go with his goal and now has provided six goals and three assists in his last four games. Doherty’s two assists give him 3 & 5 and Fossier’s assist was his eighth in four games.
UMaine visits Vermont (1-1 overall, 0-0 HE) for a single 7:05 p.m. Friday night Hockey East game.