ORONO, Maine — The University of Maine’s hockey team needed a spark in their Friday night Hockey East battle against the University of New Hampshire.
And it came in an unlikely manner.
A fluke goal by freshman center A.J. Drobot with 4:37 left in the second period, the first of his career, tied it 1-1, and the Eduards Tralmaks scored what proved to be the game-winner 4:16 later as UMaine triumphed 3-1.
Jacob Schmidt-Svejstrup’s one-timer off a Jakub Sirota pass on the power play gave UMaine a valuable insurance goal in the third period.
UMaine is now 6-3-2 overall and 3-2-2 in Hockey East. UNH had its three-game winning streak snapped, and is now 5-3-1 and 3-2-0. They will play again Saturday night at 7.
Jeremy Swayman made 30 saves for UMaine, and Mike Robinson had 24 stops for UNH.
Kohei Sato scored for UNH in the first period from a difficult angle, but Swayman didn’t let the soft goal bother him and turned in an exceptional performance.
Drobot tied it up against the run of play when he was positioned at the UNH blue line and got his stick on Veli-Matti Tiuraniemi’s long pass from the UMaine blue line.
The deflection resulted in a bouncing puck, and Robinson misplayed it, allowing it to tumble past his glove side.
“It was the end of the shift, and I was just trying to deflect it in and get the puck deep,” Drobot said. “I got a bit of puck luck.”
The goal energized the crowd of 4,787 and changed the momentum of the game.
Tralmaks and Schmidt-Svejstrup said the team fed off the crowd’s energy after the goal.
Tralmaks supplied UMaine with the lead off a perfect cross-ice feed from Mitch Fossier.
Adrien Bisson fanned on a slap shot in the right faceoff circle, but Fossier located the puck and sent the puck across to the far post where the unattended Tralmaks one-timed it past Robinson.
“[Fossier] has the best eyes in college hockey. He’s a great playmaker,” Tralmaks said. “I was over there for five or 10 seconds. The goalie saw me and cheated over, but my shot glanced in off him.”
UMaine efficiently protected the lead in the third period, limiting UNH to few high-percentage chances, and Schmidt-Svejstrup joined Tralmaks as the team’s goal-scoring leader with his seventh of the season.
He fired a bullet from the top of the left face-off circle into the far corner.
“[Sirota] put it right in my wheelhouse, and I leaned into it,” said Schmidt-Svejstrup, whose goal came 3:25 into the final period. Poisson also picked up an assist.
UNH coach Mike Souza said the Drobot goal supplied a momentum swing, but he felt UMaine was the better team.
“Give Maine credit. They deserved to win. They beat us to loose pucks. They protected the puck. They wanted the game more than we did,” Souza said. “They outcoached us.”
UMaine held the nation’s fifth-best power play scoreless in five attempts, and UNH only mustered three shots on goal.
“Our entries were terrible, and Maine did a great job on the forecheck,” Souza said.
“We stuck to our structure, Ben [Poisson] and Patrick Shea won some big faceoffs, and we worked together as a unit of four against their five,” said Drobot, one of UMaine’s penalty killers.
UNH had a slight edge in play in the first period, but there were few high-percentage scoring chances between the two teams.
Sato scored his fifth goal of the season just seven seconds after UMaine killed off a penalty.
He received the puck near the left wing boards, and just snapped a waist-high wrist shot toward the net that handcuffed Swayman and slipped through the UMaine goalie.
Liam Blackburn and Chase Stevenson picked up assists on the goal, which came 7:27 into the game.
UNH finished with a 7-6 edge in shots on goal.
Sato had a glorious opportunity to extend the lead later in the period from the middle of the slot but Swayman made a nice save.
UNH kept UMaine penned in its own end for large stretches of the second period and quieted the crowd before Drobot’s good fortune turned the game around.
“We didn’t play as well as we wanted to in the first period but played better in the second and we played real well in the third,” UMaine coach Red Gendron said. “We got stronger. Our penalty-killers did a great job.”
Freshman defenseman Bisson had two assists for UMaine.
UNH sophomore center and leading scorer Jackson Pierson suffered an upper body injury and was in a sling after the game.