There was nothing easy about the University of Maine’s 3-2 Hockey East victory over Merrimack College on Saturday night.
But the Black Bears used second-period goals 5:05 apart from senior left wing and captain Mitch Fossier and freshman center A.J. Drobot to build a 3-1 lead and survived a late Warrior power play while protecting a one-goal lead to complete a sweep of the Warriors in front of 4,303 at Alfond Arena in Orono.
Jeremy Swayman made 33 saves for UMaine (14-9-4 overall, 8-7-2 AE), which is now 8-0-2 at Alfond Arena this season.
UMaine junior defenseman Cam Spicer scored his first career goal in his 27th game in the first period to provide the Black Bears with a 1-0 lead.
Freshman center Mac Welsher’s sixth goal, coming on the power play, tied it 1:08 into the second period before Fossier broke the tie with his seventh at the 10:34 mark off a 3-on-1 and Drobot expanded the lead 6:05 later with his fourth.
Zach Uens’ fourth, also coming on the power play 38 seconds into the third period for Merrimack (6-18-3, 4-10-3 HE), came on a 35-foot wrist shot past Swayman’s glove.
The Black Bears again had discipline issues, giving the Warriors seven power play chances for the second straight night. And, as in Friday night’s 6-2 UMaine triumph, the Warriors capitalized twice.
“At the end of the day, we got another two points that were very much needed,” UMaine coach Red Gendron said. “Merrimack was gritty and played real hard but we responded.
“It wasn’t easy. Some nights are like that. Whenever you’re struggling for whatever reason, you have to have something you are able to turn to and that last penalty kill was tremendous,” Gendron added. “The disappointing part was our discipline. It wasn’t what it needed to be.”
Jacob Schmidt-Svejstrup was assessed a high-sticking minor with 3:42 left but the Black Bears didn’t allow the Warriors to generate a decent scoring chance.
After the power play, Merrimack senior right wing Sami Tavernier broke in alone on Swayman after a scintillating rush and stickhandling exhibition that saw him weave his way through a maze of Black Bears only to have the junior goalie rob him.
“He made a good move and tried to go five-hole, but I had my paddle [of my goal stick] down,” Swayman said.
“I usually put that one in,” Tavernier said. “But the ice was pretty bad and the puck was bouncing. I went to my backhand and tried to roof it, but he made a good save.”
“He’s the best goalie in the nation, without a doubt,” Fossier said. “He’s the backbone of our team.”
Tavernier had one more opportunity to tie it with three seconds remaining when he was set up for a one-timer at the top of the left faceoff circle, but his blast hit a teammate.
“Maine got a lucky bounce there. That was definitely going in,” Tavernier said.
Fossier broke a 1-1 tie as he converted a Doherty pass by slicing across the net front and tucking a backhander past freshman goalie Jere Huhtamaa, who wound up making 25 stops.
Fossier said Doherty made a nice pass, and he waited to see what Huhtamaa was going to do before he decided his course of action.
“He lunged out at me so I held it [and went around him],” said Fossier, who had a half-empty net available and swept it home.
Drobot expanded the lead as he was behind the net with Eduards Tralmaks, who slid him the puck.
“[Tralmaks] made a great play. He had two guys on him but he chipped the puck between a guy’s legs to me. I tried to get the puck on net [from right along the extended goal line to Huhtamaa’s right],” Drobot said. “I got a little puck luck. The puck caught him on the leg crease [of his pad] behind the knee and it went in.”
Uens made it 3-2 with a wrist shot past Swayman’s glove from the top of the left circle, but the Warriors couldn’t get the equalizer.
“We did a good job getting to the net,” Gendron said.
Spicer’s goal came against the run of play and he was the beneficiary of a fortuitous bounce as his wrist shot from the midpoint hit a Warrior and deflected past Huhtama’s glove.
Welsher tied it with a wraparound between Swayman’s pads 1:08 into the second period.
“We had a great effort but it wasn’t good enough to beat them,” Tavernier said.
Drobot had an assist to go with his goal, and Tralmaks had two assists. Doherty’s assist extended his points streak to seven games (6 goals, 7 assists), while Fossier’s goal moved his points streak to six games (3 & 9).
UMaine will host Northeastern on Friday night, while Merrimack goes to Boston University. Both start at 7:30 p.m.