It was supposed to be a night of celebration at the University of Maine’s Alfond Arena capped off by a Black Bear hockey win over a University of Vermont team that hadn’t won a Hockey East game all season and hadn’t dented the win column in 2020.
But the visiting Catamounts put a little damper on the festivities by earning a 0-0 tie and prying a valuable point away from the Black Bears, who are hoping to claim a top-four finish and a home-ice berth for the Hockey East quarterfinals.
UMaine is now 17-10-5 overall and 11-8-3 in Hockey East, while last-place Vermont, one of the two lowest scoring teams in Division I (1.68 goals per game) is 3-22-6 (0-17-4 HE) and had its winless streak extended to 15 games (0-11-4).
It was “White-Out Night” as fans were issued white towels to wave during the game. Several former UMaine players were on hand to show their gratitude to Tom and Sally Savage, whose $1 million Savage Challenge, established five years ago, has been consummated.
The Savages donated $1 million toward a hockey endowment with the stipulation that hockey alumni and supporters raise $1 million of their own and that has been achieved.
The Black Bears, 6-1 winners over Vermont on Friday night, outshot the Catamounts 33-30 but didn’t get nearly the number of high-quality scoring chances as Vermont tightened up its defensive play.
Both goalies were outstanding. UMaine junior goalie Jeremy Swayman finished with 14 Grade-A saves among his 30, including a breakaway stop off UVM captain Derek Lodermeier with seven minutes left in the third period. UVM senior Stefanos Lekkas made 19 high-percentage stops among his 33.
It was Swayman’s second shutout in three games and he has allowed just one goal over his last 197 minutes, four seconds.
Even though Lekkas was the busier of the two goalies, Swayman had to face more odd-man rushes including Lodermeier’s clean breakaway off a Max Kaufman pass.
“Swayman came out pretty hard and I tried to go five-hole but he shut it down,” Lodermeier said. “We couldn’t solve him tonight. He played well as did Lekkas.”
“[Lodermeier] didn’t have much time to make a decision because our defensemen were [coming back] on him. He showed his shot, that he was going five-hole, and I got my right pad on it,” said Swayman, who was frustrated by the result.
“We owe these fans more than that,” said Swayman, whose .938 save percentage ranks third in the country.
The Black Bears were also forced to kill off two, five-minute majors on sophomore defenseman Simon Butala. He was penalized for boarding in the first period and a contact-to-the-head infraction early in the third period that also earned him a game misconduct.
“We spent an awful lot of time killing penalties,” said UMaine coach Red Gendron, whose team killed off a total of 12 penalty minutes. “Having to kill off two five-minute power plays was a big factor. But if we didn’t kill them off, we would have lost. That was the positive. We got the job done but our guys were gassed.”
UMaine senior left wing, captain and leading scorer Mitch Fossier said the Bears didn’t do a good enough job generating second chances.
“Give [Lekkas] credit, he was good but we needed to do a better job getting more bodies in front of him,” Fossier said. “And we passed up some chances to shoot.”
UVM 17th-year coach Kevin Sneddon, who is retiring at the end of the season, said both goalies were outstanding.
“We had the majority of the odd-man rushes tonight after giving up two-on-ones and breakaways like they were candy last night. We had a couple two-on-ones, two three-on-ones but Swayman played great,” Sneddon said.
Lekkas’ best save came in the first period when he got his blocker on a Jacob Schmidt-Svejstrup re-direction off an Adam Dawe pass.
UMaine visits Providence for a 4:30 game on Saturday.