|New Hampshire||University of Maine|
ORONO, Maine – Cedric Lacroix hadn’t scored at Alfond Arena all season long, but on Friday night he scored the game-winning goal with 3:31 to play in the third period to lift Maine to a 4-1 win over rival New Hampshire in the first game of a best-of-three Hockey East Opening Round playoff series.
Lacroix’s tally was one of three in the third period for the Black Bears, who moved to 17-14-4 overall. The Wildcats fell to 10-19-6 on the year. Lacroix added an empty-net goal to tie a career-high and put him at six on the season while Brady Keeper finished with two points on two assists and Brendan Robbins had one goal and one assist for two points. Mitchell Fossier, Alexis Binner and Rob Michel each had one assist while Tim Doherty had an empty-net goal. Jeremy Swayman finished with 26 saves.
The Black Bears pushed the pace in the early going of the opening frame, and at the midway point of the period held a 10-2 edge in shots on goal. Despite the edge in the shot column, the Wildcats earned the edge in the power-play column. The visitors took eight seconds to capitalize on the man-advantage, with Liam Blackburn banging home a loose puck off of a Jason Salvaggio shot.
Maine kept pressing to equalize by the end of the period – with Patrick Shea getting stopped at the doorstep by a strong left toe save from Daniel Tirone – and led in shots, 19-9, but trailed on the scoreboard, 1-0. However, the Black Bears carried that momentum into the second period and took just over three minutes to equalize. After Keeper hit Michel with a pass in Maine’s defensive zone slot, the junior defenseman sent the puck the length of the ice towards Tirone. Robbins streaked through the defense – waving off the icing – and shoveled the puck between Tirone and the right post. The UNH goaltender lost track of the puck and Robbins got his 11th of the season.
In three regular season meetings, the two teams had played three overtime games and seemed destined for a fourth until Lacroix got the crowd on its feet.
As Fossier carried the puck up the right wing, a crashing Binner called for the puck in the slot. The freshman’s one-timer struck the pad and the rebound fell inches to the right to Lacroix for a slam past the outstretched glove of left-handed Tirone.
Two minutes later, with Tirone on the bench in favor of an extra attacker, UNH won a face-off to the right of Swayman but Doherty quickly regained possession and worked with Robbins to get up the right wing towards center ice where Doherty fired the puck into the empty net.
Twenty-six seconds later, Lacroix finished off the scoring when he hustled down the ice, diving to knock in a long clearance from Keeper.
Tirone finished with 45 saves for the Wildcats. Maine hled the final edge in shots on goal, 49-27.
Maine and UNH will drop the puck on game two of the series tomorrow night at 7:30 p.m.