Five Observations From Fenway: Maine 5, UNH 4

Fun finishes – Folks at Fenway paid good money to catch their respective schools in action Saturday, and were rewarded with bonus hockey in both games. The late game rolled into overtime after a pair of UNH goals erased a 4-2 Maine lead early in the third.

Spencer Abbot set up the game-ender, centering to Joey Diamond, who shot into Brian Flynn’s screen. Flynn tipped the puck, which flipped over goalie Casey DeSmith, to cap the scoring at 5-4.

“What a great night,” Maine coach Tim Whitehead said. “Both games going to OT . . . The fans were unbelievable. Just a great atmosphere.

Three leaders leading – Maine’s veteran top line of Spencer Abbott, Brian Flynn, and Joey Diamond was lethal through the night. From the first shift of the game, the trio pressured UNH goalie Casey DeSmith. Diamond tested the netminder with a pair of scoring chances in the first three minutes, and wound up striking twice times in the game.

The line’s prettiest came at the start of the third. Taking advantage of a fresh sheet, Abbott dazzled with a playmaker’s delight in the UNH slot. The senior wound for a slap shot, but held back, instead spinning toward the blue line and sliding a no-look backhand pass to Diamond as he zipped through the low slot. Diamond caught and released the dish, depositing it in UNH’s cage via DeSmith’s five-hole.

“As a linemate, you always have to be ready for a pass, ready to shoot, because you never know when he’s going to pass,” Flynn said about Abbot, who turned in three assists Saturday. “He creates a lot of space. I think a lot guys are starting to back off because they know how skilled he is.”

The line finished with a combined three goals, four assists, and 19 shots on the night.

Snooze-Fest First – The first period opened with a bang, as each team scored a goal in the first five minutes. John Henrion netted the opening tally for UNH. The junior scored on a juicy rebound left by goalie Dan Sullivan on Grayson Downing’s backhand rush shot. That goal came just 1:05 into the first.

At 4:10, Maine’s Mark Anthoine equalized the scoreboard. Kyle Beattie picked up the primary assist, sliding a backhand pass from the left corner to Anthoine in the slot. Three UNH defenders stood and watched as Anthoine corralled the puck and whipped it by goalie Casey DeSmith.

The rest of the first was a snoozer. The team’s only combined for 17 shots in the period, and most of those came in the first five minutes. The team’s combined for only a single shot on goal in the last eight minutes, instead turning to the decade-old hockey tradition of dump, chase, retrieve, and repeat.

“I think that’s about both teams in a mindset of, ‘How are you going to play these outdoor games,’” UNH coach Dick Umile said. “You want to really manage the puck, but it’s going to bounce on you.

“It’s not like it’s fast ice, so you really have to manage the puck. I think that’s what both teams were probably trying to do.”

Weather effect – These outdoor games are a fantastic spectacle. The 38,456 in attendance were abuzz, the players and coaches had a tremendous time, and even us media types enjoyed the chance to gather and watch some Hockey East action in a unique venue.

Unfortunately, the hockey itself is at times lackluster, at best, in these games. evidenced by the first 11 or so minutes of the second period. The slow, conservative style of the first period carried over, but the wear and tear on the rink, paired with the gametime temperature of 49 degrees, made for some miserable hockey. Crews shoveled wagons-worth of snow from the surface at TV timeouts, and the puck still moved as it would through molasses. The traditional spray showered from player’s skates on quick stops looked less like a snowfall and more like a rainstorm.

From the press box, a trail followed the puck as it plowed through the snow on the ice’s surface like a muted version of Fox’s old “glow-puck” feature from the 1990s.

As the temperature fell, the rink’s condition actually improved, leading to a more up-tempo third period and overtime.

The weather is going to affect the game that way. That’s inevitable. Weather conditions are unpredictable – duh – and even in a near-perfect environment, outdoor surfaces are tough to manage. Props to the crew charged with handling the ice. By all accounts, those folks deserve rave reviews for how they’ve managed the surface. In the end, there’s only so much that can be done, which is a shame, because otherwise, events like these are a worthy highlight on the college schedule.

When the levee breaks – The teams started the second frame just as they finished the first – struggling to formulate a game plan for the game’s conditions, settling for conservatism in the meantime.

At 11:27 into the second, the alarm clock went off. Kevin Goumas broke the 1-1 tie with a short-handed breakaway tally. Seventeen seconds later, Joey Diamond reknotted the score, tipping in Spencer Abbot’s point shot to capitalize on a 5-on-3. Fifty seconds after that, Mark Anthoine netted his second of the game, The tally came on the 5-on-4 time leftover after Diamond’s goal, with Anthoine shooting through UNH goalie Casey DeSmith’s closing pads on a feed from Adam Shemansky.

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