BOSTON – After a 4-2 loss to Northeastern on Friday night at Matthews Arena, the No. 10 Maine Black Bears bounced back in a big way as they posted a 7-1 win to split the weekend series and steal the season set.
With the win, the Black Bears snap a two-game losing skid as they head into their final regular season game next Saturday against archrival New Hampshire at the Alfond Arena. Despite the down streak, Maine has won three of the last five games and nine of the previous 12 contests, dating back to Jan. 20.
“I thought we had more intensity,” said Maine head coach Tim Whitehead about the difference in his team’s play in the series. “We played with a lot more composure as well. For the most part, stayed out of the box at key times. We just executed better as a team.”
“I thought [Northeastern] just did a great job last night, bottling us up and getting to those loose pucks. We skated with a little more intensity and maybe that just help give us an edge…”
Maine scored three of the first four goals in the first period, including a pair in the span of just over one minute to begin the scoring. The Huskies held a 9-7 advantage in shots on goal, despite potting just one goal off the stick of junior Vinny Saponari.
“We obviously did not get off to the type of start we wanted to early in the game,” said NU head coach Jim Madigan. “I thought our kids were ready and understood the urgency to the game but we just did not get that start, then we fell behind.”
“When you play a team like that and they get up by three goals with their skills, they keep coming at you. It got to a point where they scored five unanswered at the end. Congratulations to them. It was a nice win for them. They needed it and we obviously needed it.”
Junior Kyle Beattie sent a cross-ice pass to his classmate Adam Shemansky at 4:14, re-directing the puck past NU’s Chris Rawlings, who was down and out on the play.
At the 5:26 mark, the Black Bears doubled their lead on senior Theo Andersson’s second of the season. The Gothenburg, Sweden native took a pass from sophomore Jon Swavely, beating Rawlings on soft shot low.
The Huskies got on the board with a power-play goal at the 8:46 mark as Saponari netted his sixth of the season on a one-timer past Maine sophomore Dan Sullivan through traffic. The goal was the Georgia native’s second in as many games and his fifth of the season.
Maine responded just over a minute later on a power play of its own when sophomore Mark Anthoine took a pass from Shemansky for his 11th of the season, yanking Chris Rawlings from the Northeastern goal after stopping just three of the four shots he faced in 9:52.
The Black Bears scored both goals in the middle period, taking a commanding four-goal advantage into the second intermission. In the period, Maine held a 10-5 advantage in shots on goal and 22-13 in total chances.
At 3:25, sophomore Mark Anthoine passed off to a crashing junior Joey Diamond for the tip-in goal – his team-best 21st score of the season and third in the last four contests.
The Black Bears added a fifth goal at the 18:39 mark as senior Spencer Abbott tipped in freshman Jake Rutt’s shot from the left point for his 18th goal of the season and second in as many nights in the series.
Maine continued the onslaught in the third period, scoring two more goals to result in the final 7-1 count. Each team took nine shots on goal, while the Black Bears finished with a close 26-23 edge.
At 2:39, Maine’s ever-dangerous top unit connected and all three forwards impacted the scoring as Abbott beat sophomore Clay Witt on the right post.
The Black Bears came back with a power-play goal at the 7:00 mark as Diamond collected the rebound and beat Witt on the five-hole for his fourth goal allowed in the contest – a new career-worst mark.
The Huskies rolled through all three goaltenders on the staff in the contest, including 13 minutes in the third period from junior Bryan Mountain. The Bryn Mawr, Penn. native stopped all 14 shots he faced in his first appearance since Jan. 16, 2010.
Senior Josh Seeley posted a save in 4:25 of action as he played in just his second-career game, relieving Dan Sullivan after a 21-save effort that earned his third star honors.
Northeastern was playing with an injury-riddled line-up after several injuries over the past couple weeks. Senior captain Mike McLaughlin and junior forward Alex Tuckerman suffered hits in Friday’s game and were ruled out of tonight’s contest with concussions.
“Injuries are part of the game,” Madigan said. “You just have to go out and play…We’ve got confidence in everyone in the locker room and more importantly, the team has confidence in each one of their teammates collectively. So, it gave some other guys an opportunity and we had to juggle things around.”
The Huskies are back in an eighth-place tie with UMass after it defeated UNH to split a weekend series at the Mullins Center. They will close the regular season with a pair of games against archrival Boston University next weekend.