The Takeaway: Flynn Clinches 5-4 OT Win for Maine

Posted by: Joe Meloni

BOSTON — Maine senior Brian Flynn scored 1 minute, 29 seconds into the overtime, as Maine defeated New Hampshire, 5-4, in the second game from Fenway Park Saturday night.

While Flynn factored in just one of Maine’s five goals, linemates Spencer Abbot and Joey Diamond gave the Black Bears great efforts with three assists and two goals and an assist, respectively. The line as been Maine’s most consistent all season, and its performance on such a large stage could be big for the Black Bears moving forward.

Fore New Hampshire, the same issues they’ve experienced for most of the season showed up again. While the offense eventually found its stride after struggling early on, UNH’s team defense let it down once again. On the penalty kill, the Wildcats allowed three goals to Maine. Kevin Goumas picked up a pair of goals for UNH, including a shorthanded goal with two teammates in the box.

What I Saw

  • The teams spent the second half  of periods playing more conservatively than the first. As the periods moved forward and the ice softened, the players shifted from their usual aggressive play. All nine of the goals scored in the period came came in the first half of a period or a minute or two after. Play slowed from that point on, and the teams opted for shorter shifts and essentially eliminated any risky passing plays. Late in regulation, both teams were more forceful, especially UNH, but the hesitance was obvious throughout the game.
  • Maine’s second and third lines provided a greater lift than they were earlier in the season. The pair of goals scored by third-like Marc Anthoine gave him eight on the season. While both came on the power play without his usual linemates, Stu Higgins and Connor Leen, the sophomore has developed a scoring touch that Maine needs to succeed late in the season. Players like Kyle Beattie and Adam Shemansky gave similarly strong efforts for Maine, contributing in maintain possession and helping the Black Bears establish their power play.
  • Dan Sullivan fought the puck most of the night. The sophomore has been good at times for Maine, but the Wildcats appeared to have him off his game at times. Shots from the point, especially those from the center of the blue line, challenged Sullivan who missed a few before they were already on him. Fortunately for Maine, those shots were high or wide more often than not. However, even on shots from close range, Sullivan struggled to react well. In the end, the Maine defense prevented UNH from maintaining consistent pressured, which resulted in just 10 shots through the first two periods. Late in the game, though, when the Wildcats became more urgent, they successfully created offense on Sullivan with good puck movement and quality shots from distance.
What I Thought
  • Spencer Abbott was Maine’s best player on the ice. Both Diamond and Anthoine scored twice, while Brian Flynn picked up the game-winning goal. However, both of Diamond’s goals and Flynn’s winner began with the heady play from Abbot. On Diamond’s second goal, Abbott moved from the half-wall to the slot with the puck on his forehand and a UNH defender playing him closely. After a quick stop, he drew the UNH defender and slid the puck into the low slot where Diamond easily slipped it past UNH goaltender Casey DeSmith. Abbott’s pass was one that very few players in college hockey could successfully make. Abbott does this every week for the Black Bears, and this is why he’s a frontrunner for Hockey East Player of the Year.
  • UNH’s team defense was as bad as ever. Once again, the Wildcats received a solid performance on the offensive end, but were  plainly terrible defensively. Both coaches used the word “luck” and “bounce” when describing Flynn’s winner, but Maine’s puck movement on the play was barely challenged by the Wildcat skaters. Both of Diamond’s goals, while finished clinically, could have been prevented with better defense — something UNH has yet to show on a consistent basis this season. DeSmith has essentially taken the job from senior goaltender Matt Di Girolamo, but it really won’t matter if UNH’s defense doesn’t get better quickly.
What They Said
“The two guys that quietly, I thought, had a great game were (Ryan) Hegary and Mark (Nemec). I look at them like our offensive line guys. They’ll just doing anything for the team. They block shots, they kill penalties, they defend against other teams’ top lines. They were fabulous tonight.” — Maine coach Tim Whitehead.
Both Hegarty and Nemec finished the game even in terms of plus/minus and neither registered a point. However, their consistently strong defensive play continued Saturday night. While the pair was on the ice for the first UNH goal, Whitehead put them back on UNH’s top line of Goumas, Nick Sorkin and Stevie Moses throughout the game and they excelled.
What They Didn’t Say
Umile and his players are not ready to worry about 2011-12. With 14 league games remaining, the Wildcats obviously have time to get back where they expected to be. However, at the close of Saturday’s action, they are out of playoff spot. With its win over Vermont in the first game of Frozen Fenway, Massachusetts leapt over the Wildcats into a seventh-place tie with Northeastern. Again, there is a lot of hockey left for the Wildcats to play, but the biggest problem they’ve had all season is still a major concern. They simply can’t stop anyone from scoring. Benching Di Girolamo in favor of DeSmith didn’t work against Maine, and it really was never the biggest issue in the first place. As a team, the Wildcats consistently allow too many scoring chances to their opponents. As usual, the UNH offense has found its stride. However, they have not been successful in terms keeping other teams off the board.
What Else You Should Know
UNH’s next game comes next Wednesday against Providence at Schneider Arena. The game with the Friars is a quick turnaround for UNH, but that could be ideal given the way this week ended. One week from Saturday, they head to Manchester, N.H., for their annual game against in-state rival Dartmouth.
Meanwhile, Maine heads back to Massachusetts next weekend for a pair in North Andover against Merrimack. Maine coach Tim Whitehead thinks his club can use the two points it picked up to power it moving forward. The games with the Warriors will be critical for both clubs, as Merrimack is quickly wasting a lot of the cachet it built earlier this season.
UNH and Maine do not meet against until the final weekend of the regular season. Originally, that was supposed to be a two-game weekend in Orono, however, Maine had to sacrifice a home game to make Frozen Fenway happen — a decision I’m sure Whitehead is pleased with now.

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