The Takeaway: Maine Keeps Playoff Hopes Alive with Win at BC

Posted by: Joe Meloni

CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. — Maine defeated Boston College, 4-1, Friday night in the first game of a weekend pair with the Eagles at Conte Forum. First-period goals from Joey Diamond and Ryan Lomberg put the Black Bears on top, 2-0, after one. Will Merchant added a third late in the second period, before Kyle’s Beattie’s empty-net goal put the game away for Maine. Steven Whitney’s goal at 13 minutes, 6 seconds of the third period gave the Eagles hope, but the Black Bears withstood the pressure to preserve the win.

Junior goaltender Martin Ouellette made 34 saves in the win.

What I Saw

  • Maine was one of the few teams to take time and space from BC’s dominant first line of Whitney, Pat Mullane and Johnny Gaudreau. There was a bit of luck involved; Gaudreau hit a post and a few other bounces fell Maine’s way. Still, the Black Bears’ kept the quick-strike Eagles off balance for most of the night. Closing passing lanes with quality positioning and blocking shots prevented some quality scoring chances from becoming goals.
  • Ouellette looked like premier college hockey goaltender on Friday night. His defensemen made his life as easy as it could’ve been against such a strong offensive team. The odd chance that snuck through rarely troubled Ouellette too much. When tested by the Eagles, he made the few difficult saves he needed to. Inconsistent goaltending is just one of the issues that can plague a team in Hockey East. Since taking over the No. 1 job in Orono, Ouellette has eliminated that as a concern for the Black Bears.
  • Whitney and Kevin Hayes continue to do it all for BC. Friday night, the Eagles were without freshman defenseman Mike Matheson. His absence compounded the issues BC has experienced since Patch Alber suffered a torn meniscus. Since, Hayes and Whitney, both forwards, have featured on defense on BC’s penalty kill. Now, BC coach Jerry would probably rather this not be a necessity. However, an inexperienced and wounded defensive corps has made the move a necessity. Despite the loss on Friday, Hayes and Whitney have performed admirably in the role. Moreover, both play top six minutes five on five and skate on the Eagles first power-play unit.

What I Thought

  • It’s still difficult to put too much stock in this loss given BC’s habit of turning the jets on come Beanpot time. However, there is a very real problem with the play of the Eagles defensemen. Aside from Patrick Wey and Isaac MacLeod, the Eagles typically dress between three and four freshmen on the blue line. Matheson’s injury meant Brooks Dyroff skated alongside Colin Sullivan on BC’s bottom pairing. However, it wasn’t just that duo that struggled. Without Alber and Matheson, BC struggled with outlet passes. Their forwards didn’t help the situation, failing to support the puck. In general, this poor puck management led to turnovers and lengthy possessions for Maine.
  • Even in the loss, Gaudreau looked like the best player on the ice at times. Maine held the winger scoreless, and it clearly wasn’t his best performance of the season. His skills kept BC in the game at times led to a few scoring chances few players in college hockey could’ve created. In the first period, he slipped a shot through a Maine player off a beautiful centering pass from Mullane that snuck by Ouellete and hit the inside of the post enough to keep it out of the net.
  • Maine’s penalty killing likely was the deciding factor in the game. The Black Bears stymied the BC power play in the second period on three separate occasions. Like even-strength play, the Black Bears penalty kill prevented the Eagles from creating many quality chances on the man advantage with disciplined positioning and stick work.

What They Said

“(Maine) was a difficult team for us to play tonight, especially on the penalty kill. … They deserved to win the game.” – BC coach Jerry York

Firstly, it was good to see York back on the BC bench after missing the last two weekends recovering from eye surgery. He said he was still having problems seeing out of his right eye, but a full recovery is expected in the next few weeks.

Maine did a fantastic job of keeping BC’s players out of synch throughout the game. The Eagles created some great chances. It’s impossible to keep a team that talented quiet all night. For the most part, though, Maine did just enough to prevent BC from building much momentum. Late in the game, the Eagles had a power play shortly after Whitney’s goal cut the deficit to 3-1. The Black Bears recovered from Whitney’s goal and played the rest of the game without offering BC too many looks.

What They Didn’t Say

York did not offer a timetable for Matheson’s return. The freshman defenseman missed Friday’s game and will not play tomorrow as he recovers from a concussion. He will undergo tests after the weekend to determine his status moving forward.

What Else You Should Know

  • The win kept Maine from falling even farther behind the Hockey East playoff race. The Black Bears are currently 10th in the league with eight points. They’re one shy of Vermont in ninth and three short of Northeastern for the final Hockey East playoff spot.
  • With Boston University winning at Providence, BC’s loss means the Terriers are just three points behind the Eagles for the No. 1 spot in the league standings.
  • Maine freshman defenseman Ben Hutton did not make the trip to Chestnut Hill.

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