Durham, NH - On a night that could have separated UNH from the pack in Hockey East, as UMass-Lowell lost earlier in the night, the Wildcats laid an egg against rival Maine in front of a national audience on NBCSN. The Black Bears took an early 1-0 lead on UNH on the shorthand as freshman Devin Shore sent drew defenders to the wall and sent a beautiful saucer pass to fellow freshman Steven Swavely who was true to give Maine the early lead. This lead would hold through the intermission and Maine would play a masterful, defensive second period to take a 1-0 advantage into the the final period.
The flood gates opened in the final 11 minutes of the contest, as Kyle Beattie would score a crucial go ahead goal at the nine minute, 18 second mark to put the Black Bears up 2-0. UNH would answer four minutes later, as Dalton Speelman would tip home an Eric Knodel shot to give UNH some life. But Maine would score two quick goals, 20 seconds apart to give Maine a late 4-1 lead. UNH would then respond with two late goals, but it was not enough and Maine would pick up the 4-3 win.
With the win, Maine clinches the eighth and final spot in the Hockey East playoffs and with the loss UNH falls to a third place tie in Hockey East, one point ahead of fifth place Boston University. UNH needs two points on Saturday night against this same Maine team to clinch home ice in the first round the Hockey East playoffs and are assured of not finishing with the one seed. The best UNH could do is a share of a Hockey East title, if Providence and UMass-Lowell tie. But UNH cannot gain the number one seed because they lost the season series against Providence.
What I Saw
- Maine clogged up the neutral zone and made it extremely difficult for UNH to use their speed. On few occasions did Maine allow UNH to do what they do best and that’s activate the defense. It wasn’t until the third period that UNH was able to do this and it was key on their three goals in the contest, but they were much too late to formulate any sort of comeback.
- UNH just looked like the team that was in Maine’s position and Maine looked like the team that was in UNH’s position. Maine was the aggressor in the first two periods, and Maine scored the timely goals when needed. When UNH seemed destined to tie the game at two, Maine put it away by scoring two quick goals in response. There just seemed to be a pattern to it, where Maine had grown far enough this season to become the better team. It was difficult to notice, as it seemed that Maine was fighting for home-ice and a regular season title, not UNH.
What I Thought
- UNH had everything on the line in this game but laid an egg. The first two periods in front of a selllout crowd did more to quiet the locals than it did to make them stand up and cheer. It was the game that UNH didn’t want to play and it fell right into the hands of Maine. Credit to the Black Bears, though, as they played a phenomenal road game. But the Wildcats fell right into the bear trap that Maine had placed and could never get out of it.
- Maine’s defense has been their strong point all season, but tonight it was the timely goals that gave Maine the win. It is funny to think that Maine is going to the playoffs given how far they had dropped early in the season and how bad they played at times. But for them the season will be new and thus the opportunity to make good from the early struggle is at hand. In retrospect though, getting to the playoffs must feel like a win for them.
What They Said
Maine coach Tim Whitehead said,
“It was several different types of game wrapped into one. We calmed down early when we had the lead and they capitalized on their power-play making it very interesting. They did a great job coming back but I am proud of our guys, as it didnt come easy and it was hard fought.”
“The first UNH goal was a key moment and the review gave us a chance compose ourselves. The guys did most of the talking amongst themselves and it was a very key moment when they were able to respond with two quick goals after that.”
UNH coach Dick Umile said,
“Obviously we are very, very disappointed. The second period was just awful for us because we couldn’t handle the puck. We got outplayed but we probably gave them the shots the way we were passing the puck. So I was just really disappointed with the second period.”
“We blew our opprtunitiy to win the regular season championship. The cards were laid out for us to do it, but we I guess we need to win out tomorrow to get home ice.”
Maine Forward Devin Shore said,
“It was a lot of fun out there and we are a pretty excited team right now. Whether we are in the playoffs in the not, these games between these programs mean a lot to both teams.”
“Its really exciting to come down here and pick up a win, considering what happened earlier in the year in our building. It was nice to come down here and repay the favor.”
What Else You Should Know
Maine and UNH will continue the border war tomorrow night on NESN. UNH has home ice in the first round to play for, while Maine can leapfrog Vermont with a win and a UVM loss. Needless to say, if UNH wants to make noise they will have to play the game of their season tomorrow night.
Maine won at the Whitemore Center for the first time since 2005, becoming the second team to break a long winless drought at UNH. The other was Providence, whom defeated UNH in mid-January after a 10 year drought on the road against the Wildcats.