Maine Hockey Journal

Nor’easters advance to NEHC Semifinals

(PHOTO: UNE Sports Information)

(PHOTO: UNE Sports Information)

BIDDEFORD – Harold Alfold Forum was packed to the brim with University of New England Nor’easter fans Saturday night for the first home playoff game in 11 years, and the home team didn’t disappoint in a 4-1 victory over the New England College Pilgrims in the New England Hockey Conference Quarterfinals.

The fourth-seeded Nor’easters (14-9-3) advances to face top-seeded UMass-Boston, who earned a 4-0 victory over University of Southern Maine, in the NEHC Championship Tournament next Saturday in Boston.

The Nor’easters came out of the locker room to a rowdy crowd, which made for a very hostile environment for the Pilgrims.

“I thought we gave a great effort,” said NEC’s coach Tom Carroll. “It was two good teams battling, and like it always does it came down to a bounce of the puck. The two quick ones they got really gave them momentum, and they had a great crowd here tonight.”

Armand Uomoleale put the finishing touches on the 4-1 win when he and Ryan Quinn played a pass out front of the NEC goalie and Uomoleale buried the puck. The final tally came with 3:29 remaining in the game.

After a few close calls in their defensive end, the Nor’easters got on the board for the first time with 5:58 remaining in the first period.

Senior captain Kyle Williams danced around a defenseman in the neutral zone and skated past the blue line. Williams fired a shot to the lower left corner of the goal to put his team up 1-0 late in the period. Tucker Ross had the lone assist on the play.

With the crowd still cheering from the first goal, Nick Wirth added another for UNE.

Just 18 seconds after the first goal, Wirth put a rebound past the leg pad of NEC goaltender Brett Kilar. Danny Antonoff’s initial shot caused the rebound. Cassidy April also added an assist to the goal.

It looked like the Nor’easters would take a 2-0 lead into the dressing room, but NEC’s Kyle Arenson’s got his team on the board with 3.8 seconds remaining. Arenson took a pass from Garrett Brazzier and, while getting checked to the ice, lifted a shot past UNE’s freshman goaltender Connor Maloney.

“I thought we carried the play for 19:57 and they got that goal with three seconds left, but we shouldn’t let that deter us from what we’re doing,” said first-year UNE coach Kevin Swallow. “I thought we responded well and played a good second period.”

The majority of the second period was a goaltender battle until the 1:20 mark when Brady Fleurent added to the Nor’easter lead.

Fleurent caught a pass from Tony Crow, chipped the puck around a sprawling defenseman, and skated on Kilar in net. Fleurent faked left to right waiting for Kilar to commit, and roofed a shot to the vacated top-left corner of the goal.

Fleurent’s goal gave UNE a 3-1 lead heading into the third period with shots 30-28 in favor of NEC.

Both Kilar and Maloney played a strong game in net for their respective teams, but Maloney’s one-goal performance pushed his team to victory.

“Connor was great,” said Swallow of his young goaltender. “He’s all-rookie team in the league this year, so the guys have a lot of confidence in front of him. I thought he played great and made all the saves he needed to. I think we played really great defense too.”

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