Maine Hockey Journal

Defending champs silence the Black Bears

A Union player is screening Maine goalie Matt Morris as Mark Hamilton (#47) attempts to block a shot. (PHOTO: Alex Shehata)

A Union player is screening Maine goalie Matt Morris as Mark Hamilton (#47) attempts to block a shot. (PHOTO: Alex Shehata)

ORONO – Defending National Champions, Union College Dutchmen made the long trip from upstate New York worth it Friday night as they took down the University of Maine men’s ice hockey team 3-0 before 4,895 at Alfond Arena.

The Black Bears were outplayed in the first period by the Dutchmen as evidenced by the 15-6 shots on goal total after 20-minutes of play.

Getting the first goal was a critical factor for Maine last year going 3-11-1 after their opponent scores first. That proved to be the case tonight when the Dutchmen converted on a long shot from the neutral zone by Union sophomore Mike Vecchione.

Black Bears’ goaltender Matt Morris misread the shot as it glanced off his glove and bounced in the crease behind him. The puck had crossed the line before Morris realized the puck got past him. However, by then it was too late as it trickled into the net, and the Dutchmen grabbed that all important first goal and a 1-0 lead at 6:26 of the first period.

“I think in an environment like this, the first goals crucial,” said Union head coach Rick Bennett. “I have to give Maine all the credit in the world for the way they came back tonight. I think they deserved a better fate tonight.”

Union controlled most of the play after grabbing the lead in large part due to a five-minute major charging penalty called against Black Bears freshman Malcolm Hayes.

Although Morris and the Black Bears were able to shut out the Dutchmen while being a man down, the momentum was clearly in favor of Union after the first period.

Maine had a hard time breaking through the Union defense but when they did, the chances were in close on back door opportunities. The best scoring opportunity came early for Maine when junior Devin Shore missed a stuff attempt on a cross-crease pass by Steven Swavely.

Neither team managed to get the puck past the goaltender in the second period as both Maine’s Matt Morris and Union’s Colin Stevens were rock solid in net.

Shots on goal were nearly equal in the second frame with the Black Bears edging the Dutchmen 10-9 but trailing 24-16 after two periods.

Maine didn’t get its first power-play opportunity until midway through the third period, but unfortunately Black Bears the power play struggled to form much of an attack.

Stevens and the Dutchmen held Maine scoreless on just two power plays as the Black Bears are now 0-for-11 in three games this season.

Union also went 0-for-2 on with the man-advantage including a Hayes’ five-minute major.

After freshman Cedric Lacroix’s wrap-around attempt was stuffed by Stevens with just five minutes remaining. The Dutchmen converted on a 2-on-1 break, scored by junior Matt Wilkins on a backhand deflection to the top right-hand corner of the net.

Maine head coach Red Gendron pulled Morris with 1:44 remaining in the game hoping to spark some offense.

The result was an empty net goal for Union freshman Spencer Foo at 18:49 of the third.

At the post-game press conference, Gendron expressed disappointment in the lack of effort by some of the forwards early on in the game, but that it was a lot closer than the 3-0 score indicated.

“We did a good job of righting the ship in the second period,” Gendron said. “We made a mistake running out of position late in the third period, and at that point it’s 2-0, and we dug ourselves a big hole.”

Gendron final assessment of the game boiled down to missed opportunities.

“At the end of the day it was a pretty even game five-on-five. We made a couple of mistakes, and they wound up in the back of the net, and we didn’t capitalize on our chances.”

It was Maine’s first time being shutout at home since losing to the University of New Hampshire in November 2012.

Maine falls to 0-3-0 on the season and has already matched their loss total at home from last season at one.

For the Dutchmen, it was their third win of the season as they improve to 3-0-0 and look to complete the weekend sweep of the Black Bears tomorrow night at Alfond Arena.

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