DURHAM, N.H. — One night after shutting out Maine but having to settle for a scoreless tie, Ty Conklin stopped 34 of 35 shots to backstop New Hampshire to a 4-1 win over the rival Black Bears. On the weekend, the senior netminder stopped all but one of 64 shots and earned back-to-back selections as the games’ number one star.
“Ty was spectacular,” said Maine coach Shawn Walsh. “That was an All-American and Hobey Baker-like performance this whole weekend.”
UNH coach Dick Umile was every bit as enthusiastic in his praise.
“This culminates what he’s meant to the program,” said Umile. “The shots he was stopping in the third period were like basketballs. He was in complete control.”
In the second period, UNH exploded for three unanswered goals to seize a lead it would never surrender. While Conklin was riding a shutout streak that would eventually reach 158 minutes and 41 seconds, Josh Prudden ended the Wildcats’ own scoreless streak that had stretched to four periods. Jim Abbott added another tally on the power play and defenseman Mike Lubesnick scored his first collegiate goal to establish a 3-0 lead that was never seriously threatened.
“They really showed why they’re in the Top 10 in the country and we showed why we’re not,” said Walsh. “Anybody watching that game had to be terrifically impressed with New Hampshire.
“I thought they really played a thorough game. Part of that is terrific goaltending, which they certainly got, but [also] opportunistic scoring and hustle on the ice.”
As a result of the win and other action in Hockey East, New Hampshire (14-4-4, 5-2-3 HEA) now sits atop the league, tied with Boston College and Providence at 13 points. BC, however, holds a game in hand.
“It was a special weekend [with all] the excitement and enthusiasm and coming out of here with three points,” said Umile. “I really like the way the team competed.”
Maine (9-7-5, 4-4-3 HEA) slips to a tie with Boston University for fourth place, but has played one more game than the Terriers.
“It was disappointing,” said Walsh. “In the second and third periods, we took some steps back. We’ve played really well, but we haven’t had any adversity in a little while. All of a sudden we had some in the second period and got deflated. … I’ve got some work to do.”
Throughout the first period, Maine and New Hampshire appeared on the surface to be poised to take a run at the unthinkable, back-to-back scoreless ties. However, unlike the previous night, both teams consistently generated strong scoring opportunities. While an inordinate number of shots missed the net — 11 for Maine and six for UNH — the quality of the chances deemed another double-shutout highly improbable.
By the period’s end, Maine had outattempted the Wildcats, 30-18, and outshot them, 16-8. For the second straight night, however, the two teams headed to the locker rooms with the score still 0-0.
“Thirty attempts and no power plays,” Walsh noted with amazement. “That’s an unbelievable accomplishment. I don’t know if I’ve had many teams do that. But we came up empty because we don’t score much.”
Prudden made sure that UNH wouldn’t come up empty, breaking the drought at 2:14 of the second. Corey-Joe Ficek got the play started, shooting after coming in from the wing, but the puck bounced out to the point where Garrett Stafford got it back on net. It caromed to Prudden, who put it away for the 1-0 lead.
“It was a big confidence-booster, not only for me but it opened things up for the team,” said Prudden. “Nobody had scored in four periods, so it was good to get that first one in.”
Walsh called timeout at 6:21 because he was unhappy with the way the Black Bears were “not jumping [on the puck] and throwing a lot of air checks.”
However, Abbott soon scored on the power play, following up several Darren Haydar attempts with a patient ripping of a shot from the slot into the upper corner.
At 15:16, Lubesnick made it 3-0 after Sean Austin’s shot was blocked.
Kerluke broke Conklin’s shutout skein and put Maine back into the game at 18:41. Lucas Lawson did the dirty work, carrying down the right side, cutting in and muscling a shot on net. Conklin made the save, but was down and couldn’t cover the loose puck in the crease. Trailing Lawson, Kerluke got to the crease and swatted the puck into the net.
Maine still had some life with one period left to go, but then shot itself in the foot with four consecutive penalties.
In the closing minutes, an uncovered Matt Swain closed out the scoring with a goal from the slot.
Next weekend Maine hosts Boston University for two games; New Hampshire plays a home-and-home series with Merrimack.