ORONO, Maine — Coming into Saturday night’s weekend series finale, UMass-Lowell coach Tim Whitehead knew things would have to change dramatically for his club to beat Maine.
“Last night [a 6-2 Maine victory], they just outplayed us in every phase of the game,” said Whitehead. “They won all the one on one battles. We had to turn that around.”
River Hawks forward Ed McGrane scored a pair of goals in the second period, both coming with their team shorthanded, and goaltender Jimi St. John turned away 37 Maine shots, as Lowell defeated the Black Bears, 3-1.
The victory ends Maine’s four-game winning streak and improves the River Hawks’ overall mark to 16-12-3 (9-9-3 Hockey East). The Black Bears drop to 14-10-6 (9-7-4).
McGrane tied the game at the five-minute mark of the second period and notched the game winner six minutes later.
At 4:43 of the second, Lowell’s Josh Allison was sent off for slashing. Following the faceoff, McGrane found himself in a three-on-two rush with Dan Fontas and Ron Hainsey.
“Those guys [Fontas and Hainsey] drew the defense and I just shot it,” said McGrane. His wrister beat Maine goalie Matt Yeats (19 saves) high to the glove side.
Four minutes later, River Hawks forward Laurent Meunier was sent off for slashing and history repeated itself.
This time Maine’s Tom Reimann had a pass intecepted by McGrane at the Maine blueline. McGrane skated in alone on Yeats and went high with a backhander to give Lowell its first lead of the weekend.
“I’ve got to give Lowell a lot of credit,” said Maine coach Shawn Walsh. “They buried their chances in the second period when we had so many more scoring chances. They had four and scored on two. The right guy was shooting the puck.”
McGrane, who now has 14 goals on the season to lead Lowell, caught Walsh’s attention in another area.
“The league is going to have to recognize this guy,” said Walsh. “I give him credit, not so much for the two goals, but because he was winning every faceoff out there tonight.”
“We needed to take a different approach,” said McGrane. “After last night, we knew that we had to win the one on one’s and control the puck.”
The game started off looking as if it might be a replay of the previous evening, when Maine seemed to score at will.
Just 30 seconds into the game, Black Bear forward Martin Kariya took a Michael Schutte feed and skated in alone on St. John. Kariya’s forehander hit the Lowell goalie in the shoulder and bounced in for a quick 1-0 Black Bear lead.
“I was a little worried,” said Whitehead. “I was wondering if it was going to be last night all over again.”
The River Hawks settled down and St. John returned to the form he was displaying prior to Friday night’s contest.
St. John was particularly spectacular in the third period, stopping all 16 shots Maine sent his way, including a spectacular diving pad save on Maine’s Doug Janik while lying flat on his back.
“We knew they’d come at us tonight,” said Janik. “They played physical and we didn’t get the bounces like last night. St. John played great for them.”