AMHERST, Mass. — The Hockey East matchup between UMass-Amherst and Maine began with heavy hearts, as Minuteman coach Don “Toot” Cahoon called for a standing ovation from those in attendance in honor of the late Shawn Walsh.
Once the on-ice action commenced, Maine (7-4-2, 3-1-0 HEA) — with a number ’01′ Walsh jersey hanging on the bench — dominated play and handed the Minutemen (6-7, 2-4 HEA) a 6-1 loss.
Colin Shields’ five-on-three one-timer at the beginning of the second period hurt, but a Niko Dimitrakos shorthanded tally took the home squad out the game.
Just 21 seconds after Tim Turner scored on a Minuteman five-on-three to cut the deficit to one, Nick Kuiper’s miscue in the offensive zone led to a two-on-one. Lucas Lawson saucered a pass over Samuli Jalkanen’s stick to a slashing Dimitrakos for the goal.
“I thought that was the turning point as far as momentum,” said Maine coach Tim Whitehead.
The man-down marker for the Bears stole the wind right out of the Mullins Center crowd and the UMass players as Maine buried another goal late to take a 4-1 lead into the third period.
Dimitrakos returned the favor to Lawson on another two-on-one. UMass goalkeeper Mike Johnson misread the play, expecting Dimitrakos to shoot, and was beat low by an accurate shot off Lawson’s forehand.
Johnson came into the game with two straight shutouts over Dartmouth and Vermont, but allowed five goals to the most dangerous offensive squad in the conference.
Maine gave itself countless odd-man rushes by being patient with the puck on one wing and feeding the puck across to the opposite winger in full stride. That strategy was the cause for both odd-man goals in the second period.
“There is fire burning behind these guys when they get the puck in the neutral zone,” said UMass captain Toni Soderholm.
The game was decided on special teams, where the Bears tallied two goals (one shorthanded, one power play) while UMass managed just the Turner goal on a five-on-three.
Maine goaltender Mike Morrison was solid in net, making 26 saves on the night, including a first-period robbery of Craig MacDonald that would have given UMass the momentum and a stand on the remainder of the power play after the Bears had taken a 3-1 lead.
“He looked very composed,” Whitehead said. “He played a solid game.”
The Minutemen now turn to a road game against defending national champion Boston College to try to bring their overall record back to .500. Maine, on the other hand, has a showdown in Durham against New Hampshire.