ORONO, Maine — In the first half of the season, Niko Dimitrakos and Colin Shields were two of Maine’s most prolific offensive threats as Shields scored 16 goals and Dimitrakos nine. But, since the Christmas break, Shields had only scored two while Dimitrakos had yet to dent the net.
That all changed at Alfond Arena Saturday as both players lit the lamp twice to lead the Maine Black Bears past the Merrimack Warriors 5-3 to complete the weekend sweep. Maine ran its record to 13-7-4, 7-3-2 in Hockey East, while Merrimack fell to 8-14-2, 3-9-2 in Hockey East.
“[Dimitrakos and Shields] were very sharp tonight,” Maine interim head coach Tim Whitehead said. “They did not have their best game last night. They both bounced back with very strong efforts tonight. They are playing physical and working hard.”
“It was definitely a big relief,” Shields said. “Since Christmas, I haven’t felt like I was playing that well. I couldn’t find my groove.
“I had some jump in my legs tonight, and I got a lot of shots on goal. I think that I could have had a couple more, but anytime you score two goals, you have to be happy with that.”
“It feels good to score,” Dimitrakos said. “It was in the back of my head because I hadn’t score in a while. But, it was good to score one tonight, and then get the second to help the team out.”
Dimitrakos scored Maine’s first two of the night, both times bringing Maine even with Merrimack.
The Warriors jumped out to the lead on the power play at 9:43 of the first period on the first of Nick Parillo’s two goals.
Off of an offensive zone faceoff, Jeff State threw the puck to the front of the net where it went amongst a mass of humanity. Parillo was able to poke it by Mike Morrison.
“I just jabbed it in,” Parillo said. “It kind of followed me into the net.”
Dimitrakos equalized with 4:01 left in the period. He received a long pass at the Merrimack blue line from Matt Deschamps after Metcalf kicked the puck loose from the boards to him. Dimitrakos skated in down the left wing and ripped a slapshot from near the dot, beating Jason Wolfe upstairs to the glove side.
Parillo put the Warriors back out front only 45 seconds into the second period after collecting a loose puck in the slot after Deschamps had broken up a two-on-one. No one, however, picked up Parillo trailing. He was able to move it to his backhand and beat Morrison, who was out of position.
Anthony Aquino got an assist on the play. It was the 100th point of his career at Merrimack.
Dimitrakos, however, tied things again, thanks to a heads up play by freshman Paul Falco. As Dimitrakos came off the bench from a line change, Falco hit him with a pass from the boards on the left side in the Maine zone. Dimitrakos received it on the Merrimack blue line and went in alone on Wolfe. He faked a slapshot from the top of the circle, fooling Wolfe, and then put it by him with a slapshot from the dot as Wolfe tried to dive back cut of the near post at 2:47.
“I pumped it first,” Dimitrakos said. “I had to do that because [Wolfe] came out and there wasn’t anything to shoot at. I had to do that, or go around the net, so I faked and then I had some room.”
“He kept matching me,” Parillo said of Dimitrakos. “He’s a good player and key part of their offense. Maine is an offensive team, and they played well.
Shields’ first of the game was the backbreaker. It came on the power play at 13:06 of the second. Michael Schutte found Shields alone in the low slot to the left of the goal from the blue line. Shields simply one-timed the puck into the net to give Maine its first lead of the night, 3-2.
He scored again at 1:37 of the third put the Black Bears up by two goals. He faked a slapshot and then fired a wrist shot from the right faceoff dot. Wolfe got a piece of the puck with his stick, but it trickled into the net for his 20th goal.
“I was going to shoot at first, but then I remembered Niko scored that goal in the second when he faked him,” Shields said. “I froze him with that. I saw his five-hole open up a little bit. [The shot] was kind of a changeup. It deflected through.”
Tim Reidy made it interesting when he scored with 1:14 left and the goalie pulled for the Warriors.
Merrimack called timeout after the goal, but Maine forechecked relentlessly and was rewarded.
Ryan Kiley turned the puck over near the Merrimack blue line, sending Martin Kariya in alone on Wolfe. He faked him to the ice and then roofed a backhand with 25 seconds left.
“We didn’t want to give them the red line [after Merrimack's third goal],” Whitehead said. “We didn’t want to give them a chance to get the goalie out. We wanted to stay on them aggressively and not give them a chance to get into our zone.”
Merrimack associate coach Mike Doneghey thought the Warriors played better tonight then last night.
“We paid attention to detail more,” he said. “We didn’t give them as many odd-man rushes. Our defense back checked well, and we did a good job of tight-gapping down low. I’m disappointed with the loss, but we played a better game.”
Maine is pleased to come away with the sweep.
“One of the goals was to play consistently for all 120 minutes,” Whitehead said. “We wanted to show everyone that we can compete back-to-back nights and we got a good effort.”
“It’s huge for us to get some momentum going,” Dimitrakos said. “These next four games are crucial for us to get back into the NCAA picture.” Maine will take on UMass-Lowell and New Hampshire in the next two weeks.
The Black Bears travel to Lowell to take on the River Hawks in a two-game weekend set at Tsongas Arena on Friday and Saturday. Merrimack is off until January 30, when it hosts Boston University at the Volpe Center.