LOWELL, Mass. — Maine — which plays seven of its final 11 games away from home — took a giant step to solving its road woes with a goal midway through the third period to edge UMass-Lowell, 2-1, Friday night.
Maine also enjoys playing at Lowell. The Black Bears have now defeated Lowell in nine of their last ten meetings overall, including a 5-0 record at the Tsongas Arena. Maine hasn’t lost in Lowell since 1990.
It was also the return of Tim Whitehead to face his old team. Whitehead coached Lowell for the past five seasons before heading north last summer.
“I thought it was a good game, a clean game. Both goalies were sharp. Both teams played smart and from a fan’s perspective, it was an enjoyable game,” said Whitehead.
Maine (14-7-4, 8-3-2 HEA) leapfrogs Lowell (16-6-1, 8-5-1 HEA) into a tie for second place with Boston University. The free-falling River Hawks lost their third game in a row and now reside in fourth place in the conference.
The first period featured both goalies turning away all of the shots they faced. The scoreless first extended Maine’s streak of 29 straight games in which it has led or been tied after the first period.
Maine controlled the play for most of the second period. After a McCormick tripping penalty, Maine took control, pressuring Lowell for the entire length of the penalty. Maine’s best chance was a Matt Greyeyes’ wrister in the slot. Lowell goalie Cam McCormick made the save but glanced behind himself, thinking the puck trickled into the net.
Maine broke the scoreless game late in the second period. Michael Schutte picked up the loose puck behind the Lowell net, charged in front of the net and stuffed home the puck.
“He attacked quickly,” said Whitehead. “It was a good second effort to score the goal.”
Lowell tied the game early in the third period. On the power play, Maine couldn’t clear the zone and Ed McGrane blasted a shot from above the left faceoff circle to tie the game at one. It was McGrane’s team-leading 13th goal of the season and his seventh career goal against Maine.
Moments later, Maine almost got the lead goal as Tom Reimann’s shot hit the post, the second by Maine on the night. A little less than a minute later, Greyeyes fed Robert Liscak on the doorstep for the eventual game-winner.
“Greyeyes made a prefect pass and I deflected it in,” said Liscak. “I lost my man and got a good pass.”
“I had the puck up the boards and fired the puck towards the net,” said Greyeyes about his first career assist. “I saw Robert backdoor and put the puck on net.”
Lowell wasn’t able to get any solid scoring opportunities late in the game, and pulled McCormick with under a minute to go but was unable to come up with the equalizer.
“I was glad to have the big guy back in the net,” said Lowell coach Blaise McDonald of McCormick. He returned back between the pipes after missing the previous two games with a groin injury.
“I was proud of the way we played. We had effort, enthusiasm, and energy tonight. I like the play of the team. We tried to keep it simple. We need to pay more attention to the little details.”
Maine goalie Mike Morrison made 23 saves in the victory, but McDonald said, “he wasn’t tested enough.”
Lowell was skating shorthanded. Besides the French trio at the Olympics, Jimi St. John was sidelined with a fractured elbow, and the River Hawks lacked Ken Farrell, who has decided to leave school. Farrell had been injured this year and decided not to return to the team.
The rematch is set for Saturday night in Lowell at 7 p.m.