ORONO, Maine — Black Bears Dominate Again
Seven Different Players Score in Rout
By Jeff Mannix
If it is possible for a team to have a perfect weekend, the Maine Black Bears came about as close as you can possibly come with their convincing weekend sweep of the UMass-Amherst Minutemen.
The Black Bears completed the sweep on Senior Night Saturday at Alfond Arena with a 7-0 drubbing of the Minutemen.
Fittingly, Maine’s two senior goaltenders, Mike Morrison and Matt Yeats combined for the shutout in their final regular season home game; Morrison with eight saves in the first two periods, and Yeats cleaning up with four in the third. Senior forward Niko Dimitrakos went out with an assist and defenseman Peter Metcalf scored a goal and added two assists.
“It was good for us to [win convincingly],” Metcalf said after the game. “It’s good to hammer teams that we should beat. We had a great effort all game to put them away.”
“More than anything, we just wanted to play well,” Morrison said. “We wanted to play the best game that we could to gain as many points as we could in the standings.”
“The guys played really hard this weekend,” said Maine interim head coach Tim Whitehead. “We were very disciplined, we stayed out of the penalty box. We didn’t give up a whole lot of chances and we played like we needed to win.”
UMass head coach Don Cahoon was very complimentary of Maine following Saturday’s game.
“It was like men playing with boys out there,” he said. “They have a lot of experience and talent and we lack that combination. It looked like [Maine] a lot of fun playing this game.”
It was obvious from very early that this would be Maine’s night. In the first 10 minutes, Maine outshot UMass 8-1, but Mike Johnson kept the Black Bears (19-9-6, 13-5-4 HEA) off the board. It would take a well played two-on-one between Lucas Lawson and Francis Nault to finally put the Black Bears on the board.
“It was a good play by Lucas to get the puck to me,” Nault said. “The defenseman tied me up so I had only one arm free, but I was able to make the move and score.” Lawson’s pass feathered over the defenseman’s stick as he wrapped up Nault.
Nault lost his glove, but still managed to score by moving the puck to his backhand and getting off a good shot. The goal was his fifth of the year at 10:31 of the first.
Lawson scored his eleventh goal of the year, and fourth in as many games, at 17:14 of the first on assists from Martin Kariya, his second assist of the game, and Dimitrakos. His shot from below the right face off dot trickled through Johnson’s pads.
Johnson kept Maine of the board through the first half of the second with some more outstanding saves, but a lively hop of the backboards caught him off guard at 9:01.
Peter Metcalf’s shot from the point whistled wide of the cage, but caromed right back out the on the other side of the goal to Gray Shaneberger who knocked it into the open net for his fifth of the year.
Ben Murphy jammed home his fifth of the year on a rebound to the left of the crease at 11:32 to extend the lead to 4-0.
Paul Falco’s wrister top-shelf from the top of the right circle made it 5-0 at 9:37 of the third.
Then the captain was able to get on the board on Senior Night at 11:51.
“I got into the play late because I was tripped up,” Metcalf said. “[Todd] Jackson dropped it off to me and I was going to pass it to Gray, but I saw him and his man cutting in front of the goalie, so I held it. I went low to the blocker side, I don’t think [Johnson] saw much of it.”
Colin Shields scored his 23rd of his fabulous first season on a power play goal at 14:08 to close out the scoring.
“I didn’t get much work tonight, our defense kept pucks away from me,” Morrison said. “They played great all night.”
Whitehead pulled Morrison in the middle of the shutout after two despite the fact that Morrison is one shutout away from tying Alfie Michaud’s career mark at Maine with six.
“Hockey is a team sport,” Whitehead explained. “Mike would be the first to congratulate Matt on a good job in there. Matt has been playing well and we need to get him time. We need to get them both going for the stretch run.”
Cahoon says that his team played well, in stretches, but didn’t put it together against a much better team.
“We played pretty well early in the game. We got a few good chances ourselves, but then we broke down. Our backcheck really broke down in the second and third, and we couldn’t recover. It’s hard to come back when this sort of thing keeps happening.”
Metcalf talked about the emotional level of tonight’s game for the Black Bears’ seniors.
“I’m glad that the crowd stuck around [for the postgame tribute to the seniors],” he said. “This year has been extremely emotional with coach [Shawn] Walsh passing away and everything else this year. If we can finish this out and win it all, it will be a lot sweeter.”
UMass (8-22-2, 3-17-2) now has two more games left in its season, both at the Mullins Center. They will host New Hampshire on Tuesday and Merrimack next Sunday. The Minutemen will need to win both games to have a shot at catching Merrimack for the final spot in the Hockey East quarterfinals.
The wins set up a huge series for the Black Bears to close out the season next Friday and Saturday night at Boston University. The Terriers swept Providence this weekend, which means Maine is still two points behind them in the standings.
Maine will need to sweep the Terriers to move past them in the standings. Otherwise, BU would hold both of the first two tiebreakers, head-to-head record and league wins, over Maine.
“It will be a great series,” Whitehead said. “If we can steal a win Friday, anything can happen on Saturday.”