ORONO, Maine — Jimmy Howard made 34 saves to backbone Maine past Massachusetts-Lowell 3-2 Friday evening in front of 5,441 fans at Alfond Arena.
“Howard is a great goaltender, he’s a great competitor, and I’m thoroughly impressed with him in every aspect of his game,” said Maine coach Tim Whitehead. “His composure during the game is exceptional. He never loses sight of the puck, and obviously that’s a great trait for your goaltender.”
End-to-end hockey prevailed in the early goings of the game, with the River Hawks dominating the shot chart 13-6. Both teams had power-play opportunities in the period along with a few quality scoring chances; however, neither squad was able to convert.
The second period paralleled the first period in terms of scoring until Martin Kariya broke a scoreless tie at 5:56 with his 13th goal of the season. Lucas Lawson stole the puck on the Black Bear blue line and skated through neutral ice into the River Hawk zone along the left side.
Lawson fed Kariya in the slot, and Kariya got just enough lumber on it, lifting the puck over sprawled goaltender Dominic Smart for a shorthanded marker and a 1-0 lead.
UML responded quickly to the deficit. Still on the same power play, senior captain Ed McGrane sent a beautiful pass from the left point to freshman Andrew Martin on the right side doorstep. Without hesitation, Martin sent the puck to the back of the net at 6:30, tying the game at one.
Maine regained the lead three minutes later with the game’s third special-teams goal. Great Black Bear puck movement low in the right corner eventually found an open Chris Heisten in the slot. Heisten made his opportunity count, roofing the puck past Smart for a 2-1 Maine lead.
The River Hawks continued to press throughout the period, but were unable to find the equalizer. Freshman Elias Godoy had the best opportunity, and although Godoy was able to commit Howard low, Godoy’s high shot sailed just over the crossbar.
The Black Bears increased their lead to two goals at 4:11. Gray Shaneberger stole the puck in the slot of the UML zone and fired a shot that was saved by Smart. Smart couldn’t control the rebound, and the puck bounced out to an open Francis Nault, who gave Maine a 3-1 lead.
UML didn’t go as quietly as Maine had hoped. Freshman Mark Pandolfo scored his second goal of the season after a shot by junior Jerramie Domish deflected to his feet on the left side, cutting the lead to 3-2 at 13:25.
The River Hawks pulled their netminder late in the period in hopes of getting the equalizer, however the Black Bears held on for the win.
Howard made 34 saves, while Smart stopped 15 shots in a strong effort for UML. Both teams saw limited offense on the power play, with the River Hawks going 1-for-6 while the Black Bears were 1-for-3.
“It was a stellar effort from our team from start to finish,” said head coach Blaise MacDonald. “We played exceptionally well in all three zones. We did everything but put enough goals by their goaltender. I give Maine a lot of credit, their goaltender was immense, he played exceptional. He was clearly the difference in the game, and (Smart) made some saves when he had to as well.”
“It’s a situation where we get two goals from freshmen, which is great, but we also make a couple of little mistakes by freshman defensemen that cost us a couple of goals. Overall, it was a great effort against a great team by us.”
Saturday UMass-Lowell (9-14-1, 2-12-0 HE) and No. 1 Maine (20-2-3, 10-1-2 HE) play again at Alfond Arena at 7 p.m.