ORONO, Maine — The statistics won’t count, and neither will the win in the standings, but the Maine Black Bears on Friday learned some more about their young team, including the players who will take over after the departure of nine regulars.
Freshman Luciano Aquino tallied two goals 26 seconds apart in the first period and completed the hat trick in the third, and sophomore Greg Moore electrified the crowd at Alfond Arena with a goal on a penalty shot near the end of the second as Maine cruised to a 9-2 win over the U.S. National Development Program Under-18 team in the first round of the Black Bear Classic Friday.
“It’s nice to get off to a good start at home,” said Maine coach Tim Whitehead. “When we get one goal at the home end of the ice, you can almost feel a second coming.”
Aquino — one of 10 players seeing his first action as a Black Bear this season — joined Moore, Jon Jankus, Michel Leveille, Derek Damon, Colin Shields and Troy Barnes as players with at least two points. Moore and Aquino each had three.
Moore, playing in his second full season with the Black Bears, plays on the first line with fellow Maine native and former high school linemate Derek Damon and top returning scorer Todd Jackson.
“We saw a lot of good things from a lot of younger players tonight,” said Whitehead. “All of the guys in the locker room treated this like it counted, and they wanted to make a good first impression on the home fans. Besides, we also had to make sure we advanced to the second round of this tournament.”
Maine opened the scoring at 3:59 of the first period on Aquino’s first goal of the game. Aquino set himself in front of U.S. goaltender Jordan Pearce and waited as Jeff Mushaluk fired a shot from the left point. The rebound came right to Aquino, who banged it past Pearce for the 1-0 lead.
Aquino didn’t waste time with goal No. 2, popping a perfect pass from Michel Leveille past Pearce just 26 seconds later. John Ronan fed Leveille along the left boards, drawing the eyes of both defenders long enough to spring Aquino on the back door. Aquino one-timed the pass from Leveille along the ice past Pearce.
The U.S. development team managed just three shots against Howard in the first period, two of which came in quick succession midway through the period. Maine unleashed 16 shots on Pearce, and controlled most of the play in the latter stages of the period. For their efforts, the Black Bears managed a third goal in the first period, at 14:54.
Fresh off a power play, Colin Shields corralled the puck deep in the zone and flipped it back to Troy Barnes at the point. Barnes let a slapshot go and hit Pearce in the head. The puck bounced into the air and trickled back into the net, seemingly in slow motion.
Maine continued to pepper Pearce in period two, finishing the period with a 33-5 advantage on the shot chart. Shields pushed the lead to 4-0 at 12:15 of the second frame with an odd-angle shot from the left corner that somehow snuck through Pearce’s pads, and then Moore converted on his penalty shot to give Maine a 5-0 edge.
Team U.S.A. bounced back in the third, scoring at 1:32 of the third frame when Matt Auffrey banged home a pass on the power play past Howard.
Freshman Mike Hamilton added another for Maine with his first collegiate goal at 7:41 of the final frame, slapping the puck past Pearce on a nice feed from Derek Damon. Aquino completed his hat trick at 15:08, and Dustin Penner and Moore each added another to complete the rout.
The U.S. team poked a goal past replacement goaltender Ray Jean to finish the scoring.
Maine remains an official 2-0-0 on the season and will face Holy Cross in the final game of the Black Bear Classic on Saturday night. The U.S. Under-18 team will face off against Sacred Heart in the consolation.