ORONO, Maine — After Friday’s near-disaster, Maine wasn’t about to let New Hampshire back into Saturday’s game — not even a little.
Five different Black Bears scored goals, Jimmy Howard made 25 saves and Maine completed an uncharacteristic sweep of New Hampshire with a 5-0 win in front of a packed house at Alfond Arena.
The shutout was Howard’s second of the season, and it gave Howard and fellow goaltender Frank Doyle the team record for shutouts in a season with six, breaking their own mark of five set last season.
“I don’t even know what to say,” Howard said. “That was the best I’ve felt since coming back from my injury. I try not to think about that anymore. Every once in a while [my knee] will remind me it was injured, but it felt great tonight.”
It was also a special night for Maine’s special teams. Three of Maine’s goals were scored on the power play and one came shorthanded. That shorthanded tally by Derek Damon gives Maine nine on the season, equaling its total from all of last season.
“I like our power play,” Maine coach Tim Whitehead said. “It looks brutal on paper, but I like it. They kept it simple tonight, and a lot of shots seemed to get through to the goalie.”
Maine’s pressure started from the drop of the first puck, and even though the shots were close in the first frame (9-6), time of posession favored the Black Bears.
Maine’s power play got the Black Bears on the board first at 8:00. All five Maine players on the ice touched the puck as it stayed within the UNH zone for the entire advantage. Michel Leveille tipped home a Mike Lundin shot after a nice feed across the point by Colin Shields to put the Black Bears up 1-0.
Maine padded its lead at 14:07 when Derek Damon went the length of the ice on a pass from Troy Barnes while Prestin Ryan served a holding penalty. The shorthanded goal hit Ayers in the left pad and trickled across the line as Todd Jackson, cutting in from the right boards, watched.
On his end, Howard stopped several solid Wildcat chances in close, and was able to keep them off the board with six saves.
Maine heated up again in the second period, notching two more goals on a productive power play. Jon Jankus scored his fifth of the season at 8:54 on a rebound in front of Ayers after Ryan had managed to slip the puck through the sea of pads between the blue line and the netminder.
Jackson scored an even-strength goal at 15:17 to give Maine its second four-goal lead in as many nights, and 41 seconds later Greg Moore scored his 10th of the year on a tip in front of a wrister from the blue line by Lundin.
“This is probably the first time all season we’ve played 60 solid minutes of hockey,” Moore said. “This was just a great weekend all around, to score 10 goals against Ayers like that.”
In the third, despite not scoring a goal, Maine continued to apply pressure and Howard made several key saves as New Hampshire outshot Maine 13-5.
The shutout win over New Hampshire is the first by Maine since a 9-0 win in 1991. Matt Yeats and Ty Conklin battled to a scoreless tie in 2001.