ORONO, Maine — Home ice is now secure for Maine, and for Providence, the quest continues. The Black Bears overcame an early 1-0 deficit with three quick first-period goals and hung on in the third to beat the Friars 3-2 in front of a sellout crowd at Alfond Arena Friday.
Derek Damon, Colin Shields and Steve Mullin all scored goals for Maine, which earned home ice in the Hockey East quarterfinals, and relegated Providence to no better than third.
“It was important to come back quick and at least get the equalizer after they scored early,” Maine coach Tim Whitehead said. “When we got three, that was great.”
The win also snaps the Friars’ four-game winning streak, and keeps Providence locked in fifth in Hockey East.
Maine netminder Frank Doyle made 26 saves in the win, including 16 in the third period to preserve the one-goal lead.
“Frank was at his best,” Whitehead said. “You could tell that in his mind he wasn’t going to let up another goal.”
Providence did get on the board first early in the game, catching Maine a bit flat-footed.
Dinos Stamoulis took a pass from inside the zone at the left point and slid the puck over to Stephen Wood at the right point. Wood let a low wrist shot go toward Doyle, and the Maine goaltender saw nothing but jerseys in front of him as the puck sailed by. One shot, one goal for the Friars.
The Black Bears outshot Providence 15-8 for the period, though, and managed to get three goals by Friars netminder Bobby Goepfert, who had been on fire coming into the weekend.
Damon got the Black Bears on the board at 5:59 with a wrist shot from the low right circle while Maine had the man advantage after a David Carpentier penalty.
Shields followed Damon’s tally with a hustle goal at 8:51, getting to a puck in the low slot after Goepfert knocked his original shot high in the air. As the puck landed, Shields reached with one hand, brought the puck back to his right side and tucked it by a confused Goepfert for the goal.
“I was working the cycle down low in the corner,” Shields said. “I had good position and the puck popped loose. I think I surprised him with the shot, hit him in the shoulder or the arm. I took a step across the net to open up his five-hole and slid it through.”
Mullin notched his first goal of the season at 10:47 with a floater after a Jon Jankus shot ricocheted back into the high slot. Mullin’s shot seemed to float in slow motion past Goepfert as the prone goaltender dove back across his crease.
Providence called a timeout to settle its players, and there was no more scoring in the first, but the damage had already been done.
In the second, neither team could generate any offense despite a combined seven power plays, and both netminders turned aside all of the shots they faced. Doyle only saw three shots, only one dangerous, while Goepfert was busy, but stopped all eight Black Bears attempts.
In the third, it was Doyle who came up big, stopping 15 of 16 shots to keep the Black Bears ahead.
“I think we sat back a bit too much in the third period,” Whitehead said. “We never did get that goal to give us a lead at 4-1 or 5-2 like we could have, and I think that’s something we still need to work on.”
Maine (22-6-3, 13-4-2 Hockey East) and Providence (14-10-6, 6-9-5 Hockey East) wrap up their season series on Saturday night. The Friars are trying to keep pace with New Hampshire in the race for home ice in the Hockey East playoffs, while Maine, with the win, clinched home ice in the first round, joining Boston College.