ORONO, Maine — Boston University outshot Maine 14-5 in the final period, but it wasn’t enough as the 11th-ranked Terriers fell to the Black Bears 4-2 at the Alfond Arena Saturday night.
Keith Johnson scored his second power-play goal of the game a minute into the final period to give Maine a 3-1 lead. The Terriers answered 37 seconds later when Brian Ewing tallied a goal of his own.
But Black Bear goalie Jimmy Howard quenched BU’s fierce third-period attack with 13 saves. Howard saved a total of 28 shots in the win.
Maine dominated on the power play, scoring on three of seven man-advantages.
“The power play was crucial and a big part of our game tonight,” said Maine head coach Tim Whitehead. “It’s an area that hurt us in the first half of the season, but I certainly hope it’s becoming a strength of ours. If it is, we could definitely make up some ground in the second half. We’re going to have to continue to do that.”
“Maine played great on the power play, and that was obviously the difference in the game,” said BU head coach Jack Parker. “We just didn’t do well killing penalties.”
The Black Bears took three points from the Terriers during the two-game weekend and moved into a three-way tie for second in the Hockey East standings with New Hampshire and BU.
With the win, Maine improved to 13-8-5 overall and 8-3-3 in the conference while BU dropped to 13-10-1 and 9-4-1 in Hockey East play.
Maine drew first blood 7:51 into the first period when Jon Jankus scored on a Greg Moore breakaway. After BU netminder John Curry denied several shorthanded attempts by the Black Bears, Moore intercepted a pass in the Maine zone and went on a three-man rush. A defenseman managed to skate in front of the group, but Moore was tripped from behind and crashed into the boards just as he threw the puck toward the net.
On the delayed penalty, Jankus skated toward the net where Curry was down on the ice. The Terriers failed to touch the puck and Jankus poked it underneath the goalie just before the net dislodged from its moorings to make it 1-0.
“I just tried to get a low shot on net for a rebound,” said Moore. “And somehow, Jankus buried it.”
The Terriers knotted the score at 1-1 when David Van der Gulik stole the puck in the Maine end. After skating from the corner and getting the rebound off his second shot, Van der Gulik sneaked the puck through Howard’s five-hole for the equalizer 16:50 into the first.
The Black Bears struck quickly in the second period when Johnson made it 2-1 on the power play. Bret Tyler took a slapshot from the point that handcuffed Curry and popped over his glove-side shoulder. As the puck was nearing the goal line, Johnson pushed it into the goal at the 2:20 mark.
“It was trickling toward the goal line,” said Johnson. “I think it was going in anyway, but I just helped it over the line by batting it in.”
Curry stopped two Black Bear breakaway chances by Ben Murphy and Wes Clark within a one-minute period as time wound down in the second.
After a Terrier penalty, Maine increased its lead to 3-1 when Johnson scored his second of the game 1:20 into the third.
“That was just a neutral-zone regroup,” said Johnson. “Mike Hamilton made a nice play by chipping it out to me, and I just put it on goal. I didn’t see the puck after I shot it on the backhand, but the next thing I know, it was in the net. I still don’t know how it went in.”
Ewing’s sharp wrister from the faceoff circle seconds later beat Howard over his glove-side shoulder to bring BU within a goal.
“We were a little deflated after that,” said Black Bear co-captain John Ronan. “Obviously, after scoring a big goal and giving one back the next shift, it really hurt.”
After Ewing’s goal, BU gained momentum that was eventually killed when Terrier defenseman Kevin Schaeffer was whistled for a high stick.
“We weathered the storm and really put the hammer down in the third period,” Ronan said. “We bounced back pretty well and took control of the play again.”
Moore scored on that power play to make the final 4-2. After Jankus’s hard wrister from the point bounced off Curry’s pads into in the high slot, Moore gobbled up the rebound and threw it past the goaltender’s glove at the 16:36 mark.
“We came after them pretty good in the third period,” said Parker. “But we just gave up too many chances early on when they were blitzing us with their forecheck. We definitely could have cleared the puck before Maine scored, but we failed to do that.”
Both teams had 30 shots on goal.
“We got plenty of shots,” said BU captain Brian McConnell. “But we didn’t seem to have much puck luck this weekend. A couple pucks that were bouncing in front of the net that would have gone in a few weeks ago, just didn’t find the back of the net tonight.”
Whitehead said the win will help his team down the stretch.
“I think one of the positives this weekend is that we have recaptured home-ice advantage,” he said. Early in the year, it was an odd feeling to not win at home consistently. But I think we’re doing that now.”
“We told each other that this was probably the biggest game of the year up to this date,” said Johnson. “Any time you get a win, especially when it’s against someone ahead of you, it helps toward the goal of making the NCAA tournament.”
Both teams continue Hockey East play next week when BU will square off in home contests against Merrimack and Providence, and Maine will play a two-game set at home with Northeastern.