BOSTON — It may be true that there are no “do or die” situations this time of year in college hockey.
But this was close.
No. 12 Maine, fresh off an unfavorable showing in recent Pairwise Rankings and lower in the Hockey East standings than the Black Bears would like, took care of business Saturday night, sweeping its weekend and series with Northeastern with a 2-1 win. The team also won Friday night, 6-3.
“It was a big, big weekend,” said Maine coach Tim Whitehead. “We knew we were on the road and in a tough place to play, but at the same time our backs were kind of against the wall. Our guys did play well. I thought we had good intensity and we worked hard. So did Northeastern, but in the end we were one goal better tonight. But the result could have been very different. I thought they did deserve a better fate tonight.”
“They’re real tough to play against and it could have gone either way,” said Chris Hahn, who scored the winner in the first period. “They had a lot of real good chances throughout the game. But I thought we just stuck together well and finished it out.”
Maine (17-9-0, 10-7-0) took a 2-0 lead after 20 minutes.
Senior Derek Damon opened scoring four minutes into the game on an impressive individual effort. The 6-0, 195-pound center passed the puck to himself off the back of the NU net, swerved around a defender and attempted a wraparound on Northeastern goalie Adam Geragosian (29 saves). The junior netminder turned back the first attempt at the left post, but couldn’t hold off Damon’s rebound effort near the right post.
Hahn made it a two-goal edge four minutes before first intermission. Senior center Jon Jankus slid a nifty pass through the Northeastern crease to Hahn at the right post, where the freshman redirected it in.
“The puck came down to Jankus and I kind of slipped back door,” Hahn said, describing the game-winner. “He just made an unreal pass and I just had to slide it in the open net.”
Northeastern cut the deficit in half in the second period, when senior captain Chuck Tomes carried the puck up the left boards and threw it toward the net, where it banked off sophomore goaltender Matt Lundin (20 saves) and in.
Both teams improved defensive efforts from Friday night’s 6-3 Black Bear victory. Maine allowed just seven total shots over the final two periods, while Northeastern eliminated many of the rebound opportunities that accounted for the previous night’s outcome.
Still, for the second game in a row, Northeastern came up just short.
“We didn’t like giving up a lot of chances last night even strength, that’s something that we keyed on in the morning meeting,” said assistant coach Brendan Walsh. Head coach Greg Cronin was unavailable for comment. “For us, making adjustments to our game is part of the process. As a staff, we’re happy with that. We’re building towards something good.”
Maine hosts New Hampshire in a two-game set next weekend, while Northeastern plays its final Beanpot Tournament tuneup at Merrimack Friday night. On Monday, the team opens Beanpot play with a 5 p.m. tilt against Boston College.