ORONO, Maine — Boston College had to know what was happening. With the lights out at Alfond Arena and Maine picking up just where they left off on Friday night, all the signs were there. The Eagles probably just didn’t want to admit it. Sadly for BC, however, when it hits there’s no avoiding it. Here in Orono, it’s called Alfond mystique, and on Saturday it was in the Black Bears corner all night.
In a game that saw play stop for more than 15 minutes in the first period because of electricity troubles, Maine (21-10-1, 14-8-1) used timely scoring and smothering defense to hand the Eagles (19-9-2, 16-6-1) a 3-1 defeat and head coach Tim Whitehead his 200th career victory.
Compliments of the win, the Black Bears not only moved into sole possession of third place in Hockey East but also swept their season series against the Eagles. The newest member of the 200-win club was just happy with his team’s focus and effort.
“I’m just glad we got our second win of the weekend,” said Whitehead. “We are trying to focus on the task at hand. It was a total team effort from our goaltender through our defense to our forwards.”
And what about that 200th win?
“You might want to check that. I am not sure I actually have 200 wins” said Whitehead.
The achievement caught several of his players even off guard.
“Did he really?” said Rob Bellamy, who scored the eventual game winner, in reference to the accolade. “I’ve got to go congratulate him. I didn’t even know that. He’s a great guy; he loves this team more than anything. I just love seeing him happy. I know he loves sweeping teams like BC.”
The Black Bear win capped off an emotional weekend that saw them sweep the Eagles for the first time in more than eight years.
“It’s a pretty good feeling down there right now,” said assistant captain Steve Mullin referring to the Maine locker room. “You got guys hooting and howling. It’s a lot better than last time we were at home. To get two wins against a quality opponent like BC just sets a great mood in the locker room. It’s going o be a great week.”
“We are still in first place, which is a positive, but we can play better,” said BC netminder Cory Schneider. “I think we came out with a lot of positives tonight; just to rebound and response.”
Anchored by the play of Bellamy and netminder Ben Bishop, who snatched 31 saves, Maine used the Alfond mystique to its advantage, tallying the first goal of the net five minutes after the lights went out.
“For our guys it was a non-factor; we’re use to some crazy things happening in here,” said Whitehead about the loss of two large lights. “We’ve got our own little Fenway Park going here, and we love it.”
With the lights back on, Maine captain Greg Moore stepped into the spotlight like usual, registering the first goal of the game at 11:39. On the ensuing play, Moore was able to elude Eagles defender Peter Harrold for a run at sophomore goalie Schneider.
“[Michel Leveille] threw a nice soft pass over and I tried to step around the defenseman, then get across the crease and beat him to the post,” said Moore.
Schneider had plenty of praise for the play that got the Black Bears rolling.
“He made a great power move,” said Schneider. “He was in pretty tight, I didn’t think he would be able to get in front like that. So I kind of went down and he was real patient and carried it around me.”
Maine, however, had to wait till nearly midway through the second period to register the game winner. Having just a minute earlier witnessed the Eagles even up the game, Bellamy looked to capitalize on a Jon Jankus pass.
“Jankus made a nice play; he saw a little bit of room and he came out in front and tried to tuck it home,” said Bellamy. “Then it got loose and I tried to bat at it and it trickled in five-hole. It felt good, we needed that one.”
On the score, which came at 7:42 of the second, Jankus and Mullin earned assists.
All weekend the Black Bears feed off the play of Bellamy and his fourth line mates, Brent Shepheard and Jankus.
“If we need some energy, our line obviously has to go out there and do that,” said Bellamy. “The biggest thing with us, we take the body and get back into position. I always like to bring a little excitement to it; the team needs that too.”
In fact, Bellamy and company helped contribute to the third goal as well. At 15:13 of the period it was Jankus again, this time feeding a streaking Bret Tyler from behind the net for a one-timer.
“I never saw Tyler coming but I was in position,” said Schneider. “It just found a tiny hole and went in straight five-hole. I tried to squeeze the pads but it snuck through.”
For the remainder of the decision both teams matched each other essentially shot for shot, with Bishop shutting down several grade A opportunities.
“We knew they we’re going to come out in the third. They didn’t want to come up here and lose two games that’s for sure,” said Mullin. “We hung on and Ben made some key saves for us. Ben has been Ben for us the last few weekends; he’s the back bone for us. When we have a breakdown he’s there to bail us out. You just don’t know how valuable back there he is as a third defenseman.
“You can spread the ice out that much more when he picks up the puck. You can peel off to either side and their forward has to either play Ben or you. And whatever he does, we go the other way.”
Bishop, who extended his unbeaten streak along with Maine to four games, says he just has a feel for playing outside the net.
“I know it helps the team,” said Bishop. “When I don’t get that many shots I like to go out there and try and stay focus by playing the puck. When I was little, I use to be a forward and score all of the time, so it’s in my blood.”
Schneider concluded the game with 24 saves.
Mullin credited the Maine offense with helping out Bishop and the defense shutdown one of the most talented offenses in the conference.
“Our forwards did a phenomenal job,” said Mullin. “The forwards were the key the entire weekend. They were coming back and picking up the third BC forward coming back. They were really nullifying the rush and taking away their speed.”
Both teams finished game 0-5 on the power play.
“Beating Boston College, the No. 1 team in the league, back-to-back nights at home hopefully puts us up a lot,” said Bishop. “The team is just rolling right now, hopefully it snowballs.”
The Black Bears hit the road next weekend to face Merrimack, while the Eagles look to snap their current three-game losing streak against UMass-Lowell.
“Maine is a very good team, they are going to be a tough team to beat down the stretch,” said Schneider. “Hopefully we see them again.”