ORONO, Maine — Last Saturday against Boston University, the second period was Maine’s downfall.
Friday, it was exactly what the doctor ordered.
Sparked by a three-goal second period, the top-ranked Black Bears [8-0-1, 3-0-1] remained unbeaten and pummeled UMass-Lowell [3-3-3, 2-1-2] 4-1 Friday. Led by a two-goal night from captain Michel Leveille, who was serenaded with chants of Hobey Baker after the match, the Black Bears won their 12th straight against the River Hawks.
Seven days after being held scoreless by Jack Parker and Boston University, Leveille broke the scoreless game open at 5:05 of the second period when he went top shelf on freshman netminder Carter Hutton. The tally was all the squad needed to shake off the slow start in the first period. With Leveille’s score, the Black Bears gained new life and continued to attack the River Hawk’s for much of the period, outshooting UMass-Lowell 12-7. The offensive onslaught soon led to two more goals and the Black Bears quickly assumed a comfortable seat in the driver’s seat.
“We got the momentum and rode the wave right through the third period,” said Whitehead discussing the second period.
“I think we played pretty well the whole game but definitely the second period was strong for us,” said Hopson.
Although, disappointed with their play in the first period, the Black Bears were pleased with the win, especially after tying BU last Saturday.
“A win is a win sometimes you’re not as happy with the way you played but the bottom line is you get the two points,” said Leveille. “We just have to learn from what we did and make sure we improve.”
The eventual game-winner came at 12:38 of the second period when Keenan flung a wrist shot at the net from just above the near circle. With the Black Bears’ Rob Bellamy and Billy Ryan causing confusion in front of the goal, Hutton couldn’t get a clear look at the shot.
“I just picked it up in the slot from a scrum and shot it on net,” said Hopson. “Luckily it went through a couple guys. I didn’t really see it go in.”
Riding a sudden wave of momentum, Maine continued to pressure Hutton’s net until he made his third mistake. This time it came in the form of Simon Danis-Pepin’s first collegiate goal at 14:44. On the ensuing play David de Kastrozza rifled a shot off Hutton’s pads that careened free to Danis-Pepin who has bursting into the zone. In one quick motion, Danis-Pepin collected the puck and ripped it into the mesh.
“It just feels real good to get that first goal off my shoulders,” said Danis-Pepin. “It’s been a year and a half now. It feels unbelievable. When the team feels well and is winning, it’s even better getting your first goal.”
Whitehead has excited for Danis-Pepin who had rattled a few posts before registering his first tally this season.
“His improvements continue to impress me,” said Whitehead. “He plays very poised with the puck. He has great hockey sense. Good things are to come for him in the future.”
Still, it was Leveille’s first goal at 5:05 of the period that proved to be the pivotal play. The score, which was created off the hard work of Rob Bellamy and an excellent shot from Leveille, came at exactly the right moment for Maine. The River Hawks had just posted an impressive power play and were knocking at the Black Bears door. However, Leveille had an answer.
“It was just a good cycling,” said Leveille about. “We did cycle quite a bit tonight and we finally got one on five-on-five. Bellamy did a good job. I was all alone in front of the net so I just tried to get a good grip and he didn’t poke check me, so I roofed it.”
Leveille said he knew he was going up top on Hutton the whole time.
“He kind of leaned down, so I saw a big hole there,” said Leveille. “I just put it there.”
Whitehead believes the play wouldn’t have been possible if it weren’t for Bellamy.
“That was some great hard work from Bellamy,” said Whitehead. “I just thought he had a great game. Not just because he assisted on two goals but because he was all over the place. He was hitting. He brought energy. When a guy has been out of the lineup and he can come back in and give some new life, it really gives us a boost.”
The River Hawks got their lone goal at 1:11 of the third period when Ben Bishop came out of his crease and played a puck in the corner. While attempting to garner the loose puck, Bishop got caught up and saw the puck thrown to the front of the net to a patiently waiting Jason Bergeron.
“The guy did make a good play,” said Bishop. “He picked it out of the air and passed it between a couple legs. We’ll take that.”
Bishop said he wasn’t fazed by the mistake.
“It was a tough goal to give up in the third but we’ll take it,” said Bishop. “It’s going to happen as much as I play the puck. I got over it. I didn’t faze me at all. I tried to play the puck even more after that.”
Leveille capped off the scoring with his second goal at 12:48 of the third period.
“That’s a typical hard-working goal,” said Leveille. “We just cycled the puck down low, got a couple shots, a couple rebounds and finally got the goal.”
The tally was Michel’s eighth of the year and helped to bring on the sacred chants of Hobey Baker.
Michel’s been a big aspect to our team,” said Danis-Pepin. “He’s been leading our team on and off the ice. You can see that the whole team is pushing in the same direction Michel is going. He’s leading us completely.”
Bishop finished the decision with 22 saves, while Hutton had 30.
Maine returns to the ice Sunday at 3 p.m. against UNH in the newest installment of the Border War. UMass-Lowell is off till Nov. 17 against the Wildcats as well.
“We know we have a huge game coming up Sunday, so this game is already in the past,” said Bishop.