ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Maine goaltender Ben Bishop, making his first appearance in net since Feb. 24, made 33 saves as his Black Bears defeated St. Cloud State 4-1 in the second East Regional semifinal.
Maine was 0-4 since Bishop went down with a groin injury, with all four losses coming against Massachusetts, its opponent in tomorrow’s East Regional championship game.
“We couldn’t seem to find a way to get it past the big guy,” said St. Cloud forward Andrew Gordon.
“He did a great job of clearing rebounds,” said Huskies’ defenseman Justin Fletcher, who scored the lone goal for St. Cloud. “We didn’t get second chances.”
Bishop looked rusty on St. Cloud’s first and only goal that came just 3:39 into the contest. From a tight angle, Fletcher banked a shot off Bishop’s left pad and into the net to give the Huskies a 1-0 lead.
“It was just one of those bad goals,” said Bishop. “I wish I could have that one back. I told coach, ‘I got that out of the way early.’”
“I’m proud of Ben,” said Maine coach Time Whitehead. “I liked how he responded after the first goal. He shut the door after that.”
The Black Bears would tie the game on the power play at 7:21. Mike Hamilton went hard to the net, skating through a crowd and slipping the puck past Huskies’ goaltender Bobby Goepfert.
Maine would take a lead it would not relinquish just 50 seconds later, when Billy Ryan skated out from behind the St. Cloud net and roofed a backhand over Goepfert’s shoulder from a tight angle for his thirteenth goal of the season.
Those goals would signal a frustrating night for Goepfert, who allowed three goals on seven shots in the first period.
“We haven’t seen that all season,” said St. Cloud coach Bob Motzko. “Bobby is a big-time goalie. He was an All-American last season and could be again this season. One goal goes off a skate and the other one banks off him. Fluky plays.”
The Black Bears would get one more before the end of the period, again on the power play. Maine captain Michel Lveill’s shot from the high slot eluded Goepfert though a crowd.
“I just wanted to put it at his feet,” Lveill said. “You put it on net, and good things happen.”
The Black Bears got the only goal of the second period, when Brent Shepheard blew down the left side and put a shot on net that was bang in by Rob Bellamy, his first goal of the season.
The Huskies grew more and more frustrated as the game went on, unable to solve Bishop.
“It was an awfully frustrating game,” said Motzko. “Not many times this season have we found ourselves that far down. We could just not score another goal. We were never able to make the play to get back in the game.”
Bishop stopped all 16 shots he faced in the third period, many coming with St. Cloud on the power play. The Huskies finished 0-9 with the man advantage, while Maine was 2-5.
“We stayed out of the box and had good opportunities,” said Motzko. “It’s so frustrating right now. For one of the first times this season I didn’t know what to say to our team.”
St. Cloud ends the season 22-11-7, while Maine improves to 22-14-2 and wins for the first time since a 5-1 victory against Merrimack on Feb. 24, Bishop’s last start before getting injured. The Black Bears advance to play UMass, which beat Maine twice to end the regular season, and then two more times in the Hockey East quarterfinals.
“They’ve had our number the last four games,” said Bishop. “They beat us all four games.”
“When we saw them win the first game [a 1-0 overtime win over Clarkson], it kind of game us a boost,” said freshman forward Teddy Purcell. “We want another shot at them.”
“We’re glad to get a second chance,” said Lveill. “It’s going to be a hard fought battle.”