ORONO, Maine — Special teams were expected to be a toss-up Sunday when the University of Maine men’s hockey team hosted rival Boston University. Maine entered the game with the nation’s fifth-ranked power play, while B.U. countered with Hockey East’s second stingiest penalty killing unit.
Maine sophomore left wing Spencer Abbott’s second period even-strength goal made the difference, as the Black Bears upset the Terriers, 3-2, at Alfond Arena.
“It was great to get that goal five-on-five,” Maine coach Tim Whitehead said. “We just countered out of our own defensive end, Abbott drove the net. It was a great pass by (Maine sophomore right wing Gustav Nyquist) and he made it count.”
Abbott beat B.U. sophomore goaltender Kieran Millan off a centering pass from Nyquist to open up a 3-1 margin for the Black Bears 9:31 into the second frame, and an improved defensive effort by the Black Bears preserved the lead through the third.
Difficulty producing offensively while skating five-on-five has been a factor for both teams, as Maine (3-5-0, 2-2-0 Hockey East) entered the game with just five even-strength goals in seven games, while B.U. (2-5-0, 1-4-0 HE) had six in their first six games.
Abbott was surprised to find room in the slot on the odd-man rush as Nyquist streaked through the left faceoff circle.
“I was skating up the middle of the ice and there was a guy beside me and then two seconds later he wasn’t there anymore,” Abbott said.
Millan thought Abbott was covered in front and braced for a one-on-one challenge from Nyquist.
“I kind of froze a little bit, because I was expecting a shot (from Nyquist),” Millan said. “He passed it across the crease, and the guy was open.”
The goal was Abbott’s second of the season.
B.U. sophomore left wing Chris Connolly’s third period-power play goal cut the lead to one, but a 26-save effort by Maine sophomore goalie Scott Darling frustrated the Terriers’ attack. Darling has been between the pipes for all of Maine’s wins.
“He’s a great goalie,” Connolly said. “I give all the credit to him. He had a great night.”
The result broke a 12-game unbeaten streak for B.U. against Maine in regular season contests, which spanned four seasons. The Terriers are riding a three-game losing streak and will hope to right the ship in a home-and-home weekend against Merrimack. Maine won their third straight home game, but are back on the road next weekend for a pair against Northeastern.
“We just talked about keeping our composure, maintaining our poise, and then looking for opportunities to counter,” Whitehead said.
Ranked fifth and seventh in the national polls, B.U. is the second top-10 team Maine has knocked off in Orono in consecutive weekends. Maine’s 4-1 win against No. 10 Vermont on Oct. 30 started a layoff of more than a week for the Black Bears.
Nyquist and junior defenseman Jeff Dimmen gave Maine a 2-0 advantage in the first 10 minutes of the game. Dimmen took advantage while the Black Bears skated five-on-three with a wrister from the right point that sailed over Millan’s glove side shoulder into the net.
Five seconds after the Terriers returned to even-strength, Nyquist chased the puck behind the Terriers’ net and wrapped his shot around the post before Millan could slide across the goal line. Nyquist’s five goals is tied for the team lead with freshman Adam Shemansky.
B.U. coach Jack Parker felt poor discipline led to his team’s early deficit.
“One of our goals of every game is to not beat ourselves,” Parker said. “I thought we beat ourselves tonight pretty good with some of the stupid penalties we took.”
B.U. freshman right wing Alex Chiasson was the first to solve Darling near the end of the first period with a power-play goal, and appeared to tie the game 2-2 with a tip-in at the start of the second, but was called for a foot in the crease as he screened Darling.
Precision passing set up Connolly’s one-timer in the slot with 6:59 left in the third period. Junior defensemen Colby Cohen and Kevin Shattenkirk started the play.
B.U.’s two power-play goals came in nine opportunities. Maine went 1-for-6 with the man advantage.
The Terriers limited Maine to just 18 shots on goal, and Millan stopped 15 of them while falling to 2-5-0.