ORONO, Maine — The University of Maine men’s hockey team lived dangerously for a second straight night Saturday, but Providence College’s anemic power play allowed the Black Bears to preserve their narrow lead and come away with a 3-1 victory to complete a weekend sweep at Alfond Arena.
It was Maine’s first two-game sweep of an opponent this season. The Black Bears won Friday’s game by the same score.
“We were just really determined to get out of the gate strong, and pick up where we left off last night,” Maine coach Tim Whitehead said.
Providence had five power plays, a night after going 0-for-8 with the man advantage, but finished the weekend 1-for-13. The Friars generated seven shots in five power plays. Maine went two-for-four on the power play.
“We had an opportunity in the third to tie it again, but didn’t get it done on the power play,” Providence coach Tim Army said.
The Black Bears (8-7-1, 6-4-1 Hockey East) extended their unbeaten streak to five games heading into a single game home weekend against Northeastern University before the holiday break. Providence (7-7-1, 2-5-1 Hockey East) has lost three in a row and will host the University of New Hampshire and Boston College next weekend.
Sophomore left wing Spencer Abbott gave Maine its second lead of the game 4:39 into the second period. Right wing Kyle Solomon’s centering pass from outside the right faceoff found him streaking through the slot. Center David deKastrozza tipped the pass on the way by and Abbott beat Providence goaltender Alex Beaudry with a blocker-side wrister. It was Abbott’s fourth goal of the season and second game winner.
“It was kind of in too tight for (deKastrozza), so it slid through him,” Abbott said. “The goalie thought it was going to him, so he was kind of late getting over and I whacked it in.”
Maine sophomore right wing Gustav Nyquist notched his third goal of the weekend and 11th of the season in the game’s final minute when he gathered the puck at the opposing blue line and wristed it into an empty net after Beaudry was pulled to give the Friars even-strength while Providence defenseman Mark Fayne watched from the penalty box. Sophomore left wing Brian Flynn chipped the puck out of the neutral zone.
Maine sophomore goaltender Scott Darling picked up his eighth win of the season in a 25 save effort. Darling praised Maine’s effective penalty killing effort.
“The forwards were unbelievable this weekend, PK and five-on-five,” Darling said. “We had so many transition opportunities at their blue line, because we always had the third guy high.”
Beaudry stopped 33 shots and was thought unanimously to be the reason Maine could not pull away, despite outshooting the Friars 36-26 in the game.
“He played great,” Army said. “He gave us a chance to stay in the game. Both games, he played very, very well.”
“(Beaudry) stood on his head in some spots in the game,” Abbott said. “We couldn’t get it by him.”
Maine dominated the early stages of the first period, earning a pair of power plays and holding a 21-6 advantage in shots after 20:00. Beaudry had a single period season high in saves.
“We were just getting pucks to the net, and we just knew as long as we get the second man to the net, we could come up with a lot more chances,” Maine freshman right wing Joey Diamond said.
Diamond gave Maine a 1-0 lead midway through the first period on the Black Bears’ second power play when he finished a rebound at the right post created by defenseman Will O’Neill’s blast from the mid-point. It was Diamond’s fourth goal of the season. Diamond was unsure if he was actually responsible for the goal in traffic.
“Everyone was whacking at it,” Diamond said. “I really couldn’t see who put it in.”
The Friars got a responding goal with the man-advantage 2:46 later. Junior defenseman Eric Baier tipped in Matt Germain’s centering pass from the left faceoff circle at the far post.
Providence outshot Maine 13-4 in the third period and earned a pair of power plays. Beaudry was pulled after Army called a last minute timeout.
“We had good play, forced some turnovers, had better activity around the net,” Army said. “We weren’t able to get it done on the power play, again.”
Army made multiple line changes between games in search of an answer to his team’s special teams struggles, but stressed consistency in execution must improve.
“We battled and we hung in there and we gave ourselves a chance,” Army said. “We’ve got to work harder on the power play.”