ORONO, Maine — Special teams’ execution was the difference both nights back in November when the University of Maine and Northeastern University men’s hockey teams split a weekend set at Matthews Arena in Boston.
The story line did not change Saturday night at Alfond arena, as Maine scored four power-play goals and defeated the Huskies 5-1.
Maine won the season series with Northeastern after winning the first game 6-2 and dropping the second 5-2. The Black Bears extended their winning streak to five games and improved to 9-7-1 (7-4-1 Hockey East). They also carry a six-game unbeaten streak into the holiday break.
Maine sophomore goaltender Scott Darling has allowed just one goal in each of the five wins, and his effort Saturday required 23 saves.
“It was important to get that victory,” Maine freshman right wing Adam Shemansky said. “Anytime you can win a series, it can help you further down the road.”
Northeastern fell to 6-8-1 (4-7-1 Hockey East). Freshman goaltender Chris Rawlings stopped 16 shots in the first 38:03 of the loss. Classmate Bryan Mountain replaced Rawlings for the remainder of the game and made 10 saves.
Maine’s back-breaker goals came in the second period on successive five-on-three power plays, shortly after the Huskies cut the lead to 2-1. Sophomore left wing Brian Flynn and junior defenseman Jeff Dimmen provided Maine the padding for their lead with goals at 17:15 and 18:03, while Northeastern captain Tyler McNeely and junior Wade MacLeod watched from the penalty box.
“To do what we did the last three minutes of the (second) period is a sin,” Northeastern coach Greg Cronin said. “I’m speechless why our leaders would be taking those penalties.”
Flynn was on the end of a Gustav Nyquist pass through the top of the crease to convert his fifth goal of the season, beating Rawlings at the far post.
Dimmen followed with a top-shelf wrister from the right faceoff circle after Flynn found him from the left corner. Sophomore defenseman Will O’Neill had the secondary assist on both goals.
“The power play was the difference,” Flynn said. “Those two five-on-three’s were huge. They gave us some momentum, because we were really struggling in the first period.”
Maine’s bookend goals, by Shemansky and senior center David deKastrozza, also came with the man-advantage. The Black Bears went four-for-six on the power play in the game.
“We stayed disciplined, and we capitalized on the power play,” Maine coach Tim Whitehead said.
Northeastern’s lone goal came on the power play, and they went one-for-five.
“We had our chances,” Cronin said.
Each team failed to capitalize on a power play in a scoreless first period. Northeastern held a 10-7 edge in shots on goal into the first intermission, but Maine led 7-3 in grade-A (high percentage) chances in the opening frame.
“It wasn’t really the start we wanted,” Shemansky said. “We wanted to come out strong, and we didn’t do that. We were fortunate to be even after one.”
Shemansky and senior center Brett Carriere each scored within a minute early in the second period to open the scoring. Shemansky banked in a shot off Rawlings’ stick from behind the Huskies net for his eighth goal of the season 3:58 into the period. It was his team-leading sixth power-play goal.
“I was just lucky it went in,” Shemansky said. “I’ll take them.”
Carriere notched his first goal of the season even-strength 57-seconds later when he flicked in a rebound in the low slot created by freshman center Matt Mangene’s shot from the left faceoff circle.
Carriere made his return from a shoulder injury and has played in just eight-of-16 games for the Black Bears.
“I was really happy for Brett,” Whitehead said. “It’s been frustrating for him the last month.”
Northeastern cut the margin to 2-1 on their second power play with 5:33 left in the second period. McNeely tipped in senior right wing Kyle Kraemer’s wrister through traffic from the right point.
“He tipped it down, underneath my glove,” Darling said. “It was a nice play by him.”
DeKastrozza capped the scoring at 11:28 of a chippy third period with a converted rebound in front, generated by defenseman Josh Van Dyk’s wrister from the left point. Shemansky tipped the puck on the way through.
“I deflected (Van Dyk’s) shot, and then I kicked it and it went right to deKastrozza,” Shemansky said.
Tensions boiled over midway through the final period when Northeastern freshman defenseman Jake Newton received a pair of two minute minors and Maine freshman left wing Joey Diamond was disqualified with a five-minute major for fighting as the result of a battle behind the Northeastern net.
Maine limited Northeastern to just four shots on goal in the second period and survived three Northeastern power plays in the third period.
“Our penalty kill is one of our most improved areas,” Shemansky said.
Maine will return to action on Dec. 29-30, when they travel to compete in the Florida College Classic in Estero, Fla. Northeastern’s next games will come in the Ledyard National Bank Classic hosted by Dartmouth College on Jan. 2-3.