ORONO, Maine — Maine senior goaltender Dave Wilson turned away all 23 University of Massachusetts-Lowell shots Saturday night as the Black Bears forced a decisive third game in the best-of-three Hockey East quarterfinal series with a 2-0 win at Alfond Arena.
It was Wilson’s second career shutout.
“The whole game I wasn’t really thinking about the shutout,” Wilson said. “I was more thinking along the lines of getting a win.”
The puck will drop at 7 p.m. for Sunday’s match-up. Lowell won Friday’s series-opening game 2-1.
“It’s a great opportunity,” Wilson said. “To have it come down to one game at home, we couldn’t ask for anything better.”
Maine sophomore left wing Spencer Abbott scored the eventual game-winning goal on the opening shift, 23 seconds into the game, when a flurry of shots resulted in a rebound out to him in the slot, where he fired the puck through Hutton’s five-hole.
“We were really looking for a big first shift, and couldn’t ask for anything better than a goal,” Wilson said.
An edge in physicality gave the Black Bears a 14-6 advantage in shots-on-goal after one period. Maine outshot Lowell 30-23 for the game.
“We knew it was do-or-die,” Abbott said. “We had to come out real hard and I think we did.”
The Black Bears (17-16-3) scored their first power-play goal of the weekend to take a 2-0 lead 12:45 into the second period. After taking a drop pass in the right faceoff circle from junior center Robby Dee, Maine sophomore right wing Gustav Nyquist drove to the extended goal line and found junior center and captain Tanner House stationed at the right post, where House finished.
“Goals were very tough to come by tonight,” Maine coach Tim Whitehead said.
Lowell senior netminder Carter Hutton took the loss, despite making 28 saves.
“Both goalies were exceptional,” Whitehead said.
Lowell (19-15-4) gave Maine eight power plays, of which the Black Bears capitalized on just one. The River Hawks were shutout in five chances with the man-advantage.
Three consecutive penalties late in the third period hindered Lowell’s comeback effort. Maine had 1:27 of a five-on-three power play with less than four minutes remaining in the third period, but could not cash in. The Black Bears failed to capitalize on 1:50 of five-on-three in the first period.
“Very uncharacteristically, as we’re one of the least-penalized teams in Hockey East, we seemed to take a lot of penalties,” Lowell coach Blaise MacDonald said. “Their special teams were much better than ours tonight.”
Lowell evened the shot margin in the second period at 18 apiece, but was stymied by Wilson, who saw seven Grade ‘A’ chances in the period and survived a pair of River Hawks’ power plays. Lowell outshot Maine 12-4 in the period.
“I thought we played pretty well in the second period and had some glittering opportunities,” MacDonald said. “Their goaltender was equal to the task,”
The River Hawks thought they had scored a tying goal early in the second period, but official video review confirmed the call that the play had been whistled dead before the puck crossed the goal line.
“We talked about fighting through the bounces, regardless of whether they came our way or not,” Whitehead said. “We just kept working hard.”