ORONO, Maine — After a heartbreaking loss in front of the home crowd at Alfond Arena less than 48 hours earlier, No. 8 Maine bounced back to defeat Massachusetts 4-1 on the strength of a Brian Flynn hat trick.
“Tonight we thought we played pretty well,” Black Bears head coach Tim Whitehead said. “UMass was out-playing us early, we were able to weather the storm and played our best in the third. We’re pleased.”
Flynn tied the game in the second period, then put the Black Bears (8-4-4, 6-3-2 Hockey East) ahead for good in the third and added a late score.
But the Minutemen (3-7-3, 2-4-3) were in charge early, and with a little more than five minutes remaining in the first period, the pestering by the offense proved too much for Maine.
Senior forward Chase Langeraap scored his first goal of the season to give Massachusetts a 1-0 lead.
“I think it was kind of a broken play,” Maine goaltender Dan Sullivan said. “At the last second [Langeraap] got a pass on the back door and I wasn’t able to get there in time. It was a good shot.”
The Black Bears, who two days earlier lost a two-goal lead and lost in overtime to New Hampshire, had an opportunity to tie things up with a man advantage late in the period, but the power play proved fruitless for the 32nd consecutive time this season.
Maine came out with more offense in the second period, getting its first good opportunity on a shot by Gustav Nyquist, but Paul Dainton dived to maintain the lead.
Five minutes into the second period, the Black Bears found the net. Freshman defender Adam Phillips tried to cover up on the free puck in the Minutemen zone, but it was poked away by Flynn, who took a touch and fired the puck past Dainton for his seventh goal of the season.
“[Spencer Abbott] and Robby [Dee] were battling and trying to get the puck from him,” Flynn said. “I just stayed back hoping it would squirt out and it did. I just ripped it quick and I think it went five-hole.”
“Once they scored the goal, we started to think a bit more about the situation and stopped skating and stopped playing,” Minutemen coach Don Cahoon said.
The Black Bears came close to adding a second goal two minutes later, but the two-on-one between Nyquist and senior center Tanner House was pushed wide by the captain House.
The third period started off with an early penalty to Massachusetts’ Michael Marcou.
The Black Bears broke the tie with their first power-play goal in six games. Flynn grabbed his second of the game off assists from Nyquist and sophomore defender Nick Pryor.
“It was kind of a broken play,” Flynn said. “I know it hit the post on the short side and went in.”
“From a mental standpoint, it’s always good to capitalize with a man advantage,” Whitehead said. “In this case it was the game winner and certainly a big goal.”
After another successful penalty kill by Maine, the Black Bears added a third, after a shot by freshman defender Brice O’Connor was deflected in by sophomore forward Adam Shemansky.
The Black Bears sealed their eighth win of the season with two minutes remaining, as Flynn rounded off the hat trick, scoring the fourth Maine goal of the day.
Dainton made 28 saves in his fourth loss of the season.
“It’s disappointing, it really is,” Dainton said. “We really wanted to be .500 in Hockey East going into the break and tonight we would have clinched that. But it’s a minor setback and there’s always things to improve.”
Sullivan grabbed the fifth win of his career, saving 21 shots in the process.
Both teams have an extended break, with the Minutemen traveling to Madison, Wis., for a two-game series against Wisconsin on Dec. 30-31. The Black Bears travel to Estero, Fla., for a showdown with Miami and St. Cloud State.