ORONO, Me. — The University of Maine picked up a much-needed sweep of Hockey East rivals Boston College, defeating the Eagles, 7-4, Saturday afternoon.
In front of a sold-out Alfond Arena crowd, forward Matt Mangene finished with his first-career hat trick while forward Joey Diamond added two goals and forward Connor Leen scored his first collegiate goal. BC forward Barry Almeida finished with a hat trick as well.
“Full credit to Maine, they have a very sound hockey team,” said BC coach Jerry York. “I thought the crowd was a real good factor for them. I thought we could have won both games.”
The Black Bears improved to 12-8-3 and 9-7-2 in Hockey East, while BC fell to 14-10-1 and 10-7-1 in conference.
“It was a hard-fought series,” said Maine coach Tim Whitehead. “It’s a big positive to fall behind 2-0 and come back and tie it up.”
“You want to win, it’s a shame we couldn’t get the two points,” Almeida said. “Two teams battling hard — two good teams. It’s a game you like to play in as a hockey player. Everyone’s battling.”
The first Eagles’ goal came less than three minutes into the contest after Almeida connected on his 12th of the season. Almeida passed to center Kevin Hayes at the top of the slot, who fired a shot toward goalie Dan Sullivan. Sullivan deflected the initial shot away, but Almeida collected the rebound and found an opening past Sullivan.
Less than two minutes later, the Eagles connected again on a beautiful one-timer by forward Jonny Gaudreau. BC defender Tommy Cross controlled the puck at the top of the offensive zone and spotted Gaudreau near the net and snapped the puck right to his stick for the easy redirection.
BC continued to dominate possession through the first half of the period until a holding call on defender Isaac MacLeod gave the Black Bears a power-play opportunity, and Maine took advantage.
Thirteen seconds into the power play, defender Will O’Neill fired a shot toward goalie Brian Billett, but the puck was tipped past Billett en route by Diamond for his 16th goal of the season.
“They left me alone in front and Will noticed I was alone and made a great shot,” Diamond said.
Less than a minute after the goal, BC gave Maine another power-play chance after defender Edwin Shea was called for interference.
Midway through the power play, it appeared as if the Eagles were going to break in on a short-handed two-on-one rush, but the puck got caught up in the linesman’s skate and forward Spencer Abbott corralled it and passed to center Brian Flynn for the easy goal.
The play in the second period was even for the first eight minutes until the Eagles gave the Black Bears another power-play opportunity. BC defender Isaac MacLeod was booked for hooking after Diamond weaved his way through the Eagles’ defense. Toward the end of the power play, Abbott made a great pass through the crease to Mangene, who one-timed it past Billett.
With less than seven minutes remaining in the period, the Eagles caught a break after Maine’s Mike Cornell was called for a five-minute hitting from behind major and had to leave the contest after a game misconduct.
However, just 11 seconds into BC’s power play, Mangene broke free and beat Billett for the second time in the period. After firing a shot from beyond the faceoff circle, Mangene collected his rebound and scored his seventh goal of the season.
“It was five-on-four, the puck came to me, and I was able to get around one guy and use my speed to take a shot and I got my own rebound and popped it over his shoulder,” Mangene said. “It changed the momentum of that power play. It was a huge way to start out [penalty kill].”
The Eagles capitalized on the Cornell’s penalty shortly thereafter with Almeida’s second goal of the game. BC forward Steven Whitney dropped the puck off to Almeida waiting by the crease, who beat Sullivan to pull BC to within one.
“That quick goal by Mangene — you could hang your head on that, but we got one right back,” Almeida said. “We got the momentum back and still had time on the power play.”
“When they went 4-2 on the five-minute power play, I thought it was key to make it 4-3,” York said. “Barry Almeida’s short-hander in the third period was a terrific change in the momentum of the game.”
The Black Bears had another chance on a power play eight minutes into the period, but things didn’t go as planned this time for Whitehead’s squad. After some excellent forechecking by BC forward Steven Whitney, he found Almeida in the slot for his third goal of the game to tie the score at four.
With just under three minutes remaining in the game, Leen scored his first collegiate goal after gathering his own rebound and flicking the puck past Billett.
“It’s the biggest one so far,” Leen said with a chuckle of his first collegiate goal. “We had an odd man rush and I just put it on net for a rebound and I got my own and put it in. I think I got it out of the air — it was pretty lucky.”
“I was happy for him,” Whitehead said. “He’s fought through a lot; he’s a great kid. To get the game-winner against BC for your first goal is great.”
Diamond iced it for the Black Bears with an empty-net goal from 75 feet away. Diamond got the puck by his defensive faceoff circle and flipped it up and into the BC net after a couple bounces.
“I was just trying to get it out of the zone and, I don’t know, I had a weird feeling it was going to go in and I just let it go,” Diamond said. “We expected they were going to come out hard. We weathered their storm and we were fortunate to bury two on the power play.”
Mangene completed the hat trick in the final minute to give the Black Bears their first sweep of BC in six years.
Billett finished with 28 saves, while Sullivan stopped 31.
“[Sullivan] fell behind 2-0, but he’s a tough competitor,” Whitehead said. “He captured the game and made huge stops in key moments.”