ORONO, Me. — Coming off a rough 7-3 defeat Friday night, Massachusetts got out on top of Maine early and never looked back, winning 3-1 at Alfond Arena.
The Minutemen improve to 11-14-5 and 7-12-4 in Hockey East, while the Black Bears fall to 18-10-3 and 13-9-2 in the conference.
“We had a lot of energy left over from last night,” said UMass coach Don ‘Toot’ Cahoon. “I thought we pressured the puck well. Our physicality was better than it had been and our goaltending was solid.”
The Minutemen stifled the Maine crowd in the first minute with an early goal. A miscommunication by Black Bears defenders allowed Steven Guzzo to corral the puck and beat the surprised Dan Sullivan.
“[Michael] Pereira came on one side of the net and I came on the other and the goalie was turning and lost control and I was luckily enough to be there to pop it in,” Guzzo said.
“That first goal is always so big,” Maine coach Tim Whitehead said. “It’s such an emotional game and that really charged them up.”
UMass picked up its pressure from the night before, causing the Black Bears trouble in the neutral zone, making it difficult for Maine to start their offense.
The Black Bears had their first power-play opportunity midway through the first period when forward Andrew Tegeler was tagged for interference. The Black Bears mustered little offense during the man-advantage.
With five minutes remaining in the period, Maine had another chance on the power play, but looked more disjointed than the previous opportunity, leaving the score 1-0 in favor of the Minutemen.
The Black Bears brought a little more energy in the second period, with Spencer Abbott getting a good look at the net, but the shot was deflected away by Kevin Boyle.
Minutes later, UMass had a great opportunity to double their lead, but Sullivan somehow kept the puck from crossing the red line.
The Minutemen’s defense continued to excel in front of Boyle, with defender Oleg Yevenko sprawling out to stop a breakaway by Matt Mangene.
With 12 minutes gone by in the second period, the Minutemen got their first chance on the power play and took advantage of it. After Michael Marcou fired a shot toward Sullivan, Pereira gathered it for an easy put-in for his 17th goal of the season.
“It deflected off somebody and went wide,” Sullivan said. “I tried to get back in position, but their guy was right there and put it in. He had good hands there.”
“They seized the momentum on that power-play goal,” added Whitehead.
UMass gained another power-play opportunity late in the period, but couldn’t connect. The Minutemen outshot the Black Bears 12-8 in the second period.
The Black Bears got right back into the game at the start of the third period thanks to Joey Diamond. After controlling the puck behind the net, Diamond cut toward the slot and fired a shot as he got tripped up. After a lengthy review, the goal stood, bringing the score to 2-1.
Any momentum from that goal soon disappeared for Maine as John Parker was called for a five-minute hitting from behind penalty and was given a game misconduct.
The Black Bears kept the Minutemen out of the net, but were unable to build off their earlier goal.
With eight minutes remaining in the period, the Minutemen broke out on a four-on-two break and Rocco Carzo finished the play with an easy one-timer.
“We knew we had to bear down and skate hard [and] it turned out well for us tonight,” Carzo said. “We needed some momentum at the start and we got it and kept rolling from there.”
“Mangene came on a rush and tried to do too much,” Whitehead said of Carzo’s goal. “We’ve talked about simplifying our game. They came back the other way and capitalized. We had plenty of time to come back, but we tried to do too many things individually. It wasn’t a lack of desire, it was a lack of execution.”
UMass added an empty-net goal from Eric Filiou in the final minute.
Sullivan made 19 saves on 22 shots, while Boyle stopped 21 of the 22 attempts directed his way.
“We didn’t have enough traffic in front,” Sullivan said. “[Boyle] was making the saves tonight and we’ll give him the credit he deserves.”
Maine sits alone in fourth place in Hockey East, while UMass is tied for the final playoff spot with Northeastern.
“[The win] keeps us alive,” Cahoon said. “We’re fighting for our lives.”