ORONO, Maine — The University of Maine men’s ice hockey team got their season underway Saturday night at the Alfond Arena in a physical battle against Quinnipiac University.
The Bobcats came into Orono looking to spoil the opener for the Black Bears, and forward Jordan Samuels-Thomas scored a game-winning goal 18:34 into the third period to give the Bobcats the 2-1 victory. It was also Samuel-Thomas’s first game with the Bobcats since transferring from Bowling Green State University.
“It was a set play, it came back to me, I tried to put the puck on the outside and luckily it went in,” Samuels-Thomas said. “It’s good to comeback home; it was a blessing for me to come back to Quinnipiac, it’s a nice school and I’m 40 minutes from home.”
Maine goaltender Dan Sullivan would have liked to have a second chance at saving it.
“I’d like to have that one back. It’s a terrible feeling to see the crowd leaving after that,” Sullivan said.
The Black Bears started the scoring off in the first period with a pair of brothers at forward. The Swavelys teamed up as junior Jon assisted freshman Steven to score the first goal of the year for the Black Bears 3:40 into the first period and put them up 1-0.
“We’ve always had a good amount of chemistry,” Swavely said. “He had to dig it out, and when I got it I got it off as quick as I could,”
“Tremendous for both guys,” said Maine coach Tim Whitehead. “They’re a great combo. They had several chances to score. I’m really happy for the Swavely brothers; it was a well-deserved goal.”
Maine outshot the Bobcats 20-6 in the first period, with a 12-3 shots-on-goal advantage as well. Quinnipiac goalie Eric Hartzell saved 31 shots against Sullivan’s 16 in the game.
The Bobcats were able to tie the game up at one goal apiece two minutes into the second period when Travis St. Denis was assisted by Jeremy Langois.
“I believe I made the initial save, but someone picked it up and put it in; I don’t know how it got in,” Sullivan said.
At 10:02 into the second period, Diamond hit Quinnipiac forward Kellen Jones from behind, and Jones was slow to get up. A small scuffle ensued, resulting in Diamond being penalized with game misconduct and Quinnipiac forward Clay Harvey heading to the box for hitting after the whistle.
“It was tough; it was a judgment call and they decided to give him the five instead of the two, and I respect that,” said Whitehead. “I disagree with it, but we had good officials tonight, and I respect them, and that’s how they saw it. It was a tough break for [Diamond]; this is the kind of game he loves. It was a low-scoring, hard-fought game.”
Diamond did not return to the game.
Maine had a prime opportunity to take the lead before the penalties started, as Stu Higgins and Adam Shemansky had a two-on-one opportunity. Higgins passed to Shemansky, who had a wide open net from his angle, but his shot went wide right.
“It was unacceptable, it was stupid, I got a good pass and I have to bury that,” Shemansky said.
“Shemansky is going to score that 99 out of 100, so yeah, that was tough,” Whitehead said. “That was probably the most glorious chance. He has scored so many goals and set up so many goals for us, he will get his share.”
The third period was full of chances for both Quinnipiac and Maine to break the tie, but neither team could put one in the net. Whitehead and Pecknold agreed that they would play four-on-four in overtime. Four-on-four overtime play is allowed in nonconference games.
“Tim and I are the biggest proponents of four-on-four overtime, and we agreed to it if it happened,” Quinnipiac coach Rand Pecknold said. “It was pretty funny; midway through the third it looked like we were going to get our wish, but we scored a goal.”
Maine’s next game will be against the University of New Brunswick on Sunday Oct. 7 at 7 p.m., while Quinnipiac hosts Acadia University at 4 p.m.