ORONO, Me. — Coming off a 1-1 performance in the Ice Breaker Tournament last weekend, Maine opened its homecoming weekend series against St. Lawrence on Friday night.
The Saints outplayed the Black Bears in every aspect of the game and as a result came out with a 5-0 victory.
The Black Bears were not happy with their effort against the Saints, which seemed to fall off in the opening minutes.
“We actually got out of the gate within the first five minutes or so [and] the guys felt pretty good on the bench, but after that first goal, it seemed like we deflated pretty quickly,” said Maine coach Tim Whitehead. “I was really disappointed in how we responded. They outplayed us in every area.”
“We played hard for the first three minutes of the game and it just fell off from there,” added Maine co-captain Joey Diamond.
Maine’s offense struggled in the first period, going 0-for-3 on the power play and missing open-shot opportunities.
Nearly seven minutes into the first period, St. Lawrence struck first as Saints’ defenseman Riley Austin wired a slap shot through the Maine defense and deflected off of Maine defenseman Mike Cornell on its way past goaltender Dan Sullivan.
“I’m not sure what that hit,” said Sullivan. “It just rattled around and it found its way into the net.”
The second period was all St. Lawrence as well, as Maine looked to be having a hard time controlling the puck and staying on their skates, as each time they had an opportunity, they lost the puck or were outskated by St. Lawrence.
Maine was able to get more shots off this period, but St. Lawrence was able to get the goals.
Maine forward Sean Higgins went to the penalty box 28 seconds into the second period and St. Lawrence was able to capitalize on the power play. Forward Chris Martin was assisted by fellow forward Kyle Flanagan and defenseman Justin Baker to extend the Saints lead to 2-0 just 1:08 into the second period.
At 9:30, Baker was sent to the box for roughing, but this did not keep the Saints from scoring again. Flanagan picked up another assist as he helped forward Patrick Doherty score a shorthanded goal 10:13 into the second period that increased the lead to 3-0.
“Our big focus is to get our penalty kill as good as our power play,” said Flanagan. “Tonight, we ended up getting a shorthanded goal. The penalty kill was our big focus tonight and to get a goal a man down, that really stopped their momentum.”
“That’s our bread and butter; we’re going to win or lose on special teams,” Saints’ coach Greg Carvel said. “We don’t score a ton of goals five-on-five, but our five guys on our power play are skilled players and if you give them enough opportunity, they’re going to score goals. I thought our [penalty kill] was real good tonight, considering the number of penalties. We had to keep playing the same guys for a lot of minutes.”
Flanagan lead the Saints with three assists on the night, while the team was able to score on two of nine power-play opportunities to go along with the shorthanded goal.
The game got ugly as it headed into the third period, as Brice O’Connor picked up two penalties in the period and Diamond inched closer to the Maine school record for penalty minutes as he also picked up two penalties in the period.
Then 3:45 into the third period, forward Gunnar Hughes scored for the Saints, assisted by forward Pat Raley and defenseman George Hughes to give them a 4-0 lead.
As the period wore on, both teams started to rack up penalties and Maine was still unable to capitalize on any opportunity that came their way, finishing 0-for-9 on power-play opportunities in the game.
At the 7:40 mark of the third period, Baker tallied a power-play goal that made the score at 5-0.
Matt Morris replaced Sullivan after the goal.
Sullivan finished with 17 saves, while Weninger saved 30 for St. Lawrence.
“We have to bounce back tomorrow, the guys are going to come out stronger and we will have to just shower this one off,” said Sullivan. “It was a very tough loss.”
“We embarrassed ourselves tonight,” Diamond said. “The fans don’t deserve that. We’ll definitely check ourselves at the door tomorrow when we walk in for meeting and realize it’s a privilege and an honor to put on that sweater.”
Maine and St. Lawrence finish their series Saturday night at 7 p.m.