ORONO, Me. — The first question the New Brunswick players asked after the game was how the Toronto Blue Jays were doing in the American League Championship Series.
They were more interested in that game than the open skate they had just participated in with Maine, beating the Black Bears 5-1, but it really wasn’t that close.
Maine managed to keep within shouting distance thanks to netminder Shawn Romeo and a defensive corps that cleared away rebound after rebound, but in the end, UNB wore down the Black Bears and blew open a 2-1 game late in the second period.
On the ensuing faceoff after a Maine penalty, Philippe Maillet scored the second of his two goals with just 14 seconds remaining in the middle stanza to push the lead to 3-1 and the Varsity Reds never looked back.
The lone bright spot for Maine’s offense came with a mere 18 seconds left to play in the first when Rob Michel found Will Merchant for a quick shot. UNB goalie Alex Dubeau made the original save, but Brendan Robbins was there to collect the rebound to tie the score at 1-1 after the opening period.
Both Maine coach Red Gendron and captain Steven Swavely said after the game they were impressed by the freshman’s repeated drives to the net, something other forwards on this team need to emulate.
“Some guys stepped up, some guys did not,” Gendron said.
He would not address which players might have played their way into (or out of) the regular lineup.
“I need to see the video before I can assess that,” added Gendron.
One player who had a chance to step up was freshman Stephen Cochrane. In what has become a common refrain for Maine in recent years, what might have been a lead turned into a deficit in just a few moments. Cochrane rang a shot off the iron that would have given the Black Bears a shocking 2-1 lead, but the puck stayed out.
New Brunswick won the next faceoff and rushed down the ice. Maillet’s initial shot was blocked by Sam Becker, but went to Philippe Halley, who banked a shot off the post for the eventual game-winner.
In the third it was all New Brunswick as the Varsity Reds salted away the 5-1 victory despite having only 17 skaters dressed.
UNB coach Gardiner MacDougall joked that if the Chicago Blackhawks could do it and win a Stanley Cup, his team could.
“Last year we came down and got pretty soundly thrashed,” he said, referring to an 8-3 defeat in Orono last October. “We had 13 freshmen who have matured, learned and grown into the backbone of this team.”
Both Mailett and Halley are among that group.
Asked to sum up the game, Gendron replied, “We got beat 5-1.”