ORONO – New Hampshire hockey coach Dick Umile was quick and candid after the Wildcats pounded the Maine Black Bears 5-0 Saturday, capping a sweep of the weekend series.
“That was a good series for you,” an Alfond Arena official told Umile whose team, before Friday, had not won at Alfond since 1985.
“That was a great series for us,” Umile corrected without hesitation.
The Wildcats improved to 16-4-1, 8-3-1 in Hockey East, and will move up from fifth place in the league. The Bears fell to 9-9-3, 6-7-2 in HE, and will lose the share of first place it held with three other teams.
Maine has improved steadily since its 7-0 loss to UNH in November – and proved it Saturday by outshooting UNH 37-25. But the Bears again suffered defensive breakdowns while the Wildcats showed they are more than a few steps ahead.
“They have a solid defense and an explosive offense,” UMaine coach Shawn Walsh said of the nation’s fourth-ranked team.
“We reverted a little bit to the way we [had been playing]. We had defensive breakdowns as a team. It’s disappointing. I think we certainly created enough chances. We just have to keep on track getting better,” he added.
UNH Hobey Baker candidate Jason Krog gave an indicator the game’s outcome with a power-play goal off a rebound with 5 minutes, 11 seconds left in the first. The game only got worse for the Bears.
With 34 seconds left in the first period, Tom Nolan pushed in a Steve O’Brien shot that came from the right point. But the 2-0 advantage didn’t deter Maine.
In the second Maine’s offense dominated the UNH zone as the Bears outshot the Wildcats 21-6 and got off 19 more high-percentage scoring attempts.
However, UNH still scored. At 9:09 in the period, a wide-open Krog again lifted in a rebound to notch UNH’s third goal on its 13th shot.
Then UNH’s Mark Mowers opened the third with a short-handed goal when he took the puck from Cory Larose at the blue line and broke away into an empty Maine zone to beat goalie Alfie Michaud between the pads.
UMaine coach Shawn Walsh replaced Michaud after Krog made it 5-0 on his third goal, conceding the game was over.
“I put Javier [Gorriti] in because the game was decided,” Walsh said of the senior goalie, who returned to the team this month when junior goalie Bryan Masotta was suspended after being charged with criminal threatening.
“It was good for him to play in a game [this season]. Now that’s out of the way,” Walsh added.
Umile said the Bears have improved since the Wildcats first beat them soundly, specifically in creating scoring chances. But with the nation’s best penalty kill, UNH took away Maine’s best offensive weapon Saturday when it killed off all 10 of Maine’s power-play opportunties – the second best penalty-kill effort by any college team in a game this season.
Even in the second period when Maine attacked the UNH net, the Bears couldn’t find a way around the 6-foor-4, 204-pound Sean Matile, screens or not.
“We did get a lot of chances,” said Maine tri-captain Shawn Wansborough. “They’re going to score on their chances. It’s tough. Sean is a big kid. You try to score and he fills up so much of the net.
“Since that [7-0 loss at UNH], we have improved. We’ve been picking it up. Then again, we’ve only scored [eight] goals in our last three games.”
In addition to winning at Alfond for the first time in 13 years, the Wildcats’ Matile tied a record. But nothing meant more than sweeping the Bears in Orono.
“The accolades are not important. It’s just nice to win,” said Matile, who tied former Maine goalie Garth Snow’s Hockey East record with his fifth career league shutout. “It’s real nice to sweep here. To get a shutout is icing on the cake.”
Wildcats 5, Black Bears 0
New Hampshire (16-4-1) 2 1 2 – 5 Maine (9-9-3) 0 0 0 – 0
First period – 1. UNH, Krog (Filipowicz, Mowers), 14:49, pp; 2. UNH, Nolan (O’Brien, Mowers), 19:26; Penalties: UM, Gustafsson, slashing, 1:29; UNH, Enders, interference, 2:54; UNH, Gagnon, elbowing, 10:29; UM, Larose, elbowing, 13:59; UNH, Lind, holding, 17:01
Second period – 3. UNH, Krog (Bekar, O’Brien), 9:09; Penalties: UNH, Filipowicz, high sticking, 2:07; UNH, Gagnon, interference, 6:35; UM, Tate, interference, 13:05; UNH, Filipowicz, interference, 14:02; UNH, Filipowicz, hitting from behind and game misconduct, 17:55; UM, White, hitting after whistle, 17:55; UNH, Onufrechuk, hitting after whistle, 17:55
Third period – 4. UNH, Mowers (Bragnalo), 2:44, sh; 5. UNH, Krog (Mowers), 5:49, pp; Penalties: UNH, Lind, Kneeing, 2:09; UM, Leger, late hit, 4:13; UNH, Walsh, slashing, 9:31; UM, Kerluke, interference, 10:31; UNH, Ficek, interference, 15:53; UM, Parmentier, high sticking, 18:10; UNH, Matile, interference, 18:19
Shots on goal: UNH 10-6-9-25; Maine 4-21-12-37
Goaltenders: UNH, Sean Matile; Maine, Alfie Michaud, Javier Gorriti
Power-play opportunities: UNH 2 of 6; Maine 0 of 10
High-percentage scoring attempts: UNH 10-4-7-21; Maine 8-23-12-43