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ORONO – University of Maine junior right wing Niko Dimitrakos could only watch as his team struggled to score goals during his eight-game absence at the start of the season courtesy of a broken left wrist.
Dimitrakos, last season’s Frozen Four all-tourney selection and Maine’s top returning scorer, has made up for lost time since coming back.
Dimitrakos had a pair of goals and two assists Friday night to lead the Bears to a 5-1 Hockey East victory over Northeastern University’s Huskies.
He now has five goals and two assists in his four games back.
Maine improved to 6-4-3 overall, 3-1-1 in Hockey East. In losing its fourth straight, NU fell to 5-6-1, 2-4-1.
The teams will play again Sunday afternoon at Portland’s Cumberland County Civic Center at 2.
Dan Kerluke and Lucas Lawson scored first-period goals for the Bears before Dimitrakos’ power-play goal in the second period made it 3-0.
Willie Levesque’s goal 2:20 into the third period gave the Huskies some life but Dimitrakos deflated them just 2:31 later off a two-on-one with Chris Heisten. Two minutes and four seconds after that, Robert Liscak added a goal four seconds after a Bear power play had elapsed.
“This was our best game of the season,” said Maine coach Shawn Walsh. “It was a real team effort. Everybody played well. Our defense played very, very well.”
Northeastern coach Bruce Crowder was disappointed with his team’s performance.
“We didn’t play well tonight but Maine made us play bad,” said Crowder.
Husky junior right wing Levesque said, “Maine’s defense played an outstanding game. The goal we scored was about the only time we penetrated their defense.”
Dimitrakos’ second goal was the back-breaker.
He had shot wide on a two-on-one moments earlier and Northeastern came down the ice and scored its goal. He didn’t miss this time.
“Their goalie [Jason Braun] gave me the short [glove] side both times. The second time, I was patient and followed my shot through. The first time, I just put my head down,” said Dimitrakos, who broke down the right wing and used Heisten as a decoy.
“They had been passing across [the slot] on two-on-ones previously so I was back on my heels,” Braun said. “He made a good shot. That was a big goal.”
Liscak iced it when he converted a deflected Francis Nault pass with a wrist shot that floated over Braun’s glove.
Kerluke snapped a six-game goal-scoring slump 3:19 into the game.
Dimitrakos had the puck high in the offensive zone and the wide open Kerluke went to the front of the net.
Dimitrako s took a shot that deflected off a Northeastern defenseman’s skate to Kerluke in the left faceoff circle.
He did a 180-degree spin and swept a wrist shot that snuck through Braun’s pads.
“I think it caught him by surprise,” said Kerluke, who simply tried to put the puck on net.
Lawson scored a disputed goal with 3:09 left in the period.
Lawson had beaten a few Huskies wide on earlier rushes but, this time, he cut to the inside of NU defenseman Rich Spiller.
Lawson stumbled but got off a wrister that was saved by Braun with the rebound falling in front of the goalie.
“Spiller took me down and I slid into the goal with the puck,” said Lawson.
Braun said Lawson “threw the puck in the net.” That would have nullified the goal.
In the second period, Dimitrakos, with his back to the net, tipped Tommy Reimann’s wrister from the point between Braun’s pads.
“Tommy and I have worked on that in practice. His shot was going wide so I had to bring it back. It was a good shot to deflect,” said Dimitrakos, who feels he is playing better with every game as he works his way back into game shape.
“He’s one of the most gifted offensive players in Hockey East,” said Lawson.
Levesque’s goal was set up by Jim Fahey. Levesque took his cross-ice pass and snapped a wrist shot from the right circle over Yeats’ glove.
Yeats finished with 22 saves but he was forced to make only six Grade-A stops.
“The team played well tonight and the early goals helped us,” said Yeats who has now allowed only five goals in his last four starts.
Braun finished with 25 saves, including nine Grade-A’s.
Maine went 1-for-2 on the power play and killed off all three Husky power plays. The Bears have killed off 47 of the last 49 opposing power plays.
Northeastern (5-6-1) 0 0 1 – 1 Maine (6-4-3) 2 1 2 – 5
First period – 1. Maine, Kerluke 3 (Dimitrakos), 3:19; 2. Maine, Lawson 5 (unassisted), 16:51; Penalties: Maine, Heisten, boarding, 17:48.
Second period – 3. Maine, Dimitrakos 4 (Reimann), 3:33, (pp); Penalties: NU, Mastronardi, slashing, 3:05; NU, Spiller, slashing, 9:36; Maine, Mantenuto, slashing, 9:36; Maine, Janik, holding the stick, 18:41.
Third period – 4. NU, Levesque 4 (Fahey), 2:20; 5. Maine, Dimitrakos 5 (Kerluke), 4:51; 6. Maine, Liscak 2 (Nault, Dimitrakos), 6:55; Penalties: NU, Fahey, cross-checking, 4:51; Maine, Dimitrakos, tripping, 13:21
Shots on goal: NU 9-8-6-23; Maine, 12-10-8-30
Power-play opportunities: NU 0 of 3; Maine 1 of 2
High-percentage scoring chances: NU 3-3-5 -11; Maine 8-5-7-20
Goalies: NU, Braun (30 shots-25 saves); Maine, Yeats (23-22)