ST. PAUL, Minn. – University of Maine defenseman Bryan Plaszcz, from nearby Apple Valley, said he was having trouble sleeping this week in anticipation of returning home for the Black Bears’ season opener against the University of Minnesota.
He can sleep well now after scoring what proved to be the game-winner as the Bears upset the youthful Golden Gophers 3-1 Friday night in the Hall of Fame game at the Xcel Energy Center.
Maine is now 9-0-1 in its last 10 season openers, including four wins over Minnesota.
Sophomore goalie Ben Bishop made 29 saves for the Bears, including 25 over the last two periods.
Maine senior left wing Josh Soares opened the scoring just 21 seconds into the game, and Plaszcz expanded the lead at the 12:03 mark.
Freshman Jay Barriball scored Minnesota’s goal with 1:06 remaining in the first period and that’s the way it stayed until freshman right wing Teddy Purcell sewed up the win by scoring an empty-net goal with 26 seconds left.
The Gophers came into the game ranked second in one national poll and third in another while Maine was ranked 11th in both.
“It was awesome,” said Plaszcz. “Growing up, I always dreamed of playing for the Gophers and beating Maine at home. But playing for Maine and beating the Gophers out here is so much better.”
Plaszcz’s goal was set up by Wes Clark and Brent Shepheard.
“They did a great job cycling the puck down low,” said Plaszcz. “Clark came around the net and laid the puck out for me. I was almost on the goal line and I just put the puck on net and it went between [goalie Jeff Frazee’s] leg and the [short side] post.”
Soares had provided the Bears with a lead they would never relinquish. Michel Leveille and Matt Duffy picked up the assists.
“Michel got the puck to Duffy and he took a quick shot on net. I was in front screening and the puck deflected off my shin pad and went in,” said Soares. “The goalie was coming across. He overcommitted to the original shot and [the deflection] beat him completely.”
“It was nice to get an early goal because it took the crowd out of the game,” added Soares, who was also pleased for Plaszcz.
“It was great for him to get that goal at home. He has played well for us,” said Soares. “This was a great win for us. We had a good effort overall. We played a fairly solid game.”
Bishop turned in an outstanding outing, preserving the 2-1 lead late in the second period by making a glove save on Barriball’s breakaway.
“He wasn’t looking at me. He took a quick shot and I anticipated it,” said Bishop, who credited his teammates with making his job easier.
“The defense did a great job. They let me see the pucks. I didn’t have to face any screened shots,” said Bishop. He added that the win was particularly rewarding because they weren’t ranked in the top 10 despite reaching the Frozen Four last year.
“We don’t get any respect, so we came out here and took care of business,” said Bishop, who robbed Jim O’Brien in the third period by scrambling back into position after the puck deflected crazily into the slot off the boards behind the net.
Leveille and Duffy assisted on Purcell’s empty-netter.
Frazee, playing in place of the suspended Kellen Briggs, finished with 18 saves, including a breakaway stop off Purcell in the third period.
The Gophers were without Tyler Hirsch, who was a redshirt last year after leading the team in scoring two years ago, for reportedly violating team rules.
“This was a great start to the season,” said Maine coach Tim Whitehead. “We stuck to the game plan in the first and third periods. They outworked us in the second period and we took some penalties. We got away from our game. We tried to do too much. But we got back to playing strong Maine hockey in the third period to close out the win.”
Minnesota outshot Maine 16-3 in that second period en route to an overall 30-21 edge.
Whitehead said he was very happy for Plaszcz and fellow Apple Valley native Mike Lundin, Maine’s only senior defenseman.
“Mike was outstanding. He’s such a strong leader for us,” said Whitehead. “He played with such poise.”
BLACK BEARS 3, GOLDEN GOPHERS 1
Maine (1-0) 2 0 1 – 3
Minnesota (0-1) 1 0 0 – 1
First period – 1. Maine, Soares 1 (Duffy, Leveille), :21; 2. Maine, Plaszcz 1 (Clark, Shepheard), 12:03; 3. Minnesota, Barriball 1 (Vannelli), 18:54. Penalties: Minnesota, Fischer, obstruction-hooking, 6:41; Maine, Shepheard, tripping, 9:14; Minnesota, Howe, hooking, 14:04; Minnesota, Johnson, elbowing, 19:07
Second period – No scoring. Penalties: Maine, Bellamy, elbowing, 2:04. Maine, Duffy, unsportsmanlike conduct, 5:52; Minnesota, Flynn, unsportsmanlike conduct, 5:52; Maine, Hahn, hooking, 13:24; Maine, Tyler, holding, 14:42; Minnesota, Kaufmann, roughing, 14:42; Maine, Clark, slashing, 15:51
Third period – 4. Maine, Purcell 1 (Leveille, Duffy), 19:34 (en). Penalties: Minnesota, Stoa, tripping, :40; Maine, Plaszcz, hooking, 3:45; Maine, Tyler, tripping, 14:18; Minnesota, Gordon, cross-checking, 16:41
Shots on goal: Maine 11-3-7-21; Minnesota 5-16-9-30
Goaltenders: Maine, Bishop (30 shots-29 saves); Minnesota, Frazee (21-18)
Power-play opportunities: Maine 0 of 5; Minnesota 0 of 6