ORONO – The University of Maine Black Bear hockey team received a formidable and valuable test from the United States National Team Development Program’s highly skilled and swift-skating Under-18 squad Saturday night.
But Maine received a hat trick and an assist from senior left wing Billy Ryan and was able to hold off the Under-18 team 5-3 in an exhibition game at Alfond Arena.
Maine opens its season Friday and Saturday nights with a series at Denver.
Maine was without starting goalie Ben Bishop (leg injury suffered in warmups) and veteran defensemen Bret Tyler and Matt Duffy (one-game suspension for violating team rules) so all 10 freshmen were in the lineup.
Maine coach Tim Whitehead said Bishop’s status is up in the air.
“We’ll wait and see. Hopefully, he can be ready for Denver,” said Whitehead. “We’ll have to see where things are on Monday after a day of rest. We’ll see how serious it is.”
Seniors Keenan Hopson and Vince Laise had the other Maine goals and backup Dave Wilson made 20 saves including six of the Grade-A (high-percentage) variety. Hopson also had an assist and freshman left wing Andrew Sweetland had two assists.
Harvard University-bound Colin Moore, Vinny Saponari (Boston University) and Justin Florek (Northern Michigan) scored for Team USA with Saponari adding an assist. Joe Cannata (Merrimack) wound up making 17 saves including eight Grade-As.
“They were tough to play against. They played the body every chance they could,” said Team USA center Kelen Corkum, who will attend Maine next fall or the fall of 2009.
Corkum is the son of former hard-hitting Maine right wing Bob Corkum.
“It was a very physical game,” said Team USA defenseman Ryan Hegarty, who will play for Maine beginning next fall. “Both teams were really competitive and really aggressive.”
Whitehead said, “It’s obvious we have areas we need to work on but there were a lot more positives than negatives, especially considering half of our team was first-year players.”
Maine did an effective job taking the body to slow down the speedy Under-18s. The Bears were also able to parlay their size and strength advantage into an efficient net front presence at both ends of the ice.
The Bears never trailed, taking a 1-0 lead 42 seconds into the game. Ryan’s low, 25-foot wrister snuck through the legs of Cannata, hit the far post and deflected into the path of the fully extended Hopson, who poked it home.
Ryan made it 2-0 on the power play midway through the second period with a screened slap shot from the right point that beat Cannata to the upper short side.
“I didn’t see it until it was past me,” said Cannata, who was being screened by Rob Bellamy.
Moore cut the lead in half when he freed the puck with a crunching hit behind the Maine net and scored off a wraparound.
The teams swapped third-period goals until Ryan iced it with an empty-netter from the defensive blue line with 55 seconds left.
Laise’s one-timer off a Wes Clark pass out from behind the net beat Cannata five-hole to make it 3-1, but Saponari answered with a second-chance wraparound. Ryan (power play) was uncovered at the back door and re-directed a picture-perfect pass from freshman defenseman Josh Van Dyk to rebuild the two-goal lead before Florek (power play) swept a deflected shot off the stick of the ever-dangerous David Warsofsky behind the screened Wilson with 2:30 left.
BLACK BEARS 5, UNDER-18s 3
Team USA (5-2-1) 0 1 2 – 3
Maine 1 1 3 – 5
First period – 1. Maine, Hopson (Ryan, Hahn), :42. Penalties: USA, Lorenz, tripping, 1:08; USA, Hegarty, interference, 3:05; Maine, Carriere, elbowing, 8:54; Maine, Dee, hooking, 10:11; USA, Czarnik, tripping, 15:34; Maine, Van Dyk, hooking, 17:27.
Second period – 2. Maine, Ryan (Hopson, Bellamy), 9:44 (pp); 3. USA, Moore 1 (Gaul, Wohlberg), 18:25. Penalties: Maine, House, boarding, 6:08; USA, Wohlberg, hitting from behind, 9:14; Maine, Dee, elbowing, 10:05; USA, Marciano, charging, 13:24; Maine, Ramsey, holding, 14:13; USA, Moore, tripping, 15:04.
Third period – 4. Maine, Laise (Clark, Sweetland), 2:18; 5. USA, Saponari 2 (Czarnik, Hayes), 10:59; 6. Maine, Ryan (Van Dyk, Sweetland), 14:10 (pp); 7. USA, Florek 2 (Warsofsky, Saponari), 17:30 (pp); 8. Maine, Ryan (Ramsey), 19:05 (en). Penalties: USA, Warsofsky, tripping, 4:15; Maine, Bellamy, hitting after whistle, 4:15; Maine, House, tripping, 6:18; USA, Lorenz, holding, 12:37; Maine, Hahn, hitting from behind, 16:29; Maine, Bellamy, high-sticking, 19:53.
Shots on goal: Team USA 6-5-12-23; Maine 9-5-8-22
Goaltenders: Team USA, Cannata (21 shots-17 saves; Maine, Wilson (23-20)
Power-play opportunities: Team USA 1-8, Maine 2-8
High-percentage scoring chances: Team USA 4-4-8-16; Maine 7-4-6-17