BOSTON – University of Maine men’s hockey coach Tim Whitehead knows his inexperienced Black Bears are going to be in a lot of close, low-scoring games this season.
He’s hoping his Bears can win their share of those games. They won one Friday night.
Freshman center Tanner House’s first career goal, coming with 10:25 remaining in regulation, gave the Black Bears a 3-2 come-from-behind win over Northeastern University at Matthews Arena.
It was the Bears’ first Hockey East game.
“It was a great team effort tonight,” said Whitehead. “I liked the fact every time we had a tough shift or gave up a goal, we came right back.”
Maine erased a pair of one-goal deficits to collect its fourth straight victory over Northeastern at Matthews Arena.
House’s goal was set up by Wes Clark and came just two seconds after a Maine power play had elapsed.
Clark carried the puck down the left wing in a one-on-one with a Huskies defenseman and snapped off a low wrist shot that Brad Thiessen kicked out into the corner.
But Clark followed his shot and centered it to House, who flipped it over Thiessen’s glove into the far corner.
“I thought Wes was going to take it around the net. But he made a great no-look pass,” said House. “I was all alone. I was in tight, so I tried to get it up quickly.”
Clark said, “We work a lot in practice on following up our shots looking for rebounds. I heard a little holler from Tanner.”
House said it was nice that his first college goal was a game-winner but added, “It’s more important that we got the win.”
Maine goalie Ben Bishop came up with several important saves down the stretch as the Bears had to kill off a pair of penalties. He finished with 32 on the evening, including 15 in the third period. He had 17 Grade-A (high-percentage) saves among his 32. Northeastern also had two shots bounce off the crossbar in the second period.
“I’d rather face 15 shots in a period than seven,” said Bishop.
“He played well tonight,” said NU junior defenseman Denis Chisholm.
“We’ve got a lot of young guys out there, so we’re not going to be able to lock people down like we have in the past. We’re going to have to fight for every win,” said Bishop.
Maine improved to 3-2 on the season while Northeastern fell to 1-2 overall, 1-1 in Hockey East.
The two teams will play again tonight at 7.
NU’s Dennis McCauley opened the scoring 7:07 into the game, but junior right wing Jeff Marshall tied it up 5:25 later.
It was Marshall’s first career point in his 24th game.
The teams swapped power-play goals in the second period as Greg Costa scored 18 seconds into the middle period before Keenan Hopson tied it up 8:42 later.
McCauley scored off a well conceived three-on-two with Costa and Randy Guzior. McCauley skated right to left across the slot and beat Bishop with a low wrist shot across the grain.
The Bears tied it when Bret Tyler took a pass from Clark and wristed a chest-high puck toward the net that Marshall batted down behind Thiessen.
Marshall admitted he caught a break on the goal because his stick was above his shoulders, which should have nullified it.
“My hands were up by my eyes,” said Marshall.
Costa’s goal came on his deflection of Jimmy Russo’s low snap shot from the point as he was positioned at the top of the crease.
Hopson drew the Bears level when he intercepted an errant clear by Louis Liotti and beat Thiessen with a quick shot to the far post.
Maine had the better of the play in the first period, but Northeastern had the decided edge in the second period and carried that over into the third period.
Bishop came diving out fully extended early in the third period to beat NU’s Kyle Kraemer in a race for the puck. Bishop smothered it and eventually pushed it to a teammate to avoid a delay-of-game penalty.
“He was coming in slowly. It may have been the end of his shift. That’s why I came out,” said Bishop, who added that one of the NU players poked it away from him before he was able to make a glove pass to a teammate.
“That was the play of the game,” said Whitehead.
NU had a six-on-four power play at the end after pulling Thiessen in favor of an extra attacker, but Bishop stymied them.
“They outworked us,” said NU Coach Greg Cronin. “And they won the special teams battle. Their third goal was like a power-play goal because we only had four on the ice [as the penalized player hadn’t reached the defensive zone].”
Thiessen finished with 30 saves, including 16 Grade-A.
“We had a good chance to win, but penalties killed us,” said Chisholm.
Tyler had an assist to extend his points streak to four games (3 goals, 3 assists) and Clark had two assists, expanding his points streak to three games (2 goals, 4 assists).
BLACK BEARS 3, HUSKIES 2
Maine (3-2) 1 1 1 – 3
Northeastern (1-2) 1 1 0 – 2
First period – 1. NU, McCauley 1 (Costa, Guzior), 7:07; 2. Maine, Marshall 1 (Tyler, Clark), 12:32. Penalties: NU, MacLeod, slashing, 12:35; Maine, Tyler, obstruction-interference, 19:45
Second period – 3. NU, Costa 1 (Russo), :18 (pp); 4. Maine, Hopson 1 (unassisted), 9:00 (pp). Penalties: NU, Silva, obstruction-interference, 5:22; NU, Guzior, hooking, 8:20; Maine, Tyler, obstruction-interference, 10:22; NU, McCauley, slashing, 14:27; Maine, Hahn, high sticking, 16:33; NU, Guzior, boarding, 18:56
Third period – 5. Maine, House 1 (Clark) 9:35. Penalties: Maine, Ramsey, hitting after whistle, 2:03; NU, MacLeod, slashing, 7:33; Maine, Clark, contact to the head, 15:37; Maine, Hopson, boarding, 18:57
Shots on goal: Maine 15-11-7-33; NU 11-8-15-34
Goaltenders: Maine, Bishop (34 shots-32 saves); NU, Thiessen (33-30)
Power-play opportunities: Maine 1 of 6; NU 1 of 5
High-percentage scoring chances: Maine 13-10-8-31; NU 11-11-15-37