BOSTON – University of Maine senior left wing Vince Laise had plenty of energy against Northeastern University Saturday night after missing the previous two games for taking four minor penalties against Mercyhurst College 10 days ago.
Laise had a game-winning goal and two assists and the Black Bears withstood a furious Huskies rally to earn a 4-3 victory at Matthews Arena. It was the first three-point game of his 34-game career.
Maine is 4-2 after winning its fourth straight. The Bears are 2-0 in Hockey East. Northeastern fell to 1-3 and 1-2, respectively, after losing its third in a row.
Chris Hahn, Jeff Dimmen and Keenan Hopson (shorthanded) staked Maine to a 3-0 lead in the second period before Tyler McNeely pulled NU back by one.
Laise scored 6:33 into the third period, but NU goals by Randy Guzior and Joe Vitale created a frenetic finish as the Huskies outshot Maine 14-4 over the final 20 minutes and finished with a 34-29 edge for the game.
“It’s always a motivational factor sitting on the back burner for a few games,” said Laise. “You have a little jump in you. I just want to keep that [jump] consistently in my game.”
“Vince brought a lot to the table tonight,” said Maine coach Tim Whitehead. “Intensity without taking penalties. Boy, he was jumping. He was everywhere. He was great on the penalty kill.”
Laise’s game-winner came off the rebound of a Wes Clark shot.
“It was a great play by Wes, just going wide and getting a shot real low and hard on the inside pad [of NU goalie Brad Thiessen]. [Jeff] Marshall drove the net, which opened up a gap in the center of the ice, and I just put it in the low corner, blocker side,” said Laise.
“[The rebound] went out in the slot area and there was some traffic out front. He put it far side. I didn’t see it,” said Thiessen.
Guzior made it 4-2 1:55 later as the Huskies were on the power play and another penalty was being called on Maine, enabling NU to get the extra skater on the ice. Guzior jammed the puck behind Maine goalie Ben Bishop off a wild scramble in front.
Then Vitale cruised down the slot and one-timed a Wade MacLeod pass past Bishop with 2:51 remaining.
But Bishop made a couple of his 32 saves in the waning moments and the Bears held on.
Hahn had started the scoring 1:11 into the second period with a centering pass from the corner to Thiessen’s right that glanced in off NU defenseman Jacques Perreault’s skate.
Freshman defenseman Dimmen notched his first career goal off a rebound resulting from a three-on-two.
“[Bret] Tyler was trailing, so I busted to the net behind their defense and he took a nice low shot off the goalie’s pad. I walked around the goalie and put it in,” said Dimmen, who cut from right to left across the low slot.
“I should have caught [Tyler’s shot] with my glove,” said Thiessen.
Laise was instrumental in Hopson’s goal because he accepted a Hahn pass, broke in alone on Thiessen while fending off an NU defenseman and got off a quick shot.
“It hit the post and trickled out into the crease area. Keenan came off my back and got the rebound. It was a nice goal by him,” said Laise.
The unmolested Hopson calmly flipped it past the helpless Thiessen.
McNeely capitalized on a rebound by snapping it over Bishop’s shoulder from the low slot. The Huskies had hit two posts earlier in the period.
“This was a huge weekend for us,” said Hahn. “Obviously both nights were real close games. They fought real hard right to the end. It’s good to win these close games.”
“It’s a big thing for our team, not just to get the four points but confidence-wise as well,” said Laise.
Thiessen said Maine did an effective job getting to the netfront both nights.
“When they had a rush, they would throw the puck to the net. You’ve got to give them credit. They went to the net for rebounds and were rewarded,” said Thiessen.
“We put ourselves behind the eight ball too much,” said NU junior center Vitale, who had an assist to go with his goal. “You can’t put yourself down by three against a team like Maine. It’s tough enough to come back against a mediocre team. Maine has a great tradition. They understand what it takes to win a game.”
Bishop had 15 Grade-A (high-percentage) saves among his 31 while Thiessen had 12 among his 25.
“On their last three goals, we had guys standing right there [near the goal scorers], but we didn’t check them,” said disappointed NU coach Greg Cronin.
BLACK BEARS 4, HUSKIES 3
Maine (4-2) 0 3 1 – 4
Northeastern (1-3) 0 1 2 – 3
First period – No scoring. Penalties: NU, Silva, holding, 6:10; Maine, Laise, tripping, 12:18.
Second period – 1. Maine, Hahn 3 (Orsini), 1:11; 2. Maine, Dimmen 1 (Tyler, Laise), 9:08; 3. Maine, Hopson 2 (Laise), 11:49 (sh); 4. NU, McNeely 1 (Vitale, MacLeod), 12:56. Penalties: NU, McCauley, 5-min. major/slashing, 4:12; Maine, Tyler, roughing, 4:12; Maine, too many men on ice (served by Van Dyk), 7:18; Maine, Orsini, slashing, 9:59; NU, Kraemer, hitting from behind, 19:20.
Third period – 5. Maine, Laise 1 (Clark, Marshall), 6:33; 7. NU, Guzior 1 (Strathman, Muench), 8:27 (pp); 8. NU, Vitale 1 (MacLeod, McNeely), 17:09. Penalties: Maine, Danis-Pepin, cross-checking, 2:39; Maine, Dee, cross-checking, 7:21; Maine, Danis-Pepin, holding, 8:27.
Shots on goal: Maine 13-12-4-29; NU 9-11-14-34
Goaltenders: Maine, Bishop (34 shots-31 saves); NU, Thiessen (29-25)
Power-play opportunities: Maine 0 of 3, NU 1 of 6
High-percentage scoring chances: Maine 13-10-4-27; NU 9-8-15-32