ORONO – The University of Maine men’s hockey team received exactly what it wanted from its exhibition game against defending national Canadian universities champion New Brunswick Saturday night: a stiff test from a highly skilled team with solid goaltending.
The thing the Black Bears didn’t get was a win as defenseman Luke Gallant’s five-on-three power-play goal with 9:36 remaining gave the Varsity Reds a 2-1 triumph.
Left winger John-Scott Dickson’s seventh goal in three games staked UNB to a 1-0 lead in the first period before Maine freshman right wing Andrew Sweetland equalized on the power play 7:10 into the third period.
Maine coach Tim Whitehead was pleased with his team’s performance and progress.
“We’re improving. Our passing and catching was excellent,” said Whitehead. “And [goalie] Dave Wilson was outstanding.”
Backup Wilson made 26 saves including 10 Grade-A [high-percentage] stops. He kept the Bears in the game in the first period when UNB controlled play and had three glorious wide-open opportunities from point-blank range only to have Wilson stop all three.
Dickson finally broke through with 3:38 left when he deflected Kyle Bailey’s centering pass from the corner between Wilson’s pads.
“It went in off [Dickson’s] skate but we’ll take it,” said UNB right wing Hunter Tremblay, who assisted on both Varsity Reds goals.
“I was very happy with the way I played,” said Wilson. “I’d like to have the five-on-three goal back. I was a little off my angle.”
Wilson added that he spent the week working on his positioning in order to economize his movement, enabling him to handle rebound attempts more effectively.
“He played well,” said UNB right winger Lachlan MacIntosh, who may have preserved the win with a terrific backcheck as he lifted the stick of an unattended Glenn Belmore just before he shot.
Gallant’s power-play goal came on a one-timer from the inner edge of the circle to Wilson’s left off a Tremblay pass.
“It went in off my blocker and the inside of the post. I thought I was over enough to deflect it wide,” said Wilson.
“We wanted to get quick puck movement to force Maine’s penalty-killers to move,” said Gallant.
A bench minor for too many men on the ice, which was disputed by Whitehead, followed a Bret Tyler cross-checking penalty to provide UNB with its five-on-three.
“You could see a lot of improvement tonight,” said Maine junior defenseman Simon Danis-Pepin. “We were making plays out there. They were a very good team.”
“Now we’ve just got to bear down and bury our chances,” said Sweetland, who scored off the rebound of a Tyler point shot and a follow-up attempt.
Sweetland calmly deposited a backhander over the helpless Derek Yeomans.
UNB starting goalie Michael Ouzas was outstanding as he stopped all 18 shots he faced, including 14 in the second period, while playing the first two periods. He wound up with eight Grade-A stops, seven in the middle period. He did an exceptional job controlling rebounds.
Yeomans stopped 10 of 11 shots in the third period.
Ouzas had been pulled after allowing four goals in two periods of Friday night’s 5-3 home loss to Moncton.
“He played well tonight. This was a good character builder for our club,” said UNB coach Gardiner MacDougall. “We were without three of our top six players [injured forwards Rob Hennigar, Robert Pearce and Nathan O’Nabigon]. Maine has a real good work ethic. They go hard to the puck on the forecheck.”
“Maine was real quick, especially in transition. And they forechecked well,” said Gallant. “It was a lot like playing New Hampshire and [Massachusetts] Lowell. It was the same type of game. It was definitely a lot of fun to play down here.”
UNB, ranked No. 1 in Canada all season, beat UNH 4-3 Oct. 12 in Durham, N.H., but lost to UMass Lowell 5-3 the next afternoon.
The Varsity Reds are 20-2-1 including exhibitions.
Maine will host Merrimack in a Hockey East game Saturday night.
. UMaine backup goalie Dave Wilson made 26 saves including 10 Grade-A [high-percentage] stops.
. Luke Gallant’s five-on-three power-play goal with 9:36 remaining gave New Brunswick the victory.
. New Brunswick improved to 20-2-1, including exhibitions.
VARSITY REDS 2, BLACK BEARS 1
New Brunswick 1 0 1 – 2
Maine 0 0 1 – 1
First period – 1. UNB, Dickson (Bailey, Tremblay), 16:22. Penalties: none.
Second period – No scoring. Penalties: Maine, Orsini, interference, 7:53.
Third period – 2. Maine, Sweetland (Tyler, Danis-Pepin), 7:10 (pp); 3. UNB, Gallant (Tremblay), 10:24. Penalties: UNB, Bowman, hooking, 5:12; Maine, Tyler, cross-checking, 9:18; Maine, bench, too many men on ice (served by Laise), 10:01; Maine, bench too many men on ice (served by Laise), 17:10; UNB, Bailey, tripping, 19:39.
Shots on goal: UNB 10-8-10-28; Maine 4-14-11-29
Goaltenders: UNB, Ouzas (18 shots-18 saves), Yeomans (0:00 of 3rd, 11-10); Maine, Wilson (28-26)
Power-play opportunities: UNB 1-4, Maine 1-2
High-percentage scoring chances: UNB 7-7-7-21; Maine 1-8-5-14