DURHAM, N.H. – The University of New Hampshire’s Robby Butler scored with his team’s first shot on goal and senior goalie Kevin Regan made 33 saves in the Wildcats’ 2-0 win over Maine at the Whittemore Center Sunday night.
But it was UNH senior defenseman Brad Flaishans who saved the day.
A few minutes after Butler’s goal, a Billy Ryan wrister squeezed between Regan’s pads and the puck was about to roll across the goal line when the alert Flaishans swept it out of danger.
“I looked down at Kevin’s pads and I didn’t see the puck,” said Flaishans. “So I went back quickly and I was able to clear it before it went in.”
Flaishans admitted that he “panicked a little bit” because he was afraid of knocking it into his own net.
“I thought it was going in,” said Ryan.
“That was monstrous,” said Maine coach Tim Whitehead.
Peter LeBlanc added an empty-net goal.
Butler had a golden opportunity to add to the lead 5:26 later when UNH was awarded a penalty shot after he was hauled down on a breakaway.
But Maine goalie Ben Bishop got his stick on Butler’s wrister. Butler tried to put it between Bishop’s pads.
UNH snapped a two-game losing streak and improved to 9-4-1 overall, 6-4-1 in Hockey East. Maine fell to 5-7-2 and 3-5-2, respectively.
It was the seventh time this season Maine has been held to one goal or less.
Maine has lost its last four games at the Whittemore Center, being outscored 10-4.
“The guys did a great job in front of me,” said Regan, who entered the game with a 4-2 record, a 2.00 goals-against average and a .945 save percentage against Maine.
“They were diving in front to block shots, they were tying up sticks. We had been playing a little soft in our own zone but we played much better tonight,” Regan added.
Regan finished with 14 Grade-A (high-percentage) saves among his 33.
Maine had a another glittering chance with 41/2 minutes left in regulation when freshman Andrew Sweetland beat a UNH defenseman wide down the right wing and cut in across the top of the crease unmolested.
“I tried to go five-hole but he got his pad on it. He made a great save,” said Sweetland.
Ryan tried to get to the rebound “but one of their defensemen dove on the puck while I was whacking at it and it wound up under Regan’s pads.”
Both teams played exceptional defense and neither goalie had to face many second shots as their mates cleared the net front efficiently.
Butler’s goal came on a three-on-two seconds after UNH had killed off a Maine power play.
Thomas Fortney carried the puck down the right side and made a short diagonal pass to Butler, who one-timed a low wrister past Bishop.
“The puck rolled up on his stick and he beat me five-hole,:” said Bishop. “It was a good shot.”
Maine had six power-play chances and generated nine shots on those power plays but failed to convert. The Bears, with Hockey East’s worst power play, have now converted on just two of their last 36 power-play chances.
“It was like a playoff game between two good teams,” said Flaishans. “We played a solid 60 minutes.”
Bishop was also outstanding as he made 11 Grade-A saves among his 29.
“This is getting annoying,” said Bishop.
“We’ve got to improve our skill level and score some goals,” said Ryan. “We’re getting better every game but we’re still not good enough.”
“We’re not getting to the net and getting rebounds,” said Maine senior right wing Rob Bellamy, who led the Bears with seven shots on goal.
Whitehead was satisfied with his team’s effort and focus but agreed with Bellamy’s assessment that they weren’t able to get to the net and generate second shots.
“But [UNH] didn’t either,” said Whitehead. “The difference in the game is they got the one goal.”
UNH was without second leading scorer James van Riemsdyk, who was the second overall choice in the NHL draft last summer. The Philadelphia draft pick left Saturday to join the U.S. team for the World Junior championships.
Maine was without Chris Hahn, who was tied for the team lead in goals with four. Hahn continues to nurse a broken finger.
WILDCATS 2, BLACK BEARS 0
Maine (5-7-2) 0 0 0 – 0
New Hampshire (9-4-1) 1 0 1 – 2
First period – 1. New Hampshire, Butler 3 (Fortney), 6:11. Penalties: New Hampshire, Fortney, hooking, 4:11; Maine, Belmore, tripping, 7:24; Maine, Belmore, hooking 11:37; New Hampshire, Butler, high sticking, 11:53; New Hampshire, Pornataro, tripping, 19:25.
Second period – none. Penalties: Maine, House, interference 5:07; Maine, Banwell, contact to head/roughing, 6:33; New Hampshire, Beck, boarding, 13:36; New Hampshire, Charlebois, cross checking, 19:00.
Third period – 2. New Hampshire, LeBlanc 4 (unassisted), 19:47 (en). Penalties: Maine, Dee, boarding, 2:30; New Hampshire, too many on ice, 17:33.
Shots on goal: Maine 12-10-11-33; New Hampshire 10-16-5-31
Goaltenders: Maine, Bishop (30 shots-29 saves); New Hampshire, Regan (33-33)
Power-play opportunities: Maine 0 of 6; New Hampshire 0 of 4
High-percentage scoring chances: Maine 10-9-7-26; New Hampshire 7-12-5-24