ESTERO, Fla. – The University of Maine power play came to life Friday night and it couldn’t have come at a better time as the men’s hockey team beat No. 8 Clarkson University 5-3 in the Florida College Classic at Germain Arena.
Freshman right wing Andrew Sweetland’s power-play goal with 53 seconds left in the second period, his second of the game, broke a 3-3 tie and Billy Ryan added a goal in the third period as the Black Bears pulled away.
Maine, now 6-7-2, will take on Hockey East rival UMass Lowell in tonight’s 7:35 championship game.
UMass Lowell, 8-4-4, rallied for a pair of third-period goals to beat Cornell 3-2 in the opener.
Clarkson, 10-6 and loser of three of its last four, and Cornell, 4-5-1, will meet in the consolation game at 4:30 p.m.
Maine has beaten the 20th-ranked River Hawks 14 consecutive times and the Bears will be gunning for their fourth Florida College Classic title in eight years.
They will also be looking to become the first team to claim back-to-back championships.
Maine junior defenseman Simon Danis-Pepin scored the only goal of the first period as he capitalized on a five-on-three advantage with a screened shot.
Nick Dodge tied it 28 seconds into the second period, but Sweetland broke the tie by splitting the defense and shooting high to the blocker side of goalie Dave Leggio.
Then Rob Bellamy extended the lead to 3-1 by getting to the netfront and batting home a Ryan pass.
Mike Kosziwka and Mike Arciero tied it later in the second period by converting on a pair of two-on-ones 3:23 apart before Sweetland gave the Bears the lead for good.
“Travis Ramsey handed the puck off to me, I swung wide, drove to the net and, luckily, it went in,” said Sweetland, who maneuvered around a Clarkson defenseman before cutting across the slot and beating Leggio.
“I’m not sure where the puck went in. I wasn’t sure it was in. I think it may have gone low blocker side,” said Sweetland.
Ryan iced it with four minutes remaining in regulation as he maneuvered past a Clarkson defenseman and, while on his side after being tripped, he one-handed the puck past Leggio.
“That was a heck of a goal. We scored some great goals tonight,” said Maine coach Tim Whitehead.
Ben Bishop finished with 21 saves while Leggio wound up with 32.
Ryan and Keenan Hopson had two assists apiece.
Special teams were key as Maine, which entered the game just 4-for-66 on the power play (6.1 percent), went 2-for-6 with the man advantage while killing off all four Clarkson power plays.
“This was a really good way to start the second half,” said Sweetland. “We played really well. We kept doing what we had been doing before, but tonight, it resulted in goals.”
Sweetland added that the revamped power-play units were effective.
“The power play worked real well. We’ve been struggling all year, but those two goals were the difference in the game, obviously,” said Sweetland.
Whitehead was also pleased with his team’s showing.
“It might have been our best game of the year from start to finish,” said Whitehead. “We had a good team effort. Everyone contributed. We had good discipline again and we played very good team defense.”
Clarkson was without five players due to suspensions and dressed just 10 forwards to go with six defensemen. And Golden Knights left wing Lauri Tuohimaa received a five-minute major for hitting from behind and a game misconduct 11:57 into the game.
Whitehead said they tried to capitalize on the situation “by keeping the pace up high and rolling four lines out.”
Whitehead expects a tough game against UMass Lowell.
“They’re playing real well. It’ll be a good challenge for us,” said Whitehead.
BLACK BEARS 5, GOLDEN KNIGHTS 3
Clarkson (10-6) 0 3 0 – 3
Maine (6-7-2) 1 3 1 – 5
First period – 1. Maine, Danis-Pepin (Tyler, Hopson), 12:35 (pp). Penalties: Clk, Reed, holding, 7:13; Maine, Marshall, interference, 10:13; Clk, Clitsome, tripping, 10:47; Clk, Tuohimaa, five-minute major for hitting from behind and game misconduct, 11:57; Maine, Ramsey, interference, 18:25.
Second period – 2. Clk, Dodge 6 (Cayer, Clitsome), :28; 3. Maine, Sweetland 3 (Hopson), 3:57; 4. Maine, Bellamy 2 (Ryan), 11:33; 5. Clk, Kosziwka 1 (Beca, D’Alvise), 12:49; 6. Clk, Arciero 1 (Freeman, Mason), 16:12; 7. Maine, Sweetland 4 (Ryan, Ramsey), 19:07 (pp). Penalties: Clk, Cayer, roughing, 8:29; Clk, DeFazio, roughing, 8:29; Maine, Banwell, roughing, 8:29; Maine, Ryan, roughing, 8:29; Clk, Pizzo, hooking, 13:07; Clk, Cayer, tripping, 18:01.
Third period – 8. Maine, Ryan 3 (House), 16:00. Penalties: Clk, Freeman, cross checking, 3:51; Maine, Randall, interference, 13:09; Maine, Laise, slashing, 17:14.
Shots on goal: Clarkson 7-9-8-24; Maine 14-15-8-37
Goaltenders: Clarkson, Leggio (37 shots-32 saves); Maine, Bishop (24-21)
Power-play opportunities: Clarkson 0 of 4, Maine 2 of 6