ORONO – The goalposts are a goalie’s best friends.
Boston College freshman goalie John Muse made some friends Saturday night.
Junior left wing Nathan Gerbe’s breakaway goal late in the second period proved to be the game-winner as shots by University of Maine freshmen Andrew Sweetland and Tanner House hit the crossbar in the third period of the Eagles’ 4-2 victory over the Black Bears.
“It’s a game of inches. A couple of inches another way and we would have tied the game and taken a one-goal lead,” said Sweetland, who was positioned just beyond the top of the crease to Muse’s left when he one-timed a Rob Bellamy pass off the crossbar.
Just 2:22 later, Bellamy fed House in the high slot and his wrister found the crossbar.
“[Muse] was down,” said House, who tried to capitalize by going upstairs.
“Sometimes the bounces just don’t go your way,” said Maine junior goalie Ben Bishop, who turned in an exceptional 27-save performance including 12 stops off Grade-A [high-percentage] shots. Three of those Grade-A saves came off breakaways.
But Gerbe, who entered the series leading the nation in points per game (1.71), made the most of his second breakaway.
Brian Gibbons flipped the puck out of the defensive zone from his knees and Gerbe poked it around Bret Tyler before dashing down the ice.
“We thought we could beat [Bishop] five-hole but he shut that down so I tried to get the puck up as quickly as possible. It was a fluttery shot but, luckily, it went in,” said Gerbe, who put it over Bishop’s blocker and off the inside of the post.
“The puck was rolling. He never settled it and that made it hard for me to read it,” said Bishop.
The Bears had erased a pair of one-goal deficits before Gerbe’s 19th goal of the season decided it. Matt Greene added an empty-net goal with 16 seconds left.
Freshman left wing Joe Whitney opened the scoring 10:49 into the first period but junior defenseman Simon Danis-Pepin equalized 4:15 later with his second goal in as many nights. Sophomore right wing Ben Smith regained the lead 37 seconds into the second period on the power play but left wing Sweetland drew the Bears level again on the power play 6:38 later.
BC improved to 12-5-7 overall, 8-3-6 in Hockey East, while Maine fell to 8-11-3 and 4-8-3, respectively. BC extended its unbeaten streak to five games (4-0-1) including Friday night’s 3-3 overtime tie with the Bears. BC is 5-0-1 in its last six meetings with Maine.
Maine is now 1-5-2 in Hockey East play at the Alfond Arena.
The Eagles used their superior speed and skill to protect the lead in the third period, limiting the Bears to five shots on goal in addition to the two crossbars, while generating 11 shots on Bishop.
“We did a nice job protecting the lead,” said Greene. “We just got it to the red line and shot it in [to the offensive zone]. We played with the same energy tonight but we were much more disciplined.”
He was referring primarily to Gerbe’s double minor penalty on Friday night that allowed Maine to tie it on the power play in the third period.
Maine played an effective physical game, holding BC to 43 shot attempts, 20 fewer than Friday’s total prior to overtime.
Greene added that Bishop was immense.
“He’s an absolutely phenomenal goaltender. We must have had five, six or seven breakaways,” said Greene.
“They’re one of the best teams in the country but we showed we could play with them. Everyone played hard,” said Danis-Pepin.
Whitney opened the scoring by emerging from a posse of players tangled up driving down the middle of the slot and sliding the puck past Bishop from just beyond the crease.
Danis-Pepin tied it when he one-timed a Mike Banwell pass that came to him directly off the boards. Danis-Pepin put the shot far [blocker] side through a screen.
Smith made it 2-1 when Tim Kunes’ deflected point shot trickled to him and he spun around and swept the puck past Bishop’s left skate.
Sweetland knotted it up when he burst in alone on Muse with a deflected pass off the stick of Danis-Pepin and snapped the puck through Muse’s pads.
EAGLES 4, BLACK BEARS 2
Boston College (12-5-7) 1 2 1 – 4
Maine (8-11-3) 1 1 0 – 2
First period – 1. BC, Whitney (Bertram, Aiello), 10:49; 2. Maine, Danis-Pepin 3 (Banwell, House), 15:04. Penalties: BC, Ferriero, contact to the head-roughing, 8:16; Maine, Sweetland, elbowing, 16:35; Maine, Bellamy, hitting after the whistle, 20:00.
Second period – 3. BC, Smith 14 (Bertram, Kunes), :37 (pp); 4. Maine, Sweetland 5 (Danis-Pepin, House), 7:15 (pp) 5. BC, Gerbe 19 (Gibbons), 17:36. Penalties: BC, Aiello, contact to the head-roughing, 3:10; Maine, Tyler, interference, 4:28; BC, Orpik, contact to the head-roughing, 6:50; BC, Gerbe, slashing, 10:41; Maine, Banwell, slashing, 10:41; BC, Orpik, interference.
Third period – 6. BC, Greene 7 (Bertram), 19:44 (en). Penalties: BC, Lombardi, holding, 8:42; BC, Whitney, hitting after the whistle, 14:08; Maine, Marshall, roughing and hitting after the whistle, 14:08; BC, Whitney, unsportsmanlike conduct, 18:11; Maine, Bellamy, unsportsmanlike conduct, 18:11.
Shots on goal: BC 6-14-11-31; Maine 6-9-5-20
Goaltenders: BC, Muse (20 shots-18 saves); Maine, Bishop (30-27)
Power-play opportunities: Maine 1-5; BC 1-4
High-percentage scoring chances: BC 3-8-9-20; Maine 4-7-4-15