ORONO – The University of Maine men’s hockey team’s power play is a work in progress.
Based on Saturday night’s 4-1 victory over Niagara University, progress is being made.
The Black Bears scored three power-play goals, the first time they have scored more than two in a game since they netted four in a 5-1 win over Vermont on Feb. 9, 2007, and freshman Scott Darling made 29 saves as Maine completed the weekend sweep.
Maine, now 3-3, had won Friday night’s game 4-2. Niagara is 2-5-1.
Maine senior center Chris Hahn had a pair of power-play goals, sophomore defenseman Jeff Dimmen had the other and freshman left wing Brian Flynn collected his first collegiate goal to sew it up with 7:10 remaining.
Freshman right wing Gustav Nyquist contributed three assists to cap a six-point weekend (1 goal, 5 assists) and the Bears killed off six Niagara power plays. Those kills included a five-on-three in the third period soon after senior left wing Vince Rocco scored for the Purple Eagles to cut Maine’s lead to 2-1.
Niagara’s Juliano Pagliero finished with 19 saves.
“We played a lot better tonight,” said Maine coach Tim Whitehead. “I was pleased with the way we got to their net, I was pleased with our penalty kill and our power play has been improving one step at a time. It was nice to break through a bit [on the PP].”
“We had much better focus tonight. We managed the puck a little better, we were better defensively and we had very good goaltending again,” added Whitehead.
Darling was exceptional as he made 12 Grade-A (high-percentage) saves among his 29.
“I was seeing the puck real well tonight. All I wanted to do was build off what David [Wilson] did yesterday. David and I did our jobs keeping the team in the game, and they did their jobs scoring four goals each night,” said Darling, who zeroed in on minimizing his movement and “being square to the puck” so he would be ready to handle second and third shots.
“He played really well,” said Niagara’s Rocco, who jammed a rebound through the five-hole for his team’s only goal.
Hahn opened the scoring 59 seconds into the second period by scoring off a Nyquist rebound from a difficult angle to Pagliero’s left.
Dimmen made it 2-0 5:06 later with a low snap shot from the left point. Matt Duffy had given him a point-to-point pass.
“It was a good keep-in by Duffy. I just tried to get the shot off quick. Lem [Randall] was in front and it squeaked through the five-hole,” Dimmen said.
Just 2:41 after Rocco’s goal, the Purple Eagles had a five-on-three and had a couple of near misses off wild net-front flurries.
Hahn made it 3-1 by tipping home a Josh Van Dyk wrister.
“I just redirected it a little bit and beat [Pagliero] short side just inside the post. It might have even gone in without me touching it,” said Hahn.
Flynn scored off a two-on-one with Tanner House after Nyquist chipped the puck out of the defensive zone to House. House slid it across to Flynn speeding down the left wing.
“Their defenseman took away the pass, so I just buried my head and ripped it far side,” said Flynn.
BLACK BEARS 4, PURPLE EAGLES 1
Niagara (2-5-1) 0 0 1 – 1
Maine (3-3) 0 2 2 – 4
First period – 1. No scoring. Penalties: NU, Akers, tripping, 2:19; NU, Dowd, hitting after the whistle, 7:52; Maine, Marshall, hitting after the whistle, 7:52; NU, Sullivan, roughing, 19:58.
Second period – 1. Maine, Hahn 2 (Nyquist, Danis-Pepin), :59 (pp); 2. Maine, Dimmen (Duffy), 6:05 (pp). Penalties: Maine, Randall, roughing, 1:48; NU, Burichin, holding, 4:29; NU, Dowd, holding the stick, 15:09.
Third period – 3. NU, Rocco 2 (Gotto, Haczyk), 1:02; 4. Maine, Hahn 3 (Van Dyk, Nyquist), 9:48 (pp); 5. Maine, Flynn 1 (House, Nyquist), 12:50. Penalties: Maine, Marshall, holding, 2:17; Maine, Duffy, cross checking, 3:43; Maine, Randall, holding, 3:53; NU, Zanette, tripping, 4:16; NU, Foam, hooking, 9:12; NU, Olidis, holding, 16:29; Maine, Hegarty, interference, 18:45.
Shots on goal: Niagara 8-15-7-30; Maine 7-7-9-23
Goaltenders: Niagara, Pagliero (23 shots-19 saves); Maine, Darling (30-29)
Power-play opportunities: Niagara 0 of 5, Maine 3 of 6
High-percentage scoring chances: Niagara 4-9-6-19; Maine 8-6-6-20