With a four game losing streak and a 1-6-0 record, Maine needed to come up with a special performance to win their lone home game against top-ranked Boston College on Friday night.
The power play was the difference maker, as BC scored on two power plays with the game-winner coming 4:52 into the third period from Johnny Gaudreau and BC went on to win 4-2 after an empty-netter.
For Gaudreau, his winning tally was the result of him playing to the whistle.
“I got it in front of the net and popped it over,” said Gaudreau. “[Maine goalie Martin Ouellette] made the first two saves and gave it another whack in front of the goalie and the puck bounced off and over.”
Maine came out strong against BC with an aggressive style of play that did not result in penalties.
Ouellette (19 saves) made key saves for the Black Bears during the two BC power plays in the first period, while BC goaltender Parker Milner was just as impressive in saving 28 of Maine’s shots on goal.
“Their play is not indicative of what their record would say,” said Eagles’ coach Jerry York. “They played hard and they played well. Ouellette made some big saves. It was a difficult win for us to achieve. The keys to winning for us tonight were the power play and Parker in goal.”
“The effort was incredible,” added Maine coach Tim Whitehead. “We played an incredible BC team right to the end, but we’re not there yet.”
The Black Bears had many chances to put one in the net in the first period with the most notable being a rebound opportunity for Joey Diamond, but the puck was barely out of reach on what would have been an open right side that Milner left open.
BC looked to be quicker and have the edge in puck control, but the physical play of the Black Bears balanced the game. Jake Rutt picked up an interference penalty for Maine with 54 seconds left as the score was 0-0 at the end of the first period.
The Black Bears went on the offensive right away to start the second period as forward Stu Higgins had a breakaway opportunity in the first minute, but was chased down by Mike Matheson just before he could get a shot off.
With BC still on the power play, Eagles’ forward Kevin Hayes blasted a snap shot past Ouellette 54 seconds into the second period, assisted by forward Destry Straight and defenseman Teddy Doherty.
Less than a minute later, Maine forward Will Merchant answered with a goal for Maine as he was assisted by Devin Shore Ryan Lomberg to tie the game up at one goal apiece.
BC took another lead 16:36 into the second period when Matheson assisted fellow defenseman Isaac MacLeod, but once again, Maine was able to respond almost immediately. Only 27 seconds after the BC goal, Maine forward Connor Leen scored unassisted off of a rebound and slipped one over the shoulder of Milner to tie the game 2-2.
“We came out hard and bounced back whenever they scored, which is something you need to do,” said Diamond. “You don’t want to get down in the dumps whenever they score.”
BC took control of the game in the third period, coming out with a quick pace of play. It was also in the third period that the Eagles took control of the lead and did not relinquish it.
After the Eagles took the lead on the Gaudreau power-play goal, Maine had a great chance to tie it when Diamond had an open net on a wrap-around attempt, but Milner was able to push his leg out at the last second to keep the puck out of the net.
“The puck squirted out and I knew [Diamond] would be on it quick,” said Milner. “I couldn’t get my whole body over, so I just flailed my leg out and got lucky.”
Maine went to the empty net in the final minute, but a too many men on the ice penalty reduced the personnel to five-on-five and Steven Whitney’s empty-netter iced the game.
“I think in the end, it was just a couple penalties too many and that was the difference,” Whitehead said. “You can’t give a team like that four power plays in the third period and expect to do well. They will come out on top.”
“It came down to a special teams battle and they had two power-play goals and an empty-netter,” added Diamond. “That says it right there.”