Trying to salvage one game in a weekend series featuring match-ups against two top ten teams, Maine took the ice against New Hampshire Sunday afternoon and the visiting Wildcats took home a 4-0 win.
UNH forward Austin Block scored two goals for the wildcats and goaltender Casey DeSmith stopped all 42 shots as the Wildcats took advantage of 11 Maine penalties in the shutout.
“We couldn’t find a balance between playing a physical game and staying out of the penalty box,” Maine coach Tim Whitehead said. “In the end, it really cost us.”
This was a very physical battle early on, but unlike the Boston College game Friday night, Maine was unable to keep itself out of the penalty box, as it made trips early and often. Only 1:19 into the game, UNH forward Kevin Goumas and Maine defenseman Jake Rutt were called for hitting after the whistle. Maine forward Conor Riley went to the box for boarding at the 1:19 minute mark as well.
Less than a minute later, UNH had a five-on-three advantage when Maine forward Brice O’Connor was called for tripping. The Wildcats were able to take advantage as Block cashed in being assisted by defensemen Connor Hardowa and Trevor van Riemsdyk 3:23 into the first period to put the Wildcats up 1-0.
“It was definitely frustrating for us, especially with UNH coming into the building,” said Maine forward Joey Diamond. “We were really hyped up before the game. That’s definitely my part. We were excited to get out there and took those two penalties right off the bat and that jump-started their offense.”
The Wildcats had control of the puck even when Maine was on the power play, as they took more shots after UNH defenseman Eric Knodel went to the box 16:37 into the first for tripping.
A few seconds after Knodel came out of the box, he fired a slap shot past Maine goaltender Dan Sullivan after 18:43 of play in the first period, being assisted by forward Casey Thrush, giving UNH a 2-0 lead.
“[Their second goal] was huge for them,” Diamond said. “We thought we gained momentum on the power play, then [Eric Knodel] comes out of the box and rips a slap shot. There’s not much we can do about that, but it was definitely a game-changer.”
Maine was able to get more opportunities to shot the puck in the second, with 18 shots on goal in the period.
The greatest chance for Maine came 4:35 into second period when Diamond had the puck with an open net just a few feet away, but whiffed when he tried to tap it in. Connor Leen had the same chance when DeSmith swiped away Diamond’s shot, but Leen also misfired, costing Maine a chance to get on the board.
Though Maine only had one penalty called on them during the second period, it helped lead UNH to another goal.
O’Connor picked up his second penalty of the game 13:14 into the second period after he was called for slashing. Seven seconds after O’Connor was let out of the box, UNH was able to get a good shot off before Maine could get a five-on-five defense set up, and Block put his second goal of the game in the net, being assisted by Goumas and Hardowa, giving the Wildcats a 3-0 lead.
“We’ve got a lot of good players [and] we’re pretty deep,” said Block. “Whatever coach wants, we make it happen, and that’s how we’re going to win. I saw the goalie was not in the net, so I shot it as hard as I could. The second one Hardowa hit a pretty hard shot from the point, I initially tipped it, then and Dan got a few whacks at it and it ended up going in.”
“We took too long to release the puck [and] they did a great job blocking shots and we were not as effective blocking shots on their power play,” said Whitehead. “That was a big part of it, not releasing the puck quick enough, and we have to develop some scoring.”
The third period saw what looked to be a complete disintegration of the Black Bears, as six penalties were called on them, most of them unnecessary.
One large fight ensued in front of the UNH goal, as multiple players were involved with gloves and helmets coming off and a couple players ever going to the ground. The only players to receive penalty minutes were Maine forward Ryan Lomberg and UNH forward Ryan Willows.
The Wildcats finished up scoring 9:29 into the third period after forward Greg Burke was assisted by forward John Henrion and van Riemsdyk.
“This is not something that any of the captains are going to take,” said Diamond. “The mindset where this is normal to come to the rink and we come to lose, that is not the way we are approaching it. We’re just going to do everything we can to go back to our winning ways. We definitely will not take this loss lightly. This is not something we’re going to take as the norm for us.”
“We have got to find a way to be confident and be more consistent,” added Maine defenseman Mike Cornell. “We can’t be taking penalties. It’s not a good feeling [and] we’re not too pleased with the way things turned out. Yeah, we had 42 shots, but I don’t think they were scrambling around as much as we were. We gotta get back to the drawing board and find a way to contribute offensively. Freshmen, seniors, defensemen, forwards, everybody has to find a way to do more.”