Maine escapes Notre Dame with 2 huge points

Despite shaky finishes for the Black Bears on Friday and Saturday night, they managed to get their first road victory of the season in South Bend.

On Friday night saw the return of Steven Swavely, who has been absent since his knee injury at Frozen Fenway. Maine got off to a hot start, about one minute in Josh Henke found Connor Leen out front as he put one in the back of the net to give Maine a 1-0 lead. Maine took the momentum as they continued to apply pressure on the Irish defense, but the Black Bears couldn’t capitalize on their chances.

In the second period, neither team was able to put one on the board as it became a goaltending dual between Ouellette and Summerhays. At the end of the 2nd period Maine led 1-0 with the shots on net going 22-20 in favor of the Irish. Notre Dame was the better team in that period as Marty was facing all sorts of shots but he was calm, cool, and collective throughout the game.

After the game Ouellette said, “I saw the puck well tonight. The guys did a great job in front of me clearing rebounds and moving guys out of the way so I could see the puck.”

The third period began with some frustrations boiling over as Jake Rutt and Kevin Lind were giving matching minors for hitting after the whistle. The game featured a lot of shoving post-whistle as both sides got chippy. Maine added on to their lead with less than seven minutes in the game as Brice O’Connor fired a shot from the point that managed to trickle through to the net giving Maine a 2-0 lead with 6:39 left to play.

But Notre Dame wouldn’t go down without a fight, with the goalie pulled late in the game Jeff Costello managed to score on a rebound to put it within one with 1:23 left in the game. Notre Dame wouldn’t stop the pressure there as with less than 30 seconds Notre Dame crashed the net and believed to have scored the game-tying goal with 23 seconds left.

Initially I was saying that the whistle was blown so how could they call it a goal, then after watching replays I saw several ND players crashing the net thinking that Marty was pushed in. Whatever the reasoning was, the call was ruled no goal. While it may have been controversial, as a Maine fan being on the losing end of many bad calls/video reviews, it was nice to actually get one go Maine’s way. Afterward a Hockey East official spoke saying they agreed with the call made by the referees.

Marty stopped 36-of-37 shots on Friday

Marty stopped 36-of-37 shots on Friday

Maine was able to hold on in the last 23 seconds to secure their first road victory of the season. Gendron said afterwards, “These are two huge points. Our kids know they can win on the road now.” In terms of the controversial no-goal call, he said simply, “It went our way and I didn’t care why.”

It was big for Maine to finally get that monkey off their back, it has been looming all season and it was nice for Maine to get one on the road. Obviously this doesn’t mean everything is fine now, but it’s great to see Maine finally tally a victory on the road.

Saturday Night’s game got off to a scary start for the Black Bears as the Fighting Irish picked up where they left off as the first few minutes were dominated by the Irish. But Maine managed to hold them off and tally the first goal as Cam Brown scored on a wrap-around to give Maine the early lead.

Minutes later Brady Campbell & Ryan Lomberg committed costly penalties giving the Irish 90 seconds of 5-on-3 powerplay. While the Irish couldn’t convert on the 5-on-3, they did manage to get one past Marty with 17 seconds left on the powerplay as TJ Tynan fired a point-blank shot to tie it up at 1. Maine was outshot and outworked in the first as ND led shots on net 15-7 after one.

Maine found themselves on a 5-on-3 powerplay themselves as Jeff Costello was evaluated with a five-minute major but wasn’t given a game misconduct as that only applies to fighting or contact to the head penalties (though ask Joey Diamond about kicking). Maine ran a play that has worked to success before where Shore skates to the point and passes down-low to Hutton as he fires a slapshot at a bad angle to score a goal. That gave Maine a 2-1 lead with less nine minutes left in the second.

Bryan Rust skated around 4 Maine defenders on GW Goal. courtesy of hockeyeastonline on youtube

Bryan Rust skated around 4 Maine defenders on GW Goal. courtesy of hockeyeastonline on youtube

Marty and Maine managed to hold on for most of the game, but in the final moments of the game, the wheels just fell off. Bryan Rust fired a wrist shot that found its way past Ouellette tying the game up at 2 with 1:08 left to play. Less than thirty seconds later Bryan Rust answered once again with a wristshot through several defenders to capture the game-winning goal in a stunning heartbreaker for the Black Bears.

Notre Dame held off the Black Bears in the final 43 seconds to secure the victory and the series split with Maine.

While it was disappointing to see Maine blow the lead and show me that they had difficulty finishing, I still will take positives away from this series. This team finally got that elusive road victory that has been plaguing this team all season long. While it may have taken some assistance from a video review, they got it done and that’s what’s most important. It’s something to build on as they were so close to a sweep so they’ve certainly got stuff figured out.

But I have some concerns for this team, the defense was shaky and certainly at the end it was disheartening that they couldn’t contain Notre Dame. Marty faced a lot of shots from the Irish and at times his defense couldn’t bail him out. In addition their finish in either games was rather lackluster as Notre Dame gave it their all despite only winning on Saturday.

Standings as of February 9th, courtesy of hockeyeastonline.com

Standings as of February 9th, Maine only team in top 5 with 14 games played. courtesy of hockeyeastonline.com

I think overall this was a great weekend for Maine, thanks in part to Vermont and Umass, the Black Bears are in fourth place tie right now with games in hand compared the teams around them. But with the final three opponents being Merrimack, Northeastern, & Providence, there’s still work to be done and I expect Maine will take a lot of positives out of this weekend moving forward. The return of Steven Swavely is a big return, Stu Higgins told me Swavely’s return was huge for the team Saturday.

The Black Bears next games will be this upcoming weekend against Merrimack Friday and Saturday night at Alfond Arena in Orono. I along with my colleagues at WMEB 91.9 FM will have the game on both nights. Check back around Wed-Thu for my preview of that weekend.

Alex Quirk

About Alex Quirk

Alex covers UMaine Hockey for WMEB Sports, the sports department at WMEB 91.9 FM, as the sideline reporter/live-tweeter during the games. .