The last time Maine swept a team at the Alfond, it was against Alabama-Huntsville in February of 2012. The Maine Black Bears took care of the Umass Minutemen 3-2 OT on Friday and 8-4 Saturday.
In Friday night’s bout, it was a bit of a homecoming for coach Red Gendron as he faced off against the team he was an assistant to just a few years ago. Maine got off to a hot start with Mark Anthoine scoring on a cross from freshman Josh Henke to make it 1-0 just 6:48 into the game. Then later in the first, while on a 5-on-3 powerplay, Devin Shore found Ben Hutton who buried one past Umass Goaltender Mastalerz to make it 2-0 Black Bears. The first period was capped off with Pigozzi coming in and scoring off a long pass from Troy Power to make it 2-1 Maine at the intermission.
Coming into the 2nd period, the game was a lot of back-and-forth, but with six minutes left Conor Sheary skated through three defenders and scored leaving Marty frozen and tying the game at 2. The end of the period ended in frustration on both sides with the physical play getting out of hand, culminating in offsetting minors at the end. This frustration included to coach Gendron walking across the ice to get an explanation from the referees. The kind of passion we hadn’t seen out of a certain someone.
The rest of regulation was a an exciting game, while neither team scored the period included both goaltenders making fantastic saves. The big one being Marty without a stick and on his stomach making a valiant save with less than two minutes left in the 3rd, the game went into overtime with the score tied at 2.
In overtime, Mike Busillo was called for a hooking penalty with just over two minutes left in overtime, essentially giving maine a man-advantage for the rest of overtime. On the powerplay Devin Shore took the puck and carried it around the back of the net. He dished it to Connor Leen who was open right in front of the net, he fired a wristshot past Mastalerz to win it 3-2 in overtime.
Here’s a video of the goal with WMEB’s Cody Beckett call of the goal
While this wasn’t Maine’s strongest effort, they slowly but surely improved on the cliche “60 Minute Effort”, they got off to a hot start, fizzled in the middle, but ended strongly as they got the win and stayed strong despite bad penalties or “stupid” penalties as Gendron put it himself. It was just that 2nd period that Maine lacked in the 60 minute effort.
Coach Red Gendron spoke to the media following the victory
Coming off last night’s thrilling game, Maine was eyeing a sweep of the Minutemen. Night two didn’t exactly get off to a great or even good start for the Black Bears as they flat out stunk. Just 2 minutes and 43 seconds in, Umass scored a shorthanded goal when Troy Power got a breakaway and buried it past Marty to make it 1-0.
It was a foreshadow of the first period as Maine looked awful in the first period. Only accumulating 8 shots on net, the Black Bears never really got a chance to get anything going offensively as they committed many turnovers. During the intermission I was talking to my colleagues and sports editor for the Maine Campus, we couldn’t come up with a positive for Maine other than the fact they only gave up one goal.
Despite Maine’s lackluster effort in the first, freshman Josh Henke was able to ignite a spark in the offense by tying it up with a goal just a minute and a half into the 2nd. This didn’t seem to phase Umass as minutes later on the powerplay they reclaimed the lead with a goal by Michael Pereira to make it 2-1.
Maine then went on a offensive explosion in the final 11 minutes of the 2nd period. It started with freshman Brian Morgan collecting the rebound and buried it to tie the game at 2. Minutes later Blaine Byron found Cam Brown in the center of the offensive zone and Brown scored on the one-timer to take a 3-2 lead. Blaine Byron got into the mix with a rebound goal to put Maine ahead 4-2. Mark Anthoine picked up a powerplay goal with 51 seconds left, and Jake Rutt notched a wristshot from the point with 4.7 seconds to total 6 goals in the period for Maine to make it 6-2 Maine at the 2nd intermission.
The 3rd period was interesting for Maine, it got off to a good start as Steven Swavely netted a shorthanded goal to make it 7-2 Maine. But after that, some dumb penalties, giving up a couple of powerplay goals put everyone in the Alfond on edge as Maine’s lead was reduced to 7-4.
“I don’t think the game got away from us, coach Red emphasized playing hard,” said Blaine Byron after the team gave up the two goals.
Blaine Byron spoke to media following Saturday’s victory:
But the Black Bears ended on a high note as Mark Anthoine scored on a clear that bounced off the side board and went into the empty net to make it 8-4. That would be the final score 8-4 Black Bears.
My thoughts from this weekend are that Maine showed depth in scoring. This team had only five goals in three games, they totaled 11 over the weekend. Despite the lack of production from Maine’s top line (Leen-Shore-Lomberg), the freshman line (Morgan-Brown-Byron) came up big with each player netting a goal on Saturday. This team’s offense is finally coming together and it’s about damn time. There’s still some work to be done, but Maine continues to head in the right direction with this series sweep, it’s just unfortunate that this series didn’t count in the Hockey East standings. But we’ll see if Maine can continue it’s dominance next weekend at Amherst when the series counts.
Lastly, I want to say that this team is headed in the right direction, this sweep validates it. Now this team still has room for improvement, but I mentioned during the hockey broadcast that the 60 minute effort needed to improve from more than a hot start. While they did improve, it’s still not consistent to say this team is a legitimate threat. But we’ll see if they can keep moving forward as it’ll only get tougher ahead.
Check in on Wednesday as I’ll have a preview of this weekend’s series at Amherst.