Sophomore Derek Damon and senior Martin Kariya each tallied two goals and an assist as Maine defeated UMass-Lowell 5-2 Saturday evening in Hockey East action in front of 3,493 fans at Tsongas Arena.
The win extends Maine’s stranglehold at Tsongas to 7-0-0. The last time the River Hawks won not via forfeit was on January 12, 1990; since then Maine is 38-8-2.
“It was a good hockey game. I thought Lowell carried the momentum early, and we carried it late,” said Maine head coach Tim Whitehead. “We’re fortunate to come out of here with two points tonight. We fought hard to get back in it, and we had some timely goals.”
Heavy hitting set the tone of the game early on, with both teams creating quality opportunities in the offensive zone. The River Hawks broke the scoreless tie at 5:36 when senior Peter Hay put back a rebound from linemate Ed McGrane before Maine netminder Frank Doyle could recover, putting UML up 1-0.
Although the River Hawks had the edge in shots going into the first intermission, 15-9, Maine knotted the game at one just before the end of the period. Damon collected a puck in his own zone and sent it to junior Todd Jackson in neutral ice. Jackson skated into the UML zone along the left, firing a pass across the slot to an open Kariya. Kariya made his attempt count, roofing the puck before freshman goaltender Dominic Smart was able to react.
Maine took the lead at 10:42 with Damon’s fourth goal of the season and first of the game. Damon took a feed from the right side of the River Hawk zone and lifted it high past Smart to make it 2-1.
The Black Bears increased their lead to 3-1 on a breakout opportunity by Jackson. Senior Robert Liscak floated the puck high into the neutral zone, and after grazing a UML defender, the puck landed at the feet of Jackson at the River Hawk blue line. Jackson drove in from the left side, and extended his stick just enough to get the puck around the left leg of Smart at 12:05.
UML closed the gap with just over a minute left in the period, scoring a shorthanded goal to make it 3-2. Senior Mark Concannon stole the puck from a Black Bear defender in front of the UML and skated in unobstructed from the left side, making his backhander count at 18:59.
Maine tallied two more goals, a power-play marker by Damon at 11:25 and an empty-netter by Kariya at 18:56.
Doyle made 39 saves in net for the Black Bears, while Smart stopped 18 attempts. The contest was a relatively clean one, with Maine going 1-for-3 on the power-play, while UML was scoreless on its two attempts
“Doyle played great. He made some big stops early, and that can really give your team a boost on the bench,” said Whitehead on the netminder’s performance.
“The difference in the game tonight is the fact that they have a lot more skilled players that make plays in games than we do,” remarked head coach Blaise MacDonald. “They have a lot of guys that do things that you just can’t coach.”
“It’s very laborious of us to get it down low and score goals. We don’t yield on our opportunities. When Maine gets a chance, they score. When we get six chances, we score. I think that’s been the difference in our season.”
Tuesday UMass Lowell (7-10-1, 0-8-0 HE) will look to break its worst start in Hockey East when the River Hawks host Hockey East rival Merrimack at 7:00 p.m., while No. 2 Maine (16-2-2, 6-1-1 HE) hosts Northeastern on Friday and Saturday.