UMass hockey: Another late goal sends Maine past Minutemen to secure weekend sweep

Samuli Niinisaari and the UMass hockey team fell to Maine 4-3 on Saturday night in Orono, Maine.

Samuli Niinisaari and the UMass hockey team fell to Maine 4-3 on Saturday night in Orono, Maine. CHRIS TUCCI/UMASS ATHLETICS

Staff Reports

Published: 03-10-2024 12:16 PM

With a home game in the Hockey East Tournament and a potential spot in the NCAA Tournament on the line, the UMass hockey team was unable to come through late in the third period for the second night in a row on Saturday.

Host Maine rallied from a 3-2 deficit, tying the game midway through the second period and burying the eventual game-winning goal with just 1 minute, 17 seconds remaining in regulation to secure a 4-3 victory and a weekend sweep of the Minutemen at Alfond Arena in Orono, Maine.

The Black Bears, which locked up the No. 3 seed in next week’s Hockey East Tournament with a last-minute win on Friday night, improved to 22-10-2 overall, 14-9-1 in the league.

UMass (19-12-3, 12-10-2) will be the No. 5 seed in the Hockey East tourney, and will travel to No. 4 Providence in the quarterfinal round on Saturday, March 16.

“It was a really good bounce back by our team,” said UMass head coach Greg Carvel. “We played really well on the road and thought we deserved better. The two power play goals against early were a big hurdle, but we overcame it and took the lead.”

The sweep certainly impacted UMass’ NCAA tournament hopes. The Minutemen fell to No. 14 in the PairWise Rankings after the weekend, right on the bubble line for a potential at-large bid.

Maine stormed out to a 2-0 lead on Saturday night, as goals from Harrison Scott and Sully Scholle in the first 10:37 had the hosts out in front.

Lucas Mercuri cut into the deficit just 42 seconds later, tallying with assists from Christian Sanda and Taylor Makar to make it 2-1.

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UMass tied the game in the second period, when Cole O’Hara scored on the power play with assists from Owen Murray and Samuli Niinisaari.

The Minutemen kept the heat on just over two minutes later, when freshman Jack Musa gave the visitors their first lead of the night. Dans Locmelis and O’Hara picked up markers on Musa’s tally, which gave UMass a 3-2 lead with 13:40 left in the second period.

Maine tied the game five minutes later on a Josh Nadeau goal, and that 3-3 score carried into the third period. Overtime seemed to be on the horizon before the Black Bears struck for the game winner in the waning minutes. Lynden Breen snuck a shot through UMass goalie Michael Hrabal with only 1:17 to play, sending the crowd at Alfond Arena into a frenzy.

“I thought in the third period we were really good,” Carvel said. “We had the puck in their zone the whole time. We make a mistake, throw a puck in the middle of the ice and it's in the back of our net. So that's the margin, but the kids played really hard tonight. Very happy with their effort and thought we deserved to win tonight.”

Saturday’s win secured a 3-0 record for Maine and head coach Ben Barr against UMass this winter. The former UMass assistant has the Black Bears back as a Hockey East power.

The Minutemen held a 37-28 edge in shots on Saturday, with Hrabal making 24 saves on the night. Maine goalie Albin Boija made 34 saves in the victory.