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Hockey East: Three Power Play Tallies Lift Maine Over UMass-Lowell

After winning only two games at Alfond Arena all last season, the Black Bears are 7-1 in the building to begin this season.

Maine freshman and Pittsburgh Penguins draft pick Blaine Byron had the game-winning goal for the Black Bears on Sunday.
Maine freshman and Pittsburgh Penguins draft pick Blaine Byron had the game-winning goal for the Black Bears on Sunday.
Jeff Cox

Orono, Maine -- What a difference a little home cooking makes. The University of Maine hockey team won its seventh home game of the season in eight tries on Sunday afternoon with a 4-2 victory over No. 7 UMass-Lowell.

"We obviously beat a very good team. They're one of the best teams in the country. I learned that last year while I was coaching at Yale. They're an unbelievable team that is exceptionally well coached," said Gendron.

"That's a huge win for us. Against a top ten team like them, they're a great team. It was a tough battle. The win feels really good," said sophomore Devin Shore.

The power play was the difference in the game for the Black Bears as they scored three times on five chances. The only goal that didn't come on the man advantage was the empty-netter.

"Obviously our power play came through today with three goals. That was huge. I thought we played a pretty good defensive game overall. There were still errors, but when they were made Marty came up with a few phenomenal saves," said Gendron.

Blaine Byron's power play goal with 3:33 remaining in regulation proved to be the game-winner. With Michael Kapla in the penalty box for UMass-Lowell, Maine had a golden opportunity to convert on the man advantage for the third time in the game.

There was not much going on the particular power play until Byron received a feed from defenseman Eric Schurhamer. With no teammates open for a pass, the Pittsburgh Penguins draft pick took a slap shot that was initially saved by UMass-Lowell goaltender Connor Hellebuyck. The puck glanced over his equipment and trickled into the net.

"I don't know how it went in. It looked like the goalie had it," said Gendron. "It was Wayne Gretzky who said ‘You don't score on 100 percent of the shots you don't take,'" added the coach.

Maine scored two goals by the midway point of the first period to give the Black Bears an early home cushion that they have become accustomed to in recent home games against Boston University and Boston College.

Cam Brown gave the Black Bears a 1-0 lead 5:52 into the game when the freshman connected on a quick slap shot from the top of the slot on the first power play attempt of the game. Brice O'Connor and Eric Schurhamer assisted on the goal.

"I got the puck from Brice [O'Connor] at the point. I just kind of threw it on net like a half slap shot. There was some traffic in front and it went in," said the freshman from Natick, Mass. of his second collegiate goal.

"Brownie's shot was just a great shot," said Gendron. "It was a laser," he added.

Ben Hutton scored his team-leading seventh goal of the season at the 10:31 mark on the man advantage to give the Black Bears an early 2-0 lead. The play was started by a nice backcheck at the other end by Steven Swavely.

Connor Leen retrieved the puck in the corner and raced up the ice. He slid the puck to Devin Shore who fed Hutton in the slot who rifled one into the back of the net.

"Hutton's goal was a sweet goal. One of the things was we lost the puck and [UML] had a semi-breakaway. Steven Swavely not only got back to kill the play, but didn't take a penalty doing it. On the ensuing counterattack Hutton busts his tail to get up the ice to make it a three-on-two. That's a big time play," said Gendron.

As essential as the power play was to success for Maine on Sunday, the goals scored on the man advantage weren't exactly textbook plays with nice in-zone setups.

"A lot of the goals we scored weren't on our set plays," explained Shore.

"Brownie's first one was just a shot on net. It was a mirror image to Byron's. The best way to get a power play goal is to put pucks on net. The [Hutton goal] was all Steve Swavely. It could have been a two-goal swing the other way, but he made an amazing play on the backcheck. If you give Ben Hutton the puck in the slot the odds are it's going in," said the Dallas Stars prospect.

Derek Arold lifted a backhander up and over Maine goaltender Martin Ouellette to get the River Hawks on the board with 5:26 to play in the opening period. The goal came on a wild scramble in front of the Maine net, but Scott Wilson took the puck and went around the back of the net before throwing the puck out front.

UMass-Lowell was able to capitalize on a power play opportunity of its own with just 35 seconds to play in the second period. Ryan McGrath picked up the puck after a Maine defender blocked his initial shot. The O'Fallon, Mo. native was able to wrist a laser up and over Ouellette.

Lowell had all the momentum in the beginning of the third period, but Ouellette came up with several huge saves in the first few minutes.

"The start of the third period was the weakest moment of the game. We lost our poise and composure. We had defensemen getting caught and pucks getting behind them. Marty made two or three saves, especially early, that were legit. If they score on those plays the whole complexion of the game is different," said Gendron.

"They are very good offensively so I had to be ready. They had a couple nice passes across and I was able to slide across to make those saves," said Ouellette of Lowell's chances early in the final frame.

Jon Swavely added the empty-net goal to put the game away for Maine.

"I wasn't playing Jon's line, but I used him on two different lines at different times. He didn't play that much because his line wasn't playing, but when the game was on the line Jon Swavely was out on the ice. He got rewarded with an empty net goal."

Gendron was pleased with his team's shot blocking and ability to get sticks in lane throughout the game.

"One of the other things we did an awful lot better was blocking shots. Our kids did a terrific job with that. It's not always shots you block with your body, but it's having sticks in the right place."

Another bright spot continues to be the play of the all-freshman line of Cam Brown centering Blaine Byron and Brian Morgan. The trio accounted for two of the team's goals and 10 shots on goal.

"Obviously you watch the game. They get the puck and go down to the other end and do stuff," said Gendron.

UMass-Lowell (11-5-0) is off until after Christmas when Norm Bazin's team faces Canisius and Clarkson in the Catamount Cup at the Gutterson Field House in Burlington, Vermont on the campus of UVM.

Maine (7-6-1) will get back to work next weekend when American International pays a visit to the Alfond Arena for a two-game set. The Yellow Jackets lost to UML, 6-1, on Tuesday night at the Tsongas Center.

Jeff Cox covers college and junior hockey, NCAA recruiting, NHL Draft prospects and the AHL for SBNation. Follow him on twitter @JeffCoxSBNation.