Orono, Maine -- Two power play goals in the last five minutes of the game lifted Maine past Vermont, 2-0, Friday night at Alfond Arena, but the real story of the game was Black Bears goaltender Martin Ouellette.
The late game power play heroics wouldn't have been if not for Ouellette's phenomenal play during the first 55 minutes of the game. The senior came up huge on multiple occasions, especially a sequence in the first period where he made three pivotal stops.
"Even though we had the better of the play for parts of the game, Vermont had some glorious chances. Without looking at the film he had three to five spectacular saves," said Gendron.
"He's unbelievable. You play the game differently in a good way when you know your goaltender is solid back there. He gives us a chance to win every single night. I don't think it's a secret a lot of the games we're in are low scoring. He was amazing. He made some great saves to give us a chance," said sophomore Devin Shore.
"Marty was huge tonight. You have to give a shout out to him. He's great every night. He played amazing and made big saves to keep us in the game," said defenseman Ben Hutton.
Ouellette only had to make 23 saves on the night for his fourth career shutout. The Columbus Blue Jackets draft pick credited his team's defense with keeping Vermont in check. "I feel we contained their offense pretty good. The guys played well, especially on the [penalty kill]. They didn't get much," said Ouellette.
The win was the first conference win of the Red Gendron era. Maine's three previous victories this season were in games that didn't count towards the Hockey East standings.
"It's a big win. It's our first Hockey East win. We obviously want to get points in the league so that was big," said Gendron.
The game changed in the Black Bears favor when Vermont senior Connor Brickley took a five-minute major for hitting from behind with 4:57 to play in the third period. The Black Bears were already on the power play and the penalty meant Maine would remain on the man advantage for the remainder of the game.
"We took two terrible penalties to give the game away," said Vermont head coach Kevin Sneddon. "It's disappointing. Red's team played hard. They certainly beat us in a lot of areas, including face-offs and one-on-one battles," added the ninth-year head coach.
It only took 13 seconds into the two-man advantage for Maine to break the scoreless tie. Devin Shore picked up the puck in the right corner and made a great wheel play to draw the defenders towards him. He slipped the puck down towards the goal line to Ben Hutton who roofed the puck into the back of the net.
A similar play worked for Maine in its 3-2 overtime win over UMass two weeks ago. "Coach showed us the play at the beginning of the year," said Hutton. "[Devin] can either shoot or pass it down to me. I was able to get it over the goalie short side," added the Vancouver Canucks draft pick.
Shore talked about the various possibilities the play leaves him when circling into the slot. "The system we have set up gives us different options. Ben was open, and it was a great shot," said Shore.
Steven Swavely would ice the game on a three-on-one with just less than two minutes to play in the game. A Vermont defender crashed into the boards leaving Swavely, Ryan Lomberg and Brian Morgan to move in on Vermont goaltender Brody Hoffman.
Swavely, who was tremendous on the backcheck and penalty kill all night, kept the puck and released a quick wrist shot that beat Hoffman.
"Steven Swavely got a good look on a three-on-one and that was a pro shot right above the pad and below the glove," said Gendron.
"It was a great team win. We worked our tails off. That with good goaltending gives us a chance every single night," added the first year head coach.
"To go into the third period tied and come out with a win late, it feels really good," said Shore.
The win was the fourth in as many tries for the Black Bears at home. Maine only won twice at the Alfond Arena last season. "It feels amazing. The fans deserve it. Sometimes we feel like we have an extra man out there because of them. The fans are absolutely incredible. We obviously try to win every single night, but we're happy to do it for them," said Shore of his fans.
The two teams will meet again Saturday night at 7 p.m. back at the Alfond Arena for the series finale.
Jeff Cox covers college and junior hockey, NCAA recruiting, NHL Draft prospects and the AHL for SBNation. Follow him on twitter @JeffCoxSBNation.