ORONO -- Notre Dame and the University of Maine skated to a 4-4 tie in the first meeting between the two schools at Alfond Arena since 1991. Vince Hinostroza had three assists to lead the Irish while some unlikely scorers stepped up for the Black Bears.
Best player on the ice
There was no doubt who the best player on the ice was Friday night. It was Irish sophomore center Vince Hinostroza, property of the Chicago Blackhawks. His passing skills have been talked about often, and his three assists certainly backed up this writer's claim that he is one of the best set up guys in college hockey. What really stood out Friday in addition to his passing was his skating ability. His cutting, his ability to use his edges to dart in and around Maine defenders was exceptional. Maine will certainly have to do a better job of keeping the puck out of his hands Saturday night if Red Gendron's team wants a different outcome.
The goaltending left a lot to be desired from Blaine Byron's first goal of the game, 4:02 into the first period, that squeaked through the five-hole of Chat Katunar to Anders Bjork's tally just over three minutes later from a near impossible angle that somehow went between Sean Romeo's shoulder and the near post.
It didn't get much better from there with some bizarre handling of pucks, juicy rebounds and some shaky saves. Katunar did make a really nice glove save in the second period before getting yanked.
Both starting goaltenders were pulled. Expect to see Matt Morris and Cal Petersen get the nod in net for Maine and Notre Dame, respectively, in the series finale.
Oft-maligned Maine defense
It was one of the better games for the Black Bear defense overall. This isn't to say that there were not defensive breakdowns during the game, but the third Notre Dame goal was caused by one of the forward lines not getting the puck deep at the other end which allowed for a quick turnaround. The second goal was a nice tip on the power play and the first goal was on the goaltender. The fourth goal can be blamed squarely on the top defensive pairing for not taking Mario Lucia in front of the net.
Eric Schurhamer, +2 on the night, had a stellar game. He was physical, skated well and had a good stick. It was also one of the better games for senior alternate captain Jake Rutt.
Keys to series finale
Maine did a lot of good things Friday night. It played physically and was tenacious on the forecheck. The Black Bears won the possession battle. No line did a better job at that than the third line that got the start Friday. Will Merchant and Brady Campbell each scored a goal, but the pair along with Stu Higgins, did a great job. All three of them brought intensity to the ice each shift and made things happen.
If Gendron's team can limit the few mistakes it made Friday and get better goaltending, the home team has a good chance of coming away with three points on the weekend.
For Notre Dame, Jeff Jackson's team needs to get the puck in Hinostroza's hands. The Irish have the skill to cause breakdowns in the Maine defense. Obviously, better goaltending is important for the Irish as well.