BOSTON -- Growing up in nearby Weymouth, Mass., Maine sophomore goaltender Rob McGovern came to Fenway Park quite often.
However, the way the first game of Saturday’s Frozen Fenway doubleheader ended was not a memory he would have ever expected. McGovern made 31 saves and four of his Black Bear teammates scored goals en route to their first shutout of the season ― a 4-0 win over UConn.
“The defense kept everyone to the outside, so that made everything a lot easier. It felt like a second home, I guess,” said McGovern, who made 22 of his 31 stops over the first two periods and improved to 7-7-3. “It was kind of like a dream come true. I don’t really have any other words to describe it.”
The Black Bears wasted no time jumping on the scoreboard as senior Blaine Byron took over a loose puck deep in the offensive zone and fed senior captain Cam Brown for his fourth goal of the season at 2:33.
Byron worked the puck around UConn freshman goaltender Adam Huska’s net before Brown finished the wraparound and tapped the puck past the far-side post.
Maine held a 13-11 shot advantage in the first and then rattled off 11 straight to begin the second, with Byron reaching the double-digit mark in goals at the 10:54 marker. Huska came deep out of his net to play sophomore defenseman Rob Michel’s entry, leaving the net wide open for a tap-in.
Huska finished the night with exactly 40 saves, his second effort at or above that mark this year. A whopping 19 of them came in the second period.
Still, Brown’s goal turned out to be all the offense Maine would need as McGovern eventually finished off his first-ever shutout in a Maine uniform.
“I thought our guys did a real good job of dealing with the special elements of playing outdoors,” Maine head coach Red Gendron said. “We played with great intelligence for most of the afternoon, got pucks deep and got pucks to the net. We played well defensively, and obviously Rob McGovern pitched a shutout and had to make some big saves.”
Michel drove a rocket from the point right through traffic for Maine’s third goal of the night 6:55 into the third period, a play that Brown set up with a feed to above the left circle.
McGovern did not need to make many stops down the stretch, but those he did make were huge. He stopped UConn senior Evan Richardson breaking in alone twice, including one on a shorthanded attempt right after Michel’s goal.
“We’ve seen him play like this all year and even last year, so we knew what he was capable of,” Byron said. “Today, everyone got to see.”
Junior Nolan Vesey added an empty-net tally at 18:03. Bursting into the offensive zone with speed, the North Reading native worked around his defender, played the puck ahead and slid his sixth goal of the year into an open net.
After the Black Bears suffered a 6-3 loss when the teams met in Bridgeport, Conn., Gendron noticed a stern difference in his team’s play at the ballyard.
“We played defense,” Gendron said. “That’s it.”