ORONO – The University of Maine men’s hockey team needed little time Friday night to assert its status as a team to be reckoned with.

Less than 70 seconds, in fact.

A fast start at Alfond Arena helped the Black Bears to an 8-2 win over UMass-Lowell in the season opener and Hockey East opener for both teams.

Maine’s Tanner House and Joey Diamond each scored a pair of goals for the Black Bears, ranked seventh in the USCHO.com top 20 poll and the USA Today/USA Hockey top 15 poll. But it was Robby Dee’s tally in the second minute that set the tone.

Dee scored Maine’s first goal 1:09 into the game, the first of Maine’s four first-period goals, and the Black Bears had their highest offensive output since an 8-4 win over UMass-Lowell on Feb. 19, and helped Maine Coach Tim Whitehead earn his 200th win at Maine.

“It was huge,” House said. “To come out strong and get one early, it took the pressure off and calmed everyone a little bit.”

After Dee’s goal, the Black Bears (1-0, 1-0 Hockey East) scored three more times in the next 14 minutes, punctuated by Diamond’s breakaway goal against RiverHawks goalie Doug Carr (12 saves) with 6:24 left in the first.

“We wanted to get out of the gate quick and get on the board,” said Diamond, who scored his second goal at 1:16 of the second.

Not only did the Black Bears score in the first two minutes of the first, they continued to put early period pressure on UMass-Lowell’s goalies, scoring goals in the first two minutes of the second and in the first minute of the third.

Marc Boulanger (22 saves) replaced Carr at the start of the second and allowed four goals, including House’s two and Spencer Abbott’s third-period goal.

Outshot 42-22, the RiverHawks (0-1, 0-1) were unable to find their balance offensively, and were unable to create second-chance scoring opportunities against Maine goalie Shawn Sirman, who made his first start since Feb. 27, a 5-1 win at Merrimack.

“I felt comfortable,” said Sirman, who made 18 saves before he was lifted with 9:26 left in the game in favor of freshman Dan Sullivan. “I didn’t feel nervous going out there, and I was at ease. I was better prepared for this.”

Maine forced the RiverHawks to take long-range shots from above the faceoff circles and allowed just seven shots on Sirman from in front of the goal crease.

Scott Campbell broke up Sirman’s shutout bid with a power-play goal at 14:53 of the second, and Michael Budd scored the RiverHawks’ second goal with less than three minutes left in the game.

“I thought we did a good job protecting Shawn,” Whitehead said. “He was sharp. He made some great first saves and some great second saves and made a breakaway stop (on Michael Scheu) that was a gem, and the guys did a pretty good job clearing rebounds to help him there.”

UMass-Lowell Coach Blaise MacDonald looked at it differently.

“What they did to protect the goalie — they kept it in the offensive zone,” MacDonald quipped.

 

Staff Writer Rachel Lenzi can be contacted at 791-6415 or at: [email protected]