ORONO – Only a few hours after the Wall Street Journal featured the University of Maine hockey team’s home rink for having one of the best atmospheres in college hockey, the fans at Alfond Arena quickly exited the stands — with 10 minutes left in regulation, after Vermont forward Jack Downing scored his second goal of the game.

Vermont simply sucked the life out of both the building and the No. 18 Black Bears on Friday night with a 7-2 win at Alfond Arena, which was mentioned in the Friday morning edition of the Journal for its diehard fans.

“It was really disappointing,” Maine Coach Tim Whitehead said. “All of us feel like we felt like we let the home crowd down. That was a tough night here at the Alfond. It was not what we expected.

“We had a strong week of practice, but we just didn’t get it done.”

Vermont took a 2-0 lead less than eight minutes into the game, and when the Black Bears finally discovered a sense of urgency, it didn’t last.

The Catamounts increased their cushion to 3-0 at 14:41 on the first of Downing’s two goals. Maine (11-10-6, 8-8-4 Hockey East) finally answered, twice cutting Vermont’s lead to two goals, but the Catamounts quickly responded both times.

Twenty-three seconds after Theo Andersson trimmed Vermont’s lead to 3-1 late in the first, Anthony DeCenzo scored. Then, 41 seconds after Gustav Nyquist made it 4-2 in the second period, DeCenzo scored again.

“That’s kind of one of our big things going into each game, our answer factor,” said DeCenzo, who finished with three points. “It’s something that we key on each game. Any time the other team gets momentum or a goal, we try to answer right back.”

Winless in their last six games, the Black Bears’ pursuit of a top-four finish and home-ice advantage in the Hockey East playoffs took another hit.

Maine is in sixth place with 20 points, one behind fifth-place Northeastern and seven behind Boston University and Merrimack, who are tied for third. Seven games remain in the regular season for the Black Bears, including today’s series finale against Vermont (7-15-5, 5-11-4).

Though they outshot the Catamounts 39-25, the Black Bears couldn’t convert a pair of key power plays — a five-on-three advantage at the start of the second and a four-on-three six minutes into the third.

Adding to their woes, the Black Bears used all three goaltenders. Dan Sullivan (six saves), was lifted with 5:19 left in the first for Martin Ouellette (11 saves). Ouellette gave up three goals before he was replaced with 10 minutes remaining by Shawn Sirman (one save).

“You can’t blame anything,” Nyquist said, “except that everyone has to look at themselves and get better for (today).”

DeCenzo’s second goal gave Vermont a 5-2 lead going into the third, and Sebastian Stalberg and Downing scored in the third for the Catamounts, prompting the exodus from Alfond Arena.

“The whole night just didn’t go our way,” Nyquist said. “I’m not blaming anything … we just didn’t play good enough to win this game.”

Staff Writer Rachel Lenzi can be reached at 791-6415 or at:

[email protected]