ESTERO, Fla. — The University of Maine hockey team had really made the most of these annual tournament trips to South Florida.
Ryan Lomberg, a freshman forward, and junior goaltender Martin Ouellette added to the Black Bears’ legacy Friday night in the opening round of the Florida College Classic at Germain Arena.
Lomberg scored his first collegiate goal and Ouellette shut down Minnesota-Duluth in a 1-0 victory that sent the Black Bears into Saturday night’s title game.
“Perfect timing,” Lomberg said.
The Black Bears have won the tournament five times in 13 trips to Florida, including last year in a title-game victory over UMass-Amherst.
“If we can steal one tomorrow (Saturday), that would be a big boost for us,” Maine Coach Tim Whitehead said.
The “steal” may have already happened. Outshot 31-22, the Black Bears (3-11-2) certainly surprised the Bulldogs (7-9-3) with an impressive defensive performance which had spectators on their feet by the end of the game. UMD, which had won four of its previous six games, pounded Ouellette with shots in the final six minutes.
“I was pleased with the way we defended,“ Whitehead said. “We had a lot of blocked shots, a lot of body blocks, which I thought was a big factor in the game. And anytime we needed him, Marty, I mean he really stole that game.”
“I was feeling good out there,“ Ouellette said. ‘There are those games where you’re in the zone and today was one of them.“
Even an open net in the final minute couldn’t make things easy for the Black Bears, who lost their most recent game by just one goal to Boston University on Dec. 8
With 50 seconds left, Maine’s Bill Norman appeared to have scored, but his shot hit the inside of the post and bounced out. The goal judge turned the red light on and off as play continued. At the next stoppage, officials reviewed the play and ruled that no goal had been scored.
Lomberg scored the only goal on a breakaway while the Black Bears had two players in the penalty box in the second period. Ouellette made a sensational glove save on a shot from the slot and the puck bounced to Steven Swavely, who tapped it ahead to Lomberg, who beat freshman goaltender Matt McNeely to his right side.
Ouellette’s busy night began early when he had to make a difficult save following an errant clearing pass less than four minutes into the game. “He was really seeing the puck,” Whitehead said.
Maine will play 11th-ranked Cornell in the title game Saturday. The Big Red defeated Ferris State 5-3 in Friday’s opening game.
“Don’t know what’s in the water over there. They always seem to have a big club,” Whitehead said.