NORTH ANDOVER, Mass. – The snug confines of Lawler Arena have not been kind in recent years to the University of Maine men’s hockey team.
Saturday night was no different.
The Black Bears fell 6-0 to Merrimack in a Hockey East contest before a sellout crowd of 2,489. It was the most lopsided loss of the season for the Black Bears, who remain in the Hockey East cellar after a weekend in which they managed a single goal, during Friday night’s 1-1 tie at Northeastern.
“It’s obviously frustrating for us now,” said Maine senior captain Mike Cornell. “I think we all kind of thought we turned a corner (after winning a holiday tournament in Florida) and our confidence was definitely there.”
Over the last half dozen games between these teams at Lawler — a place where the stands rise only six rows on one side of the ice and 12 rows on the other — Merrimack owns a 5-0-1 record dating back to January 2011.
They will play twice next weekend in Orono, where the Black Bears (5-13-3, 1-8-3 Hockey East) are 4-2 against Merrimack (8-9-4, 6-5-1) in that same time span, but where they have yet to register a victory in nine chances this season.
“We’ve got a pretty sour taste in our mouth right now,” Cornell said, “so there’ll be no shortage of motivation.”
There were 20 penalties called, divided evenly between the two teams. Maine’s career leader in that category, Joey Diamond, drew four of them for four separate infractions.
“That felt like one of the tougher 6-0 games I’ve been part of,” said Merrimack Coach Mark Dennehy. “That team is way better than their record, that I believe.”
Mike Collins scored twice and assisted on another for Merrimack, which became the sixth team this season to shut out Maine. The Black Bears have scored fewer than two goals in 12 of their 21 games this season.
Maine held a 30-26 edge in shots, but Merrimack’s Sam Marotta saved everything that got through the defense, and his teammates blocked another 26 shots.
“I think the shots are deceiving,” Cornell said. “We get a lot of shots from the outside. Something we’ve been preaching is driving to the net, getting to the net, getting second chances. That’s something we’ve really got to work on.”
Merrimack had plenty of second chances, scoring three of its first four goals on rebounds against Maine goalie Martin Ouellette. It was 2-0 after one period, and 4-0 seven minutes into the second period when Ouellette got the hook in favor of freshman Matt Morris.
After killing off two early penalties, Maine gave up two even-strength goals in the final five minutes of the first period.
First, Collins pounced on the rebound of a sharply angled shot from the corner boards by Dan Kolomatis and knocked it in from a few feet away.
With a minute left in the period, Collins blocked a Maine shot with his facemask, chased down the carom and sprinted up the left side. He fed teammate Quinn Gould streaking down the middle, and Gould’s shot deflected off a Maine defender’s stick and into the upper corner.
The Warriors added three goals in the second period. The first two goals came on rebounds, knocked in by John Heffernan and Vinny Scotti.
The final goal was indicative of Maine’s night. On a Merrimack power play, Warriors defenseman Brendan Ellis uncorked a slap shot that was partially deflected by Maine’s Stu Higgins, past Morris and into the corner of the net.
Staff Writer Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or at: