AMHERST, Mass. – Special teams and goaltending.
That’s what carried the University of Maine to a 2-0 Hockey East win over Massachusetts on Friday night before 4,703 at the Mullins Center.
The win enabled the Black Bears to leapfrog over the Minutemen for sole possesion of eighth place and the final playoff spot in Hockey East. The teams meet again Saturday night.
Maine (9-13-6, 5-11-6) holds a one-point lead over UMass (10-7-2, 7-13-1).
The Black Bears were without the first line of Kyle Beattie, Joey Diamond and Connor Leen, and defenseman Nick Pryor.
“We felt like we stole some points,” Maine Coach Tim Whitehead said. “We had four key players out and we had several guys step up and stand out.”
Defenseman Ben Hutton got the Black Bears going with a second-period power-play goal. Mark Anthoine struck unassisted later in the period.
But the key was Martin Ouellette, the Hockey East goaltender of the month of January
“Marty had a fabulous game,” Whitehead said. “He stepped up and inspired the guys in a game that obviously could have gone either way.”
Ouellette had 30 saves, none bigger than the one he made early in the second period of a scoreless game, robbing K.J. Tiefenwerth.
“It was one of those saves where you make it probably one out of 10 times,” Ouellette said. “That was huge and gave us a little momentum.”
The Minutemen picked up the tempo after a sluggish start and were buzzing. Ouellette was down after making a save and Tiefenwerth stared into what seemed like an open net.
Ouellette was able to maintain his position despite being down and he dove across the crease to delect Tiefenwerth’s bid with the tip of his glove.
“I had to dive for it because he had an open net,” Ouellette said. “I got a piece of it with my glove. That save put me in a zone and kept me more in the game.”
Ouellette made another sparkling save with 8:34 remaining when he denied Rocco Carzo in front.
Hutton gave the Black Bears a 1-0 lead at 14:14 of the second period with a power-play goal. Hutton took a pass from Devin Shore and connected on a slap shot from the point.
“It’s always important to get the first goal, even more so in a game we thought would be hard-fought and tight-checking,” Whitehead said. “It gave us a lift and took a lot of pressure off Marty.”
Anthoine intercepted a bad clear.
He walked in with 1:09 remaining in the second period and beat Kevin Boyle to give the Black Bears a 2-0 lead.
That was it for Boyle, who was replaced by Steve Mastalerz.
An uneventful first period was scoreless.
The Black Bears had a territorial edge and carried the play for most of the period.
But Boyle stopped all 13 first period shots by Maine. He foiled close-range bids by Anthoine and Stu Higgins.