ORONO — Stu Higgins scored twice and goalie Martin Ouellette stood tall in the third period as the University of Maine beat Bentley 2-1 in men’s hockey Saturday night before a crowd of 4,569 at Alfond Arena.
The game marked the regular-season debut at Alfond Arena for new coach Dennis “Red” Gendron, and the Black Bears (1-2) came out eager to please an energetic crowd on Homecoming weekend.
Last season, fans at Alfond witnessed only two victories by the home team, one in February and another in March. That 2-9-6 record was a factor in the firing of former coach Tim Whitehead after 12 seasons, the final six of which included only one NCAA tournament appearance after having played in the previous nine.
Not three minutes had passed before a Jon Swavely forecheck led to a poor pass intercepted by Connor Leen, who set up Higgins at the far post to give Maine a 1-0 lead.
The Black Bears continued to pressure Bentley goalie Branden Komm, but two power plays and a 19-5 shot advantage failed to produce another goal in the first period, which ended in a 1-1 tie thanks to an Andrew Gladiuk goal to the short side of Ouellette moments after a faceoff in the Black Bears end.
Leen and Higgins connected again in the second period, with Leen executing a perfect drop pass on a three-on-two rush. Higgins picked up the puck just inside the blue line, skated a few strides and unleashed a shot from between the circles that beat Komm for a 2-1 Maine advantage.
The second period included seven penalties and a five-on-three power play of more than a minute for each team, but neither could cash in.
The scoreless third included four penalties, and Bentley held a six-on-four skater advantage for more than a minute near the end after pulling Komm.
Maine returns to action next weekend with a pair of games at Alfond against UMass.
Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or[email protected]Twitter: GlennJordanPPH