NORTH ANDOVER, Mass. — The Maine hockey team reduced the sport to its basics Friday.

Playing on the claustrophobic ice surface at Lawler Rink against a Merrimack team that yields goals grudgingly, the Black Bears decided to just throw pucks toward the net and see what happened.

The result was a veritable offensive explosion in a 4-3 victory that moved Maine into sole possession of ninth place in the Hockey East standings.

“We knew that it was a small barn, so every time you had a chance to put the puck on net or take it to the net, you had to do it and just follow it up,” said Maine defenseman Ben Hutton, who scored his team’s second goal. “Just keeping our feet moving and moving the puck as quick as possible because then it doesn’t give them the chance to hit us and we can get the forecheck going.

“We had to stay aggressive in a smaller barn.”

Maine (11-17-3, 6-9-2 Hockey East) built a 3-0 lead early in the second period. After killing off two early penalties, the Black Bears struck quickly late in the first period.

Freshman Mark Hamilton scored his first career goal when his shot from the right point rattled off the post and into the net.

Seconds later, the Black Bears were on the attack, led by Brian Morgan in the middle of the ice. He sent a pass to Steven Swavely to his right and Swavely’s shot caromed off of Merrimack goaltender Rasmus Tirronen’s pad and out to the left circle, where Hutton was waiting.

“I was just jumping up in the rush. I know Swaves is pretty good at the far pad, so I went to the far side and he made a perfect shot and I just picked up the rebound and shelfed it,” Hutton said.

He was being modest. Tirronen was sliding from right to left in the crease and Hutton had to snap off a quick line drive to get it past him from 40 feet.

“It was a really underrated goal, I think,” Maine forward Devin Shore said. “He was at a really bad angle. It wasn’t just a tap-in. He had to pick a spot there.”

Shore extended the lead thanks to some good fortune and slick stick-handling. Defenseman Dan Renouf gathered a puck at the Merrimack blue line as the Warriors were intent on breaking out of their zone. Shore was alone in the slot and calling for the pass.

But he didn’t know how alone he was.

“I was thinking about shooting it right away. But for whatever reason I felt like I had a ton of time,” Shore said. “You know how you hear the saying, ‘There’s someone breathing down your back’ or you hear footsteps. I didn’t hear that. So I thought I’d give it a try and turn around and see what we’ve got in front of me and lucky enough I was in alone.”

Shore skated in on Tirronen, deked him to the ice and slid a backhanded shot into the right side of the net for his team-leading 11th goal.

Merrimack (14-12-3, 5-10-2) responded with two quick goals to cut the deficit to 3-2.

Shore was ready to make another big play. Linemate Nolan Vesey forechecked hard to create a turnover and slid the puck out in front, where it deflected off a Warrior skate and onto Shore’s stick.

Out of the corner of his eye, Shore noticed Will Merchant sliding in behind him in the high slot. He poked the puck to a spot where only Merchant could reach it, and his one-timer restored a 4-2 lead for the Black Bears.

The Warriors pulled Tirronen in the final 53 seconds and capitalized on a Brian Christie goal with 17.8 seconds remaining.

Off the ensuing faceoff, Merrimack got the puck in deep in Maine’s zone, but Hutton fed it to Swavely, who sent it down the ice as time expired.

“We came in, we played hard. We played the way we wanted to play and we stuck with it all game long,” Maine Coach Red Gendron said after the physical game.

The teams meet again here at 4 p.m. Saturday, a game moved ahead three hours because of the impending snowstorm.

Mark Emmert can be contacted at 791-6424 or at:

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Twitter: MarkEmmertPPH