AMHERST, Mass. – The University of Maine men’s hockey team strayed from basic defense for just a short stretch. But the Black Bears soon found themselves in a precarious position: forced yet again to defend a one-goal lead.

The Black Bears led Massachusetts by three goals less than five minutes into the third period but had to hang on for a 4-3 victory Friday night in a Hockey East game.

Maine appeared in control after going up 4-1 early in the third. But after freshman center Jon Swavely was called for hitting from behind at 11:16, the defensive breakdown ensued — an uncommon occurrence for a team that had given up one goal in its previous four games.

“We were getting away from our game,” Maine center Matt Mangene said. “Instead of getting the puck deep and making the easy passes, we tried to make the fancy passes and not get it deep, and we started getting suckered into our own zone, which started all the troubles.”

Danny Hobbs and Mike Pereira scored in a span of seven seconds to cut the UMass deficit to 4-3, and the Black Bears (17-10-6, 14-8-4 Hockey East) suddenly had to protect a slim lead.

Instead of panicking, the Black Bears simply regrouped.

“We kept things simple, shooting pucks deep, helping (goalie Dan) Sullivan out, just clearing pucks out and clearing guys out,” said center Robby Dee.

“I think we did that, especially toward the end of the game when they were taking it to us. We didn’t give them too many good opportunities, and in the end it was enough to win.”

UMass Coach Don Cahoon praised Maine’s defensive efforts.

“They were poised with the puck when they possessed it, there weren’t any turnovers and there’s a reason they had all those shutout minutes,” Cahoon said. “They know how to defend grade A.”

Combined with wins Friday by Boston University and Merrimack, Maine is locked into fifth place in Hockey East with 32 points and will play a best-of-three quarterfinal series next weekend on the road against the fourth-place team. Merrimack is currently fourth with 35 points, a point behind Boston University.

Still, the win against the Minutemen (6-21-5, 5-16-5) served as a lesson for the Black Bears.

“It didn’t come easy,” said Sullivan, who had 31 saves. “It keeps you humble and it reminds you what kind of a game this is and how quick they can get the momentum back.

“They were really hungry there at the end. Unfortunately, if we gave them an inch, they took it, and more.”

Maine took a 1-0 lead at 12:19 of the first on Spencer Abbott’s one-timer from the left circle after a feed from behind the net by Gustav Nyquist.

After a scoreless second in which Maine outshot UMass 21-8, Mangene and Josh Van Dyk scored in the first 4:12 of the third to kick off a six-goal period.

Adam Phillips ended Dan Sullivan’s shutout bid at 10:46 on a shot from the right circle, but Maine answered 17 seconds later on Dee’s goal to make it 4-1.

“We didn’t play great team defense after we got that lead,” Maine Coach Tim Whitehead said. “Then we let up.

“We had a chance to get the puck deep and protect the lead, but I thought certainly UMass carried the game in the third.”

Staff Writer Rachel Lenzi can be contacted at 791-6415 or at: [email protected]

 


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