One thing was obvious following the University of Maine men’s ice hockey team’s 3-2 win over Bentley on Saturday night at Cross Insurance Arena: The Black Bears need a break.

The game, played in front of a packed house of 6,291 fans, was Maine’s fourth in nine days. The Black Bears won all four, but as they left the ice Saturday night, they looked forward to the short break that comes with final exams this week.

“We definitely need that rest. The last two games wasn’t our best. Hopefully we can take advantage of that rest and come back stronger,” said freshman Josh Nadeau, who scored a pair of goals against Bentley, including the game-winner at 15:49 of the third period.

Maine opened this challenging stretch with a 5-2 win over rival University of New Hampshire at Orono’s Alfond Arena on Dec. 1, followed by a 7-3 win over UConn at home two days later. On Wednesday, the Black Bears played in Schenectady, New York, a 3-1 win over Union. The team arrived back in Orono at 5 a.m. Thursday, before traveling 140 miles to Portland on Friday for the game at Cross Insurance Arena.

The four straight wins improved Maine’s record to 10-3-1. The Black Bears are ranked eighth in the latest poll, the team’s highest ranking in a dozen years. The success has sparked a renewed interest in the team. Saturday’s game at Cross Insurance Arena was Maine’s fifth sellout in seven home games.

Coach Ben Barr said the team will be off until Dec. 22, when it will begin prep for its Dec. 29 game against No. 19 Rochester Institute of Technology at Dartmouth’s Ledyard Classic tournament in Hanover, New Hampshire. Maine will face Dartmouth or Lake Superior State on Dec. 30 on the second night of the tournament, then host Colgate in Orono for a pair of non-conference games on Jan. 5-6. After that, it’s nothing but Hockey East games the rest of the regular season, beginning with a pair of games at UConn on Jan. 12-13.


“It’s a needed break right now. We’re going to come back before Christmas and make sure we’re ready to go and play on the 29th,” Barr said. “I think our defense has slipped a little bit. It’s a small thing, like finishing hits, being on the right side of your check. It’s the simplest things that are the things that go when you’re tired a little bit. You’re giving up 3-on-2s or 2-on-1s. We did that a lot the last couple of games, and that’s not our game. So we’ll clean those up.”

Nadeau’s game-winner came shortly after Maine turned away a Bentley 2-on-1 chance. Nadeau carried the puck through the neutral zone before firing a shot from the left of Bentley goalie Connor Hasley, who had 32 saves.

“I came back as hard as I could. When you work hard, good things happen,” Nadeau said. “It was not our best start as a team, but good teams find a way to come back.”

Maine led 1-0 entering the third period, after Nadeau tipped home a Lynden Breen shot midway through the second period. The Falcons controlled play throughout the first half of the third period. Bentley tied the game 1-1 at 10:07 of the third when Ryan Upson poked in a shot after Maine goalie Victor Ostman (29 saves) was unable to cover the puck. Just over two minutes later, at 12:36, the Falcons took the lead on Kellan Hjartarson’s goal on a 2-on-1 break, with a shot over Ostman’s right shoulder.

Bentley’s lead lasted just 13 seconds. The Black Bears won the faceoff and attacked quickly, tying the game 2-2 on Cole Hanson’s first goal of the season.

“It was impressive to see them come back after we gave up the lead,” Barr said.


Maine’s top line of Breen and brothers Josh and Bradly Nadeau has been one of the top lines in college hockey, scoring 25 of Maine’s 50 goals. Saturday, the trio struggled early as Bentley worked hard to get as many players back as possible, clogging passing lanes and making things difficult on the crafty playmaking line.

“We sometimes don’t want to just go in and forecheck. They’re playmakers, and sometimes they struggle against teams that have a lot of guys back,” Barr said. “There’s not a lot of plays to be made in the neutral zone, and you start doing that. You turn pucks over and then you end up in your D zone for a long time. And that happened to them in the first half of the game. They got better.”

Maine was fortunate to get out of the second period with a one-goal lead. Bentley’s Stephen Castagna rang the post with a shot with just under two minutes left in the period. Then, with 11 seconds left, Nik Armstrong-Kingkade’s scoring bid was stuffed by Ostman.

Josh Nadeau said the Black Bears can learn from this completed grind of four games bunch into nine days.

“It’s not something we’re used to, but we’ve got to get used to it,” he said. “It’s hockey, and it’s hard.”

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