ORONO — It’s a sign of a good team, and a young team, when it wins despite not playing its best hockey. That’s been the case a lot for the University of Maine men’s hockey team this season, and it was the case again Friday night in front of a sold-out crowd of 5,043 at Alfond Arena.

Despite getting outplayed for much of the game, the Black Bears came up big in the third period and on special teams, taking a 5-3 Hockey East win over UMass Lowell.

“We have a hard time playing a mature game when it’s hard like that right now,” Maine Coach Ben Barr said. “It’s a very simple game. You take zones, you finish your hits, you forecheck, you win your 1-on-1 battles. When you do that, good things happen. When you don’t do that, it’s hard to watch.”

Thirteen of the 19 skaters Maine dressed for the game are either freshmen or sophomores. With their 15th win of the season, the Black Bears matched their win total from last season. These teams will meet for another Hockey East game Saturday night at Alfond Arena.

“I think that we had the effort. Still, we knew (Maine) was very opportunistic and they proved it again. We’ve got to be better,” River Hawks Coach Norm Bazin said.

Special teams plays were pivotal for the Black Bears, and Donavan Villeneuve-Houle was in the middle of it all.


Villeneuve-Houle’s power-play goal at 9:10 of the third period gave the Black Bears the lead for good, after his short-handed goal in the first period tied the game. Each time, he took a pass from Lynden Breen to set up the goal.

“I felt like I had a little open room in front of the net, so I took it far side and put it in (backhand). That was a tight angle. It’s something we work on,” Villeneuve-Houle said.

Less than a minute after Villeneuve-Houle’s go-ahead score, captain David Breazeale of Maine (15-4-2, 7-3-1 Hockey East) fired a quick shot from just beyond the top of the circle for a 3-1 lead. Breazeale was just coming onto the ice, and took a pass from Cole Hanson.

Josh Nadeau’s goal at 16:42 pushed the lead to 4-1.

TJ Schweighardt cut Lowell’s deficit to 4-2 at 18:28 and began an outburst of three goals over the final 92 seconds. Harrison Scott of Maine got an empty-net goal at 19:15, and Mark Cooper scored for the River Hawks at 19:57.

For the fourth straight game, Maine’s opponent scored first. Owen Cole gave the River Hawks (7-13-2, 3-7-1) a 1-0 lead at 2:56 of the first period, poking the puck past Victor Ostman from a scrum to Ostman’s left.


The Black Bears made it 1-1 at 11:29 on Villeneuve-Houle’s short-handed goal. With Bradly Nadeau in the box for interference, Brandon Holt’s outlet pass to Breen started a 2-on-1 rush. Breen faked the shot to draw goalie Luke Pavicich’s attention, then fed Villeneuve-Houle with the pass, and the senior from Montreal shot high over a scrambling Pavicich.

“I basically had an open net there for the shot,” Villeneuve-Houle said.

Maine had a strong chance to take the lead late in the first period when Hanson corralled a Lowell turnover in front of the net, but Pavicich got his pads on the ice to make the save on Hanson’s low shot.

The River Hawks controlled play throughout much of the scoreless second period, outshooting Maine 14-8. Lowell’s best chance at breaking the tie came with just under 4 1/2 minutes left when Scout Truman got off a clean shot between the circles that Ostman was able to stop. The Black Bears killed a pair of Lowell power plays in the second. Overcoming those long stretches of lackluster play comes down to maturity, said Breazeale, a captain.

“Teams have a game plan when they come play us. They’re going to sit back and not allow us to score in transition, and they’re going to try and make us turn the puck over in the neutral zone,” Breazeale said. “We’ve got to be more mature and be able to put pucks in behind them and recognize when teams are doing that.”

Ostman made 29 saves. Pavicich had 30 stops for Lowell.

“Victor, he’s been keeping us in games his whole career. It’s great to have him between the pipes,” Villeneuve-Houle said. “You know, we didn’t play our best. A tough start once again. A tough second period as well. Just the little details. We’ve got to play the right way and do things more simply.”

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