ORONO, Maine — The University of Vermont extended the University of Maine’s misery, and its losing streak, on Friday night.
The 13th-ranked Catamounts scored four, second-period goals to erase a one-goal deficit and went on to post a 6-3 nonconference victory over the Black Bears at Alfond Arena.
Vermont is now 10-3-1 overall while Maine is 3-10-1 after losing its sixth straight game.
It was Vermont’s sixth straight victory over the Black Bears. The two teams will meet for the fourth and final time this season on Saturday at 7 p.m.
Maine’s Brian Morgan answered Kevin Irwin’s game-opening goal with a pair of goals to give Maine a 2-1 lead after the first period.
Mario Puskarich sandwiched a pair of early second-period goals around one by Maine’s Connor Leen to tie it. The three goals came in a span of 1 minute, 1 second.
Defenseman Mike Paliotta’s goal at the 14:58 mark gave the Catamounts the lead for good and Mike Stenerson expanded the lead just 1:54 later.
Maine goalie Matt Morris was replaced by Sean Romeo after two periods and the Catamounts welcomed Romeo by converting a two-on-one just 30 seconds into the third as period as Irwin fed Jake Fallon for a tap-in.
Morgan had scored goals 4:06 apart after Irwin had opened the scoring just 2:12 into the game.
Maine coach Red Gendron said his team lacks mental toughness as evidenced by the second period during which his team got outscored 4-1 and outshot 12-2.
“We had a good first period. But Vermont pushed back in the second period and we didn’t respond. We didn’t push back,” said Gendron. “At the end of the day, this is all on me. It is up to me to get them to play the way we need them to play. Blame me.”
Vermont coach Kevin Sneddon said his team was outplayed by a hungry Maine team in the first period, noting that Irwin’s early goal may have given his team a false sense of security.
“Maine got better after we scored,” said Sneddon. “They were stronger on their sticks. But we made some plays in the second period and we were comfortable playing with the lead in the third.”
Morgan’s first goal came off a Puskarich turnover.
Puskarich fumbled the puck onto Morgan’s stick and Morgan flipped a wrist shot over the blocker of Brody Hoffman while falling down.
He made it 2-1 following a scramble.
Morgan maneuvered nicely across the slot only to have Hoffman stop his wrister.
But after the ball pinballed in front of the net, Morgan carried it around the net and scored with a wraparound through a defenseman’s legs.
Puskarich tied it on the power play 5:28 into the second period when Paliotta’s shot from the point deflected in off his skate.
Leen answered 10 seconds later with a shot from along the left wing boards that was misplayed by Hoffman.
But Puskarich tied it 51 seconds later as he corralled the puck in the neutral zone, broke down the left wing in a two-on-one and wristed the puck past Morris’ glove.
“We’ve told our defensemen not to dive in during a scrum in the neutral zone,” said Gendron. “We need both of them back.”
“That goal was huge for us,” said Sneddon.
Paliotta broke the deadlock off a pass from Irwin as his one-timer from the midpoint evaded Morris, who wasn’t screened on the play and appeared to be in position to make the save.
Gendron wouldn’t comment on the goal.
Stenerson made it 5-3 when he deflected Chris Muscoby’s shot from the point behind Morris.
“We died a little after that fifth goal,” said Leen, who added that they have to learn to battle back from adversity like Vermont did.
Maine had a golden opportunity to cut the deficit to 5-4 when Leen and Devin Shore broke in on a two-on-none but Shore, positioned at the far post, redirected Leen’s pass back across the grain and wide.
Leen said it was just an anomaly.
“Devin puts that in nine times out of 10,” said Leen.
On Fallon’s goal early in the third period, a Maine forward was out of position and Maine defenseman Jake Rutt elected to play Irwin instead of Fallon and that left Fallon alone for the tap-in. Romeo also had to slide over to Irwin in case he elected to shoot.
Morgan said the Black Bears played 17 strong minutes of hockey “but we’ve got to play 60.”
Gendron promised lineup changes for Saturday night and he expects to see more passion and grit from his team.
Vermont outshot Maine 28-23 including 20-10 over the final two periods.