Freshman Sean Romeo had been carrying the load in goal for the University of Maine men’s hockey team, but redshirt junior Matt Morris posted his first career shutout in Saturday’s 3-0 victory over the University of Massachusetts and has thrust himself back into the picture.
Romeo had started the previous seven games and 11 of the past 12, including Saturday night’s 3-2 loss to UMass.
He allowed 14 goals in his previous three starts and actually was pulled during his last outing as he allowed five goals on 20 shots over two periods in a 6-3 home loss to Vermont on Nov. 29.
He entered Saturday’s start with a poor 3.43 goals-against average and a .886 save percentage.
But he came through to help the Black Bears snap a 12-game road winless drought (0-11-1) dating back to a 2-1 victory at Notre Dame last Feb. 7.
“I had been a little bit off on my angles,” said Morris, who still has two years of eligibility after this season. “But I focused on the basics in practice. I also got in better shape. It’s tough when you’re off for a year.”
Morris praised his teammates for their play in front of him and said Saturday’s outing was a start.
“I have to keep getting better,” he said.
“That was big for his confidence,” junior center-right wing Steven Swavely said. “We all knew he was a great goalie.”
Swavely also noted Romeo has been playing very well, so having two goalies performing well “is a good thing for us.”
Maine returns to Hockey East play this weekend when it hosts UMass Lowell, the nation’s No. 7 ranked team in the latest United States College Hockey Online poll, at 7 p.m. Friday and No. 17 Boston College at 3 p.m. Sunday.
Maine coach Red Gendron said he will decide on his goaltending rotation later this week.
“Both goalies have played well at different times this season,” Gendron said. “We will factor in a variety of things, including how they play in practice this week.”
Romeo had allowed just two goals in a sweep of Canisius two weekends ago, making 53 saves in the two wins. He also allowed two goals and made 26 saves in a 5-2 win over New Hampshire in Manchester, New Hampshire before surrendering six the following night in a 7-4 loss to New Hampshire in Portland.
Romeo is 4-10 with a 2.97 goals-against average and .905 save percentage while Morris is 3-4-1, 3.01, .899.
Maine has allowed 17 goals during its last seven games and held opponents to three or fewer goals in six of those seven.
“We have worked a lot on defense. We had to,” Gendron said. “But we also have to work on our offense and our special teams. We have to get better in all areas.”
Gendron knows his Black Bears will have their hands full this weekend, but the students have returned to resume classes and he expects a “great atmosphere” at Alfond Arena.
“And we have to put our best version of the Maine Black Bears on the ice,” he said.
Bears relieved by win
The Black Bears were relieved to snap the road winless streak. Maine lost its seven road games this season after going 0-4-1 away from home at the end of last season.
Since the start of the 2013-14 season, Maine had gone 1-19-3 at opponents’ rinks before Saturday night’s win, with 10 of those losses being by one goal and four more by two.
Swavely and junior defenseman Ben Hutton said the road record weighed on them.
“It’s very frustrating to lose one-goal games and overtime games on the road,” said Hutton, whose team has dropped three overtime games on the road to nationally ranked teams Vermont (4-3), Boston University (3-2) and UMass Lowell (3-2).
“It was definitely a factor, but it was more of a psychological thing away from the rink. When we were on the ice, we just played hockey [and didn’t think about it],” Swavely said. “We had been close. We were never far out of games. Now that we have the win, we know we can win more [road games].”
Lomberg is Miami-bound
Former UMaine winger Ryan Lomberg has committed to attend National Collegiate Hockey Conference school Miami University in Ohio next season, according to a recent news release from the Youngstown Phantoms of the United States Hockey League.
Lomberg spent two seasons with the Black Bears but was suspended for 1½ years because of an off-campus altercation on April 26 that resulted in an assault charge being filed against him.
Lomberg was convicted of a misdemeanor for disorderly conduct and paid a $1,000 fine as part of a plea agreement.
He returned to Youngstown, where he had played before coming to Maine, as the team’s captain. He has 16 goals and 9 assists in 29 games along with 72 penalty minutes.
He had 11 & 7 in 34 games for the Black Bears last season after notching 7 & 7 in 32 games his freshman year.
“Obviously it’s a great program, and they have been having a lot of success lately,” Lomberg said in the release. “I can’t wait to be a part of The Brotherhood. Having gone through this process before, I knew exactly what to look for in a school in respect to strength and conditioning, facilities and other factors and I couldn’t have made a better decision.”