ORONO, Maine — University of Maine junior center Cedric Lacroix’s power-play goal with 11:27 left in the third period restored a two-goal lead and momentum, and the Black Bears received an insurance goal from Patrick Shea later in the period en route to a 4-1 Hockey East over the University of Massachusetts at Alfond Arena on Friday night.
UMaine improved to 9-13-3 overall and 3-9-1 in Hockey East, while UMass fell to 5-18-2 and 2-10-1.
It was UMass’ sixth straight loss and 11th in its last 12 games.
The teams began the evening in the Hockey East cellar.
They will play again at 7 p.m. Saturday.
The score was misleading as the quickness of the smaller Minutemen created some problems for the Black Bears and enabled them to have prolonged possessions in the offensive zone. Even though UMaine had a 31-29 edge in shots on goal, UMass had a 68-58 edge in shot attempts.
“We did enough to win but we have to be better Saturday,” UMaine coach Red Gendron said. “We battled throughout the game. We weren’t as sharp as we could have been. We blocked a lot of shots, 22 shots. They buzzed us pretty good in the first period. We got off to a slow start. But we got a little better in the second period and a little better in the third.”
“We were fortunate to get the two points, but it’s nice to know you can get a win even though you don’t play your best,” Lacroix said.
Danny Perez and Nolan Vesey staked UMaine to a 2-0 lead in the first period, but William Lagesson’s goal 52 seconds into the third period cut the lead in half as his screened wrister from the left point sailed past the glove of UMaine goalie Rob McGovern.
The Minutemen buzzed the net looking for an equalizer, but McGovern made a terrific save on Ray Pigozzi’s rebound attempt and caught a break when Steve Iacobellis rang the ensuing rebound off the post.
Lacroix expanded the lead at the 8:33 mark when he took a pass from Vesey and threw the puck on net from an acute angle to the left of UMass freshman goalie Ryan Wischow. Wischow stopped it at the near post but Lacroix whacked at the puck and it rolled into the net on the short side.
“I threw the [first] shot at his feet and then the rebound went between his foot and the near post,” Lacroix said.
“That was a huge goal,” Gendron said. “It wasn’t pretty but that’s the kind of player he is. He’s a power forward who gets to the net.”
Shea provided valuable insurance when he chased down his own rebound after driving to the net from Wischow’s right and batted the loose puck home.
Shea, Lacroix and Vesey each had a goal and an assist.
The Minutemen entered the game tied for 58th among 60 teams in goals per game at two and were held to one goal or less for the 11th time.
UMass first-year coach Greg Carvel said his team played “very well.”
“It was frustrating. Our players worked hard the entire game. But we have to get better goaltending. Our goaltender isn’t pleased with the way he played and neither am I,” Carvel said, adding that “Maine was the better team 10 feet in front of each net.”
McGovern finished with 28 saves in a quality performance, while Wischow wound up with 27.
“Rob played unbelievable tonight,” said Vesey, who finished with a game-high eight shots on goal.
The Black Bears were fortunate to be leading after the first period because the Minutemen carried the play and had much more sustained offensive zone pressure.
UMass generated 16 Grade-A (high-percentage) scoring opportunities to UMaine’s seven.
McGovern stopped all 13 shots he faced, including nine of the Grade-A variety, while Wischow had just four saves and only one Grade-A stop.
University of Minnesota transfer Robin Hoglund, who became eligible for the second semester but had only played in the exhibition game against the United States National Team Development Program’s Under-18 team, set up Perez’s goal.
Hoglund hunted down the puck behind the net and fed it to the top of the crease, and Perez was able to jam it home.
The goal snapped a 15-game pointless streak for Perez.
Vesey expanded the lead 4:59 later off a Patrick Shea face-off win to the left of Wischow.
Vesey wheeled briefly with the puck before snapping a wrist shot that squeezed through Wischow’s pads with Cedric Lacroix setting the screen.
“We wanted to shoot low and [Lacroix] made it possible by setting a nice screen,” said Vesey, whose goal was his fourth over the last five games.
UMass had a goal disallowed later in the period during a wild flurry when it was ruled that UMass’ Niko Hildenbrand had interfered with McGovern.
McGovern was lying on the ice and Hildenbrand was on top of him when Marc Hetnik fired it home from the left faceoff circle.
McGovern preserved the lead with a minute left in the period when he got his glove on Brett Boeing’s backhander after Boeing broke in down the left wing.
Wischow was the busier of the two goalies in the free-wheeling second period and came up with seven Grade-A saves among his 10 as the Black Bears held a 10-8 shot margin.
He kept the Minutemen within two late in the period when he slid across to smother Peter Housakos’ shorthanded breakaway.
UMass, which entered the game with the nation’s second-worst power-play percentage at 10.3 percent, had a two-man advantage spanning 40 seconds early in the second period but couldn’t capitalize.
Wischow made a nice save off Vesey’s short wrister early in the period, and McGovern stopped Jake McLaughlin’s shot from the left circle off a two-on-one.
Vesey noted that the Black Bears can play a lot better, but he said that “a win is a win.”