ORONO, Maine — The only thing close about the University of Massachusetts Lowell’s 1-0 Hockey East victory over the University of Maine at the Alfond Arena Saturday night was the score.
The visiting River Hawks (4-4 overall, 1-2 HE) dominated every aspect of the game, outplaying and outworking the Black Bears from start to finish. The tenacious River Hawks played with tremendous energy and kept the hosts penned in their zone most of the night while doing an equally impressive job breaking the puck smoothly out of their own zone.
“They definitely pushed the pace. They controlled the game most of the time,” said UMaine senior defenseman Rob Michel. “They were more determined tonight. They were definitely upset that they lost [Friday] night (4-3). We were kind of just on our heels a lot of the night. You could see that when we were taking all those penalties and killing them.”
Only the spectacular goaltending of sophomore Jeremy Swayman, a Boston Bruins fourth-round draft pick, kept UMaine (3-4-1, 1-2-1 HE) from getting blown out.
Swayman finished with 44 saves, including 28 Grade-A (high percentage) stops, as the Black Bears were outshot 45-24.
Sophomore left wing Connor Sodergren was credited with the game’s only goal 5:32 into the third period. Senior goalie Christoffer Hernberg made 24 saves, including 14 Grade-A’s, in notching his sixth career shutout.
“It was our most complete effort of the season,” UMass Lowell head coach Norm Bazin said. “Both goalies were excellent. I thought it would come down to probably one (goal), and I was right.”
The Black Bears again hurt themselves with penalties, giving the River Hawks seven power-play chances including three over the game’s first 9 minutes, 37 seconds.
UMaine killed all of them off, but the early power plays gave the River Hawks momentum and they never lost it.
“We took a bunch of stupid penalties,” UMaine coach Red Gendron said. “We addressed that at the beginning of the week. You can’t do that. Of their 45 shots, 16 came on the power play. So instead of us potentially building momentum, we let them build momentum.”
UMaine had a golden opportunity to break the scoreless tie when UML’s Jon McDonald was assessed a five-minute major for contact-to-the-head penalty with 52 seconds left in the second period.
But only 33 seconds later, UMaine junior center and Chase Pearson, who had two goals on Friday night, was assessed a two-minute cross-checking penalty.
Pearson spent virtually the entire third period on the bench.
“I was pretty angry with the penalties. That’s why people didn’t play who you thought should have been playing,” Gendron said.
Sodergren’s goal was set up by a pass from Charlie Levesque.
Sodergren cleverly maneuvered through the middle of the slot and he fired a 25-foot wrister that eventually wound up in the back of the net.
“I was just on the rush. I saw a loose puck and just tried to get it on net,” Sodergren said. “I saw traffic going to the net. I don’t know who scored the goal, to be honest with you. I just shot it on net and, luckily, it went in.”
“It hit my toe and came out front, and it hit a stick or a skate and bounced back in,” Swayman said. “I was getting pushed over, and the puck trickled in. They crashed the net hard.”
Swayman thought he had a chance to get the goal overturned, but the video review upheld the goal.
UMaine’s Tim Doherty had a second period breakaway courtesy of a Sam Becker pass but he shot wide of the stick side to Hernberg’s right.
And Mitch Fossier had a terrific chance to tie it with 12:25 remaining in regulation when he was set up nicely by Ryan Smith on a 2-on-1.
But Hernberg read the pass and made a great save on Fossier’s 16-foot one-timer from the middle of the slot.
“It didn’t look like (Smith) was shooting. I was in desperation mode there,” said Hernberg, who fully extended himself across to the far post. “I wasn’t sure if I got it with my pad, my glove, my elbow … something.”
“That was a huge save,” Sodergren said. “Their goalie played very well but we got a lights-out performance from (Hernberg), as well.”
UMaine, which attempted 44 shots to UMass Lowell’s 74, has next weekend off before visiting Boston University for two games Nov. 16-17.