Princeton University sophomore goalie Ryan Ferland entered Friday night’s non-conference hockey game against the University of Maine ranked 66th in the country in goals-against average (3.21) and 55th in save percentage (.902).
In fact, he was pulled from his last start after allowing four goals on 16 shots in a 4-4 overtime tie against Penn State on Dec. 15. It was his seventh consecutive start allowing at least three goals.
But the University of Maine’s punchless Black Bears proved to be the perfect elixir for Ferland as he made 40 saves and senior left wing Ryan Kuffner scored a second-period power play goal to lead Princeton to a 1-0 victory over the Black Bears at Hobey Baker Rink in Princeton, New Jersey, on Friday night.
Princeton snapped an eight-game winless streak (0-7-1) with its first victory since a 4-1 triumph over Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute on Nov. 10.
UMaine fell to 5-8-2 while being shut out for the third time in eight games and the second time in four contests. The Black Bears have now scored five goals in their last four games.
The Black Bears have been held to two goals or less in 10 of their 15 games and they were shut out on the power play for the fifth straight game (0-for-17).
UMaine was 0-for-1 with the man advantage while Princeton went 1-for-2.
UMaine entered the game averaging 2.21 goals per game, 50th among 60 Division I programs.
The UMaine power play was 56th in the country (10.9 percent) while Princeton’s was 10th best at a 23.4 percent efficiency rate.
The two teams will complete their series on Saturday night at 7.
Kuffner’s 11th goal of the season and fourth on the power play came at the 8:11 mark of the second period, 46 seconds after Eduards Tralmaks was called for interference which prevented a potential Tigers breakaway.
There was a faceoff to the left of Black Bear sophomore goalie Jeremy Swayman and an attempted clear-out was neatly kept in at the right point by Max Veronneau, who stretched out his stick to knock the waist-high puck down on the backhand side.
Veronneau then made a clever move to evade UMaine’s Chase Pearson and he stickhandled down the slot before getting off a backhander that was blocked in front.
In the ensuing scramble, Michel pushed the puck through a maze of legs but it landed on the stick of Kuffner in the high slot and he did a 180-degree spin before wristing the puck through traffic past Swayman, who finished with 27 saves.
Alex Riche, who centers the high-scoring top line between Kuffner and Veronneau, also picked up an assist on the goal as did Veronneau.
For Kuffner, who tied for second in the country with 29 goals a year ago, it was his 64th career goal which moved him into second place in Princeton hockey history. He is just three shy of John Cook’s record of 67, which has held up for 55 years.
Tim Doherty and Jacob Schmidt-Svejstrup both hit the crossbar in the second period for the Black Bears and Ferland came up with some game-saving stops as the Black Bears were on the power play and pulled Swayman in favor of the extra attacker.
Ferland made a couple of saves off Mitch Fossier while he was laying on his back and he stopped a screened shot from the point by Brady Keeper and point-blank rebound attempts by Tralmaks and Brendan Robbins.
Ferland made 12 saves in the first period and 14 apiece in the second and third periods.
UMaine outshot Princeton 14-4 in the third period.
Princeton coach Ron Fogarty said in the Princeton press release that “It was a great bounce back by Ferland after his 21-minute game versus Penn State, which was not his best career performance. The break was good for him and for the team, in general.”