PORTLAND, Maine — The University of Massachusetts Lowell entered Saturday’s Hockey East game against the University of Maine at the Cross Insurance Arena in Portland as one of the best defensive teams in the country. The visitors lived up to that reputation.
Senior goalie Owen Savory, who came into the game with the nation’s second-lowest goals-against average, made 29 saves and the River Hawks received a first-period goal from junior left wing Blake Wells and a late third-period goal from junior right wing Ryan Brushett to blank the Black Bears 2-0 in front of a sizeable crowd.
UMass Lowell, ranked 15th in the country, improved to 8-2-2 overall and 6-1 in Hockey East while UMaine fell to 1-10-2 and 1-7-1.
Victor Ostman made 24 saves for the Black Bears.
The game was stopped with 4:01 left in the second period when Nolan Renwick applied a hit to a River Hawk and it popped out a pane of glass. The teams went to the locker room while the pane was replaced, the Zamboni resurfaced the ice and the teams returned to finish the final 4:01 of the period before switching ends to play the third period.
Following an evenly played first 10 minutes, the River Hawks began taking control over the last 10 minutes of the period as they were able establish their forecheck and keep UMaine pinned in its own end for extended stretches.
They were rewarded for their dominance when Wells scored at the 14:22 mark.
Connor Sodergren slid the puck behind the net to Sam Knoblauch, who took a few steps and passed it to Wells at the edge of the crease to Ostman’s left. Wells was able to stuff it inside the post before Ostman could fully extend his left pad for his first goal of the season.
UMass Lowell had a 9-5 advantage in shots on goal including the period’s last five shots.
UMaine played better in the second and third periods and had some good chances to equalize but Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute transfer Savory kept them off the scoreboard.
Left wing Keenan Suthers made a terrific rush down the left wing, stickhandling cleverly past a pair of River Hawks before breaking in on Savory. Suthers pulled it to his backhand but Savory stepped out and cut down his angle, smothering the shot and colliding with Suthers.
“I was trying to use my reach to get around him but he made a nice save. He played well,” Suthers said.
Earlier in the second period, UMaine’s Lynden Breen dug the puck out of Wells’ skates high in the slot and broke in on Savory only to have the goalie absorb his backhander in his chest.
Savory also flashed out his glove to snare a Dominic Dockery one-timer from the left circle off a Breen pass.
Reid Stefanson’s one-timer off a three-on-two in the final minute of the second period hit the post behind Ostman.
UMaine had two power plays in the third period and generated opportunities on the power play as well as in even-strength situations but couldn’t capitalize.
Savory stopped a David Breazeale wrister from the point and two follow-up attempts and saved one-timers by Breen and Ben Poisson.
With 9:52 left in regulation, Grant Hebert pounced on the puck off a UML turnover and spied a wide open Breen at the far post. Breen would have had an easy tap-in but Nik Armstrong-Kingkade extended his stick to deflect the puck away at the last moment.
A few minutes later, Breen slipped a pass across to an unattended Jakub Schmidt-Svejstrup, who sailed his one-timer over the net from 20 feet out.
Brushett sewed up the win with 2:43 left as he intercepted a Black Bear pass along the left wing boards, skated to the bottom of the left faceoff circle and snapped the puck between Ostman’s pads for his third of the season.
That goal irritated first-year UMaine coach Ben Barr, who said his team cheated to try to leave the defensive zone too early. He said Savory was “phenomenal,” but that some of his veteran players did not play up to potential and until they do “we aren’t going to win a lot of games.”
“I can’t fault our effort,” said Barr.
UMass Lowell coach Norm Bazin said “it was the type of game where we had to rely on our goalie a little too much.” But he said he was pleased with the penalty-killing and the way his team defended the lead in the third period after UMaine was “clearly the better team over the final 12 minutes of the second period.”
“I applaud the guys,” Bazin said.
UMaine will host Vermont next Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. UMass-Lowell will play a home-and-home series with defending national champs UMass.