The University of Maine men’s hockey team has developed a bad habit and it proved costly again on Saturday night.
For the second straight game, the Black Bears found themselves in a 3-0 hole following the first period of their game against Hockey East leader UMass Lowell.
UMaine was never able to get closer than two on Friday night in the 5-3 loss but it did pull within one on two occasions on Saturday night only to wind up absorbing a 4-3 setback at the Tsongas Center in Lowell, Massachusetts.
Junior defenseman Jordan Schulting’s second career goal and first of the season, coming at the 10:56 mark of the third period, proved to be the game-winner.
It gave the River Hawks a 4-2 lead.
Jacob Schmidt-Svejstrup deflected a Sam Duerr shot from the point behind UML goalie Owen Savory with 2:50 remaining to make it 4-3 while the Black Bears were on a power play and had also pulled goalie Victor Ostman in favor of an extra attacker, giving them a 6-on-4 advantage.
But Savory made critical saves off Donavan Houle and Jakub Sirota in the final minute and a half to secure the win for the nation’s 12th-ranked team.
UMass Lowell is now 13-3-3 overall after winning its fifth straight game. It is 10-2-1 in Hockey East play and kept its unbeaten home record intact (7-0-3).
It also extended its unbeaten streak against UMaine to 7-0-1, the longest for the River Hawks in the 133-game series between the two teams.
In suffering its sixth one-goal loss of the season, last place UMaine fell to 3-14-4 and 1-10-2. UMaine is still looking for its first road win of the season as it is now 0-7-1.
Power play goals by Andre Lee, his team-leading 11th goal of the season, and Ryan Brushett (6th) and Zach Kaiser’s even-strength goal, his second, staked the River Hawks to their 3-0 lead in the first period.
David Breazeale (2nd) pulled one back for UMaine in the second period and Houle (8th) made it 3-2 just 3:24 into the third period. It extended Houle’s goal-scoring streak to three games.
But Schulting took a pass from Reid Stefanson at the left point and beat Ostman with his blast.
UMaine has now been outscored 24-9 in first periods this season and has been held scoreless in the first period in 13 of its 21 games.
“When is enough enough? When are we going to be the aggressor and play with a sense of urgency in the first period rather than waiting until we’re down?” UMaine head coach Ben Barr said. “We have to learn that the price of winning includes playing good defense, staying out of the penalty box, making savers when they need to be made and putting the puck in the net when we have our chances in the first period.
“We have to be better,” he said.
Lee opened the scoring by firing the puck past Ostman from the faceoff circle after Jon McDonald faked a shot and passed it over to him.
Brushett scored his fifth power play goal off assists from Nick Austin and Stefanson and then Kaiser converted a Sam Knoblauch pass with 1:11 left in the first period.
Breazeale beat Savory with a shot from between the faceoff circles off assists from Grant Hebert and Schmidt-Svejstrup at the 14:11 mark of the middle period and Houle scored early in the third on a two-on-one as he snapped the puck into the upper short side corner past Savory.
UMaine outshot UMass Lowell 34-33 including a 16-5 edge in the third period.
Savory finished with 31 saves and Ostman made 29.
UMaine was without senior winger Adam Dawe (COVID-19 protocols) and graduate student center Keenan Suthers (elbow injury), who each have three goals and four assists.
Lee had an assist to go with his goal and Stefanson had two assists for UML.
Hebert had two assists for UMaine and Schmidt-Svejstrup had a goal and an assist.
UMaine isn’t scheduled to play again until it hosts Boston College on Friday, Jan. 28 at 7:30 p.m.
But Barr said he will see if they can find someone to play next weekend.