It took nine games for first-year University of Maine men’s hockey coach Ben Barr to pick up his first win last season.
It took only 60 minutes this season.
Junior center Lynden Breen scored a pair of goals just 1:40 apart early in the third period Friday night as the Black Bears went on to post a 4-1 victory over the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs in the Ice Breaker Tournament.
It was the mutual opener for both teams.
UMaine and defending national champ Denver, the nation’s No. 1-ranked team in the U.S. College Hockey Online poll, met for the tournament title on Saturday night in Denver.
Denver beat Notre Dame 5-2 on Friday. Notre Dame and Air Force also played on Saturday.
UMaine took a 2-1 lead into the third period as senior center Grant Hebert’s first-period goal and freshman defenseman Brandon Holt’s second-period goal advanced UMaine to a 2-0 lead before Mitchell Digby scored on the power play for Air Force with 1:11 left in the middle period.
Pivotal play: Breen’s first goal was shorthanded and came 3:29 into the third period. It restored UMaine’s two-goal cushion and changed the momentum of the game.
Breen broke down the ice in a two-on-one with Ben Poisson. He looked over to Poisson, using him as a decoy, before firing a rising wrist shot past freshman goalie Aaron Randazzo into the short side corner from the right faceoff circle.
“That was a big goal,” Barr said.
Just under two minutes later, he took a pass from Poisson and beat Randazzo from virtually the same spot in the right faceoff circle, although he was a few feet closer to the goal this time.
Hebert opened the scoring by tipping a Cole Hanson pass through Randazzo.
Holt expanded the lead by cleverly sidestepping into a shooting lane and wristing the puck through a screen past Randazzo.
Clarkson University transfer Jacob Mucitelli made 20 saves for UMaine, while Randazzo finished with 28.
Poisson and freshman defenseman Luke Antonacci each had two assists with Hanson, and freshmen Reid Pabich and Killian Kiecker-Olson notched one apiece.
Takeaway: Barr was pleased with his team’s performance.
“It was a good start,” Barr said. “There was a case of the nerves in the first period, but we were better in the second and third periods and wore them down a little bit. We played in their end most of the third period, which is a good sign.”
“It’s a hard-working group and when they do that, good things tend to happen,” he added.
He said Mucitelli was “solid” in goal.
“He was calm and didn’t give up a ton of rebounds,” Barr said.
The coach also lauded the performance of senior left wing Poisson.
“He played a really good game. He got a lot of pucks out of the defensive zone for us and was able to keep the puck deep in the offensive zone,” Barr said.