Penalty-killing had been the one consistently positive aspect of the struggling University of Maine hockey team’s game this season.
UMaine entered Saturday’s night’s Hockey East game at Merrimack College with the nation’s fifth-best penalty-killing percentage among 60 Division I schools with an 89.7 percent success rate.
But it didn’t get the job done on Saturday as the Warriors scored on all three of their power play chances en route to building a 4-1 lead and went on to hold off a furious Black Bear rally and win their fifth straight game and extend UMaine’s winless streak to seven games, 5-3, at Lawler Arena in North Andover, Mass.
Ben Brar scored an empty-net goal for Merrimack after UMaine had climbed back to within 4-3 and pulled goalie Victor Ostman in favor of an extra attacker to try to get the equalizer.
UMaine outshot Merrimack 28-21.
Merrimack, ranked 19th in the country, is now 8-3 overall and 6-1 in Hockey East while UMaine fell to 2-8-1 and 0-5-1.
UMaine, 0-6-1 in its last seven, will enter a two-week break with a five-game losing streak.
Sophomore center Matt Copponi, who scored the lone goal in Friday’s 1-0 victory over UMaine, notched a pair of power-play goals in the first period, the last coming with one second left in the period, to supply Merrimack with a 3-1 lead.
He opened the scoring 8:37 into the game with his fourth of the season but Alaska-Fairbanks transfer Didrik Henbrant tied it with his first goal in a Black Bear uniform 2:28 later.
Will Calverley gave the Warriors the lead for good with an even-strength goal at the 14:16 mark, his second of the season, before Copponi extended the lead at the end of the period.
Freshman defenseman Zach Bookman made it 4-1 with a power play goal midway through the second period. It was his first career goal.
Felix Trudeau pulled UMaine within two at the 15:22 mark of the second period.
Lynden Breen made it a one-goal game with 10:24 left in the final period but the Black Bears couldn’t tie it up despite outshooting the Warriors 11-3 in the period.
UMaine’s anemic power play, which entered the game 56th in the country with an 8.8 percent success rate, went 0-for-3.
Copponi staked Merrimack to a 1-0 lead by tucking home an Otto Leppanen pass.
Henbrant tied it by shoveling home a loose puck in the low slot. Donavan Houle and Luke Antonacci picked up assists.
Calverly redirected a Mike Brown shot past Ostman and Copponi jammed home a rebound off a face-off play involving Alex Jefferies and Slava Demin.
Bookman was set up at the far post by Filip Forsmark and Brar.
Trudeau swatted home a puck from the low slot off assists from Breen and Brandonn Chabrier.
Breen’s fourth goal of the season came off an extended forecheck with Ben Poisson picking up an assist.
Zach Borgiel made 25 saves for the Warriors while Ostman had 16 for the Black Bears.
UMaine won’t play again until it hosts American International College on Saturday, Nov. 26 at 2 p.m.