ORONO, Maine — The University of Maine men’s hockey team will take a four-game winning streak into the Christmas break.
The Black Bears had their hands full against a depleted but hard-working Canisius College team that played an exceptional road game on Saturday afternoon, but special teams earned UMaine a hard-fought 3-0 victory at Alfond Arena.
The Black Bears received power play goals from sophomore center Cole Hanson in the second period and graduate student defenseman and captain Jakub Sirota in the third period and they killed off five Canisius power plays including a five-minute major to start the final period.
Lynden Breen added an empty-net goal as UMaine improved to 6-8-1.
Atlantic Hockey team Canisius, based in Buffalo, N.Y., fell to 5-11-2.
Canisius was without 10 players due to injury and illness, including two of their three goal-scoring leaders, and had only 17 skaters instead of the 19 allowed by the NCAA. They also dressed three goalies but their third-string goalie, Alex Houston, was dressed as a skater and was only going to be used to serve penalties.
“We didn’t play our best game but we found a way to win and that’s huge. That’s what good teams do,” said UMaine junior goalie Victor Ostman, who made 22 saves in notching his second shutout of the season.
He and his Black Bear teammates have now allowed only three goals during their four-game winning streak.
“We still have a long ways to go,” said UMaine coach Ben Barr. “Canisius played great. It wasn’t pretty but I’ll give our guys credit for finding a way to win.”
After a scoreless first period in which high-percentage scoring chances were few and far between, the Black Bears finally broke through at the 10:26 mark of the middle period when Colgate University transfer Cole Hanson scored his fourth goal of the season and first on the power play.
Luke Antonacci passed the puck to Hanson, who moved it to Thomas Freel at the side of the net.
Freel tried a wraparound shot but Canisius senior goalie Jacob Barczewski made the pad save.
The puck squirted out front and Hanson did a 180-degree spin around and fired a low shot that deflected in off Barczewski’s goal stick, which had fallen out of his hand and was laying on the ice.
“I knew there were bodies in front so I tried to shoot it low to a corner,” said Hanson.
It was UMaine’s second straight game with a power play goal after it had gone seven without one as the Black Bears failed to convert on 19 chances during that spell.
A five-minute contact to the head penalty on freshman defenseman Grayson Arnott at the end of the second period, just his third penalty of the season, gave the Golden Griffins a golden opportunity to tie the game or take the lead at the outset of the third period but the Black Bears limited the nation’s 22nd-ranked power play (out of 60 Division I teams) to four shots on goal during the major and Ostman stopped all four.
“That was huge,” said Hanson, one of the Black Bear penalty-killers. “We just tried to pressure them, especially along the boards. The less time they had to make plays, the better it was for us.”
Ostman said his teammates did an outstanding job in front of him all night.
“They kept (their shooters) to the outside most of the time. I was able to see the shots,” he said.
Sirota scored his third goal of the season at the 8:06 mark of the third period. It was his second goal in two games.
Nolan Renwick won the faceoff draw back to him at the right point and he skated unattended across to the middle of the high slot and snapped a wrist shot through a maze of bodies past the glove of Barczewski.
Canisius coach Trevor Large said he was disappointed to lose “but I was very proud of the effort. We had a severely diminished team and we wanted to make it a short game and we did it. Jacob Barczewski was awesome.”
Barczewski finished with 23 stops.
Canisius did an exceptional job, defensively, making it difficult for UMaine to generate even-strength chances by getting numbers on the defensive side of the puck and battling for every loose puck..
Takeaway: UMaine’s special teams have made significant strides in recent weeks and that will be very important moving forward.
What’s next: UMaine travels to Colgate for games on Dec. 30-31 while Canisius visits Air Force the same weekend.