UMaine goalie Victor Ostman at Friday's game against UMass Lowell at Alfond Arena. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

We learned two things about the University of Maine’s hockey team this past weekend, when the Black Bears earned a split against a nationally ranked UMass Lowell team.

In Friday night’s 2-1 loss, the Black Bears showed that they are good enough defensively and have solid enough goaltending to give themselves a chance to win even if they are outplayed.

In Saturday night’s 5-3 win over the River Hawks, they again proved they can go toe-to-toe with  the best teams in the country if they play up to their potential.

The Black Bears are still the only team to beat No. 1 Quinnipiac, which is now 18-1-3.

UMass Lowell, which has earned NCAA Tournament berths six times over the previous 11 seasons under head coach Norm Bazin, was the better team on Friday night and showed why they are always contending for an NCAA Tournament berth.

After giving up a late second-period goal by Reid Pabich that pulled UMaine within 2-1, the River Hawks didn’t allow UMaine to take that momentum into the third period, outshooting the Black Bears 10-4 in the final period and consistently breaking the puck out of their own zone with ease.

Their experience, composure and winning culture took over.

UMass Lowell had seven players in its lineup with at least 94 games of college experience under their belts compared with UMaine’s three.

But UMaine’s youthful and mobile defense corps and junior goalie Victor Ostman prevented the River Hawks from breaking the game open, and they had a chance to get the equalizer after they pulled Ostman in favor of an extra attacker.

In previous years, this game would have wound up 4-1 or 5-1.

On Saturday night, UMaine swarmed the River Hawks in the first period, scoring the first three goals and outshooting UML 16-3 in the period.

UML has been outshot by at least 13 shots in a period only two other times this season: 24-5 in the third period of a 3-2 win at Michigan State and 16-3 in the third period of a 2-1 overtime loss to Boston University.

The difference between the two nights was UMaine’s physicality in the second game.

Bazin was worried about UMaine’s quickness, and when you combine that speed with the impressive job the Black Bears did finishing checks, the result was UMaine won a ton of puck battles and kept the River Hawks pinned in their own end.

To their credit, UML battled back to within 4-3, but that was largely because Ostman struggled through two periods and allowed three initial shot goals that could have been saved.

But one of the real positives was the fact a more mature and polished Ostman shrugged it off and turned in an outstanding third period, stopping all 16 shots he faced.

He probably would have lost this game during his first two seasons.

The nonproductive power play snapped an 0-for-15 showing with a goal by freshman defenseman Brandon Holt. But leading 4-3 in the third period, UMaine had a glorious chance to sew up the win with a five-minute power play.

Not only did they not score, the Black Bears didn’t even register a shot on goal.

UMaine is 56th among 60 Division I teams at an 11.9 percent efficiency rate with the man advantage.

It has to come around if UMaine is going to make a steady climb up the league standings.

But it is the 13th stingiest team in Division I, allowing just 2.38 goals per game, and has the 15th-best penalty-killing percentage (82.9 percent).

Ostman, who is on the watch list for the Mike Richter Award, which goes to the nation’s top goalie, has Division I’s fifth-lowest goals-against average at 1.95.

UMaine head coach Ben Barr had four different lines on Saturday than he did on Friday as he continues to juggle personnel to get four productive lines.

All four performed well in the victory. Three of the four lines generated at least six shots on goal, and the other one had three shots but teamed to score a goal off the stick of freshman Aidan Carney.

The forwards also did a nice job helping out in the defensive zone.

Five of the seven defensemen who played this past weekend were freshmen and sophomores, and there are two other freshmen defenseman who have seen playing time.

Their mobility and ability to quickly get the puck out of the defensive zone is the primary reason UMaine has already won two more games (9-10-2) than all of last year (7-22-4).

The Black Bears are certainly trending in the right direction, but they have to stick with Saturday night’s blueprint and finish all of their checks and use their speed to create a fast tempo.

They aren’t blessed with any pure snipers right now — which is why they’re 43rd in goal production at 2.48 per game — but if they keep finishing their checks, get to the net front and put their shots on goal instead of missing the net, they will be able to score enough goals to carve out wins and ascend the Hockey East ladder.

They will have to be at their best this weekend when they visit No. 5 Boston University (15-6-0) for a pair of games, at 7 p.m. Friday and 6 p.m Saturday.