For University of Maine captain Jakub Sirota, it was an emotion-filled evening on Friday when his Black Bears faced Boston College in an important Hockey East game with playoff implications.
His grandfather had died earlier in the day.
But Sirota turned in an outstanding performance including a pivotal power play goal late in the second period and the Black Bears triumphed 6-3 in front of a large and enthusiastic crowd at Alfond Arena.
“It was a special night, tonight. It was a great night and I’m sure he was watching,” said Sirota, whose goal with 1:55 left in the period gave UMaine a 4-2 lead after Boston College had scored a pair of power play goals to cut a 3-0 deficit to 3-2.
The Black Bears extended their unbeaten streak to six games (3-0-3) and moved closer to clinching a home ice berth for the first round of the Hockey East playoffs.
UMaine improved to 14-13-5 overall and 8-9-4 in Hockey East. UMaine is now 3-0-3 in its last six games.
UMaine received goals from six different players and at least one point from 12.
UMaine leapfrogged Boston College into seventh place in the standings. The top five teams earn first-round byes and the teams that finish sixth, seventh and eighth will host the 11th, 10th and ninth-place finishers, respectively, in the first round on March 7.
BC fell to 12-13-6 and 7-9-5 after having its three-game winning streak snapped.
The teams will conclude their series on Saturday night at 7 p.m.
The Black Bears jumped out to a 3-0 lead on first-period goals by Aidan Carney and Donavan Houle and a second-period power play goal by Luke Antonacci before the Eagles received power play goals just 2:16 apart by Andre Gasseau and Cutter Gauthier.
Sirota’s goal gave UMaine vital breathing room and Felix Trudeau extended the lead to 5-2 6:33 into the third period.
BC head coach Greg Brown called Sirota’s goal “deflating.”
“We scored the power play goals and then had some good offensive zone time but that took our momentum away,” Brown said.
Sirota took a pass from Grayson Arnott in the high slot and launched a wrist shot that deflected past BC goalie Mitch Benson off an Eagle player.
“I was just trying to get my shot through to the net,” said Sirota, whose goal was his fifth of the season.
Freshman Trudeau ended a 17-game goalless drought when he reached out and swept the rebound of a Michael Mancinielli shot behind Benson.
“I was just thinking, ‘Go to the net.’ That’s where good things happen,” said Trudeau, who noted that he just “chucked” the puck toward the net with BC players coming at him.
“I didn’t know it went in until I heard the student section cheering,” he said.
“Those were two big goals,” said UMaine head coach Ben Barr.
Nikita Nesterenko scored BC’s third power play goal at the 10:15 mark, his 11th goal of the season, off a perfect feed from Gauthier.
BC pulled Benson in favor of an extra attacker while the Eagles were on the power play but Lynden Breen banked the puck off the boards and into the empty net to ice the game with 2:57 left.
“I know no one will believe me but I actually practice that a lot,” said a grinning Breen, whose goal was the assistant captain’s 17th of the season.
“Jakub and Breen were fantastic tonight,” Barr said. “That’s what you need from your leaders.”
Breen said it was a quality win.
“We kept battling and we kept the lead all night. I was pretty proud of the guys. We stuck with it,” Breen said.
“Our guys blocked a lot of shots and it wasn’t pretty at times but the guys are finding ways to win. They’re grinding it out,” said Barr, whose team blocked 15 shots to BC’s six blocks.
“Maine came out flying the first 10 minutes and did a great job setting the tone. They kept having answers for us,” Brown said.
Victor Ostman made 31 saves and also picked up an assist in goal for UMaine.
Benson finished with 23 stops.
Carney opened the scoring 5:15 into the game by swatting a backhander into the top corner off a Reid Pabich feed for his second goal of the season.
Houle made it 2-0 with his ninth at the 18:22 mark when he snuck behind the defense, took a long pass from Breen and snapped the puck past Benson’s blocker from the right faceoff circle.
In the second period, Antonacci posted his third of the season when he took a cross-ice pass from David Breazeale and fired the puck past Benson from the top of the right faceoff circle.
Gasseau’s seventh goal got the Eagles on the board when he was set up nicely by Gauthier at the top of the crease and one-timed the puck past Ostman’s glove.
Gauthier scored his 15th with a wrist shot from the top of the left circle that deflected off a Black Bear and rolled past Ostman.
Breen had two assists to go with his goal and BC’s Nesterenko and Gauthier also had a goal and two assists. Breazeale had two assists for UMaine.