ORONO – It wasn’t the start the University of Maine men’s ice hockey team had hoped for.
Quinnipiac University tallied the game-winning goal with less than two minutes remaining in the third period of the season opener Saturday night to earn a 2-1 win over the Black Bears in front of 4,338 at Alfond Arena.
Junior right wing Jordan Samuels-Thomas ripped a quick wrist shot just underneath the arm of Maine goalkeeper Dan Sullivan and into the back of the net on a set faceoff play for the game-winning goal.
"(Jeremy) Langlois won the faceoff and it was a set play to get the puck back to me," Samuels-Thomas said. "I just tried to get it on net and luckily I snuck it in under his arm."
Maine finished a night highlighted by missed opportunities 0-for-5 on the power play.
"It was a hard-fought game and we out-chanced them pretty significantly," Maine head coach Tim Whitehead said. "That’s the way the game is though, you don't always win a game when you out chance a team and they did a nice job of staying in the game and staying tight."
Maine missed multiple chances to capitalize in key moments of the game, including a 2-on-1 odd-man rush in which senior forward Adam Shemansky missed a wide open net on a one time opportunity from Stu Higgins.
"I just missed it," said Shemansky. "It’s unacceptable, Stu made a great pass and I have to finish that play. If I do, we may be talking about a better outcome."
Bobcats senior goaltender Eric Hartzell played a strong game, turning away 31 shots, and was a key reason the Bobcats held the Maine power play to zero conversions.
"Hartzell is always solid," Langlois said. "Hopefully he can keep on doing this for us."
Maine outshot Quinnipiac 32-18.
The Black Bears possessed the puck well and controlled play during the first period as they rifled 12 shots on net while allowing the Bobcats to muster just three.
Freshman forward Steven Swavely’s first collegiate goal provided Maine with the early 1-0 lead 3:41 into the first period, as he picked the puck up after a faceoff win by his brother Jon and wristed a shot past Quinnipiac senior goaltender Eric Hartzell.
Jon won the puck straight back into the left faceoff circle. Steve picked up the loose puck from the left wing side and strolled toward the high slot, firing a laser wrist shot over a surprised Hartzell’s blocker pad.
Swavely’s goal turned out to be the only puck Hartzell missed all night.
The Bobcats flew out of the gate in the second and notched the equalizing goal two minutes into the period as freshman forward Travis St. Denis buried a rebound.
Langlois carried the puck into the attacking zone along the left board to the hash-mark and cut hard to the crease as he fired a shot into the crowd in front of the net. Sullivan controlled the initial shot but allowed the rebound to slip loose to the far side where St. Denis hammered it into the back of the net tying the game at a goal each.
Quinnipiac upped its pressure in the second as they fired 11 shots on Sullivan, who turned away successive shots during an extended Bobcat power play as a result of Maine senior captain Joey Diamond receiving a major and a game misconduct for hitting from behind at the 10:02 mark,
Diamond is ineligible for play in the next game as a result of the ejection.
Maine outshot the Bobcats 10-4 in the third period, but Quinnipiac broke the deadlock at 18:34 of the final frame when Samuels-Thomas notched his winner.
Maine pulled Sullivan for an extra attacker with a little over a minute remaining in the game, but Hartzell stood strong for the Bobcats.
Hartzell stopped 31 shots as he improves to 1-0. Sullivan saved 16 shots and falls to 0-1.
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