LEWISTON — Maine proved Thursday that it could play with one of the better women's ice hockey teams in the world.
The Black Bears also proved how fickle the game of ice hockey can be.
An ill-timed turnover, a missed, tough-angle save and a spotty power play were the difference in a game the University of Maine women's team otherwise dominated as the Russian national women's team skated to a 3-0 victory over the Black Bears in an international Thanksgiving Day friendly at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee.
"Regardless of who held the puck more, at the end of the day, you have to score more goals," Maine coach Maria Lewis said.
The University of Maine controlled the pace of play for most of the night, but couldn't solve 19-year-old Russian netminder Anna Prugova. The keeper stopped all of the shots she saw to post the shutout victory.
"The idea is to score more goals, and at the end of the day we came up blank," Lewis said. "We didn't screen their goalie well enough, and we didn't take care of the puck."
Not that Maine didn't have its chances. The Black Bears drew eight power plays against a much more physical opponent, even earning a brief 5-on-3 in the first frame, and an extended 5-on-4 in the third.
"We had a lot of power plays, I think pretty much the whole game, we were hesitant, almost afraid of them in a way, and we shouldn't have been," Lewis said.
And then there was the costly turnover.
After Maine controlled most of the opening 10 minutes, the Russians struck for the game's first goal. Iya Gavrilova picked the puck off a Maine defender's stick, tipped the puck to herself just inside the Black Bears' blue line and went in alone on keeper Brittany Ott, who bit on a head fake and froze as Gavrilova fired the puck low blocker and into the cage.
"It was a poor decision and it really could have been a simple play," Lewis said. "All our defenseman had to do was pass it to the winger, and she went the other way with it and it got picked off by (Gavrilova). She's a great player, and as soon as she got the puck, the words came out of my mouth, 'That's not who you want to turn the puck over to.'"
Maine tested Prugova a few times the rest of the way in the first frame, but the Russian netminder was equal to the task. Perhaps her best save of the first period came with 30 seconds remaining as she held her skate blade to her left post as three Black Bears were jamming at it from the side of the cage.
The early part of the second period saw Russian players parade to the penalty box nearly one after the other, providing Maine with three more power plays. But the Black Bears still couldn't convert.
Just after a rare Russian power play ended, Gavrilova netted her second of the night from a tough angle. She collected the puck in the low right circle and rifled a quick wrister at the cage. Maine's second goalie, Kylie Smith, tried to snare it with her glove, but the puck caught the inside edge of the cuff of the mitt and squeezed into the net for a 2-0 Russia lead.
The tables turned on the penalty front in the third frame, as Maine's frustration built. Russia capitalized on its fourth attempt with an extra skater when a shot deflected off a Maine player past the Black Bears' third goalie of the night, freshman Meghann Treacy.
"Unfortunately all three (goalies) let one in tonight, but that's one of our better positions," Lewis said. "We just have to find a way to score more goals."