By JUSTIN LORING
A frustrating night that consisted of a disallowed goal for each side and constant turnovers for UNH paved the way for a 4-0 victory for the Maine Black Bears. On a snowy Saturday on “White Out the Whitt” night, Maine’s goaltender Matt Morris put on a clinic, stopping all 40 shots he saw from the UNH attack to earn the shutout. UNH’s Adam Clark made 16 saves on the night, playing two and a half periods until getting pulled with 10 minutes to go in the game.
“Needless to say, I’m extremely disappointed, but the frustrating part is I thought that we did everything but score goals,” UNH head coach Dick Umile said. “After that, I thought we lost our composure.” Umile credited Morris for his play on the evening, pointing out that UNH ran into a hot goaltender.
“We generated a lot more scoring opportunities tonight than we did last night and he played great. Give credit to [Morris], I thought he played very well.”
Maine head coach Red Gendron opened his press conference by saying, “We were the beneficiaries of an exceptional goaltending performance by Matt Morris.”
“[Morris] was standing in front of the puck. It sounds tongue-in-cheek, but it’s the truth. A goalie has to see the puck, he has to skate to where the shot is coming from, he has to be set when it comes … it’s no more complicated than that. People make it more complicated than it needs to be, and he did an excellent job.”
The scoring started on a Maine powerplay following a questionable goaltender interference call on UNH’s Jamie Hill. Hill attempted a one timer from in the slot that hit goalie Matt Morris in the chest and slid into the net. The referees whistled him for interference, despite it looking like he made an effort to avoid Morris. On the ensuing powerplay, Cam Brown fired a shot into traffic from above the left faceoff circle and Liam Pecararo got his stick in the right place, as it deflected off his blade and went past Clark’s right shoulder.
Both teams fell victim to goaltender interference calls that overturned goals in the game. The first came against Maine, as Will Merchant made contact with Clark before a loose puck was knocked in by a teammate. The referees initially ruled it a goal, but an incensed Clark protested the ruling, and it was eventually overturned after a review. UNH’s Grayson Downing thought he tied the game in the second period on a great individual effort later in the period, but this time the referees immediately ruled it a no-goal and confirmed the call with a review.
“I’ll bite my tongue, but all I know is that it was a great goal,” Umile said.
Downing offered a little more insight into the call, saying the refs told him he made contact with Morris in the crease. “I’m not even sure how it happened, we’ll have to see it on film … I thought [Morris] made contact first and tripped me.”
Brown recorded his second point of the evening, and totaled his fourth point versus UNH this season, in the third period after a scoreless second. Gathering the puck in the slot, Brown fired a wrist shot that beat Clark on his blocker side to give Maine a 2-0. Before UNH could compose themselves, Maine added a third goal, this time from Nolan Vesey. Right off the faceoff, Maine rushed into the zone and Vesey buried the puck past Clark and just inside the right post.
After Maine took a 3-0 lead, the Wildcats started to show their frustration. After a Maine player poked at Clark after the whistle, a skirmish broke out on the ice which resulted in 38 penalty minutes being distributed between the teams. UNH captain Matt Willows and Maine’s Conor Riley went toe-to-toe, almost dropping their gloves, and each were assessed 10-minute misconducts to go along with roughing and hitting after the whistle penalties. Maine’s Stu Higgins and UNH’s Andrew Poturalski were also given roughing minors, as well as an extra slashing call on Higgins to give UNH a powerplay.
“That was frustration, you have to handle it,” Umile said. “They both went at it and sat out the last fourteen minutes.”
The finally tally came at 10:03 of the third, this time from Steven Swavely. On a slow pass from Vesey, Clark attempted to poke the puck away. This put him out of position and gave the puck to Swavely, who slid it right past him into the open net. This signaled the end of the night for Clark, as Umile decided to pull him and play junior Jamie Regan in net.
Maine captures the season series, winning three out of four games, and winning both conference match ups. Games on Dec. 12-13 were considered non-conference and played on neutral ice. New Hampshire now has back-to-back road series, travelling to Notre Dame next week, then facing Vermont on Feb. 6-7. They don’t return home until Feb. 14 when they face No. 3 Boston University.