WORCESTER, Mass. — The University of Maine men’s ice hockey season came to an end on Saturday evening at the DCU Center as the Black Bears fell by a score of 5-2 to Minnesota Duluth in the opening round of the NCAA Regionals. The Black Bears end the season at 23-14-3 while Duluth improves to 25-9-6. Spencer Abbott (Hamilton, Ontario) and Matt Mangene (Manorville, N.Y.) each tallied goals for the Black Bears while Will O’Neill (Salem, Mass.) notched a pair of assists to reach the 100-point plateau.
With the Black Bears skating on the power play, Abbott gave Maine a 1-0 lead 17:16 into the first period when the senior lit the lamp for the 21st time this season. Brian Flynn (Lynnfield, Mass.) began things by controlling the puck inside the left face off circle. Flynn sent the puck back to the point where Abbott played with it for a few seconds before unleashing a wrister that snuck over Bulldog goaltender Kenny Reiter’s right shoulder. O’Neill was also credited with an assist on the 51st power play goal of the season for Maine.
Dan Sullivan (York, Pa.) was solid between the pipes for Maine in the first period as the sophomore netminder turned away nine Minnesota Duluth shots including shutting down Brady Lamb on a break away when the Bulldog defenseman skated in all alone out of the penalty box. Sullivan flashed the glove to his left to make the save for the Black Bears.
Maine extended its lead to 2-0 after Mangene skated in on the breakway and was able to put a move on Reiter and bury the puck into the back of the net. Mike Cornell (Franklin, Mass.) picked up the loose puck behind the Maine net and carried it into the Bulldog zone before dishing it off to a streaking Mangene. Mangene skated in on Reiter, faked to the right and then backhanded a shot around the UMD goaltender. O’Neill picked up his second assist of the contest on the goal which was the 16th of the season for Mangene.
Jack Connolly cut the Maine lead in half with a power play goal 10:47 into the second period. Luke McManus began the play for the Bulldogs as he sent the puck down into the right face off circle. Travis Oleksuk gathered the puck and fired a cross ice pass to Connolly who sniped a wrister past Sullivan.
The Bulldogs tied things up at two-all on a goal from Caleb Herbert. Herbert forced a steal in the Maine zone and skated in all alone on Sullivan. The freshman forward sent a shot wide that bounced off the glass behind Sullivan, came back over the net and tipped in off Sullivan’s skate.
Just one minute later, Jake Hendrickson gave the Bulldogs their first lead of the contest. Lamb stole the puck in the Maine zone and skated in on Sullivan, firing a wrister that the Maine goaltender was able to save. However, the puck would stand on the goal line behind Sullivan and Hendrickson would take advantage, poking the puck into the net.
With 10:45 to play in the third period, Duluth sophomore J.T. Brown punched home his 24th goal of the season to extend the Bulldog lead to 4-2. Oleksuk skated in on Sullivan and put a shot on the net that was blocked in the crease by O’Neill. However, the puck slid out to Sullivan’s right where Brown was able to sneak a backhander into the net.
Maine would get one more solid opportunity to close the gap with Duluth as the Black Bears would skate with a 6-on-4 advantage. With three minutes remaining in the contest, the Bulldogs’ David Grun was whistled for a charging penalty. Maine would pull Sullivan, creating a 6-on-4. However the Bulldogs killed off the penalty and then added an empty-netter, giving them a 5-2 lead that they would not relinquish.
The Black Bears outshot Duluth 27-26 and went 1-for-5 on the power play while the Bulldogs were 1-for-3 with the man advantage.
Sullivan ends the season at 22-11-3 as he made 21 saves while giving up four goals in 58:12 minutes of play. Reiter improves to 23-8-6 after making 25 saves and allowing two goals.
The game was the final one for six outstanding Maine seniors, Abbott, Flynn, O’Neill, Ryan Hegarty (Arlington, Mass.), Theo Andersson (Gothenburg, Sweden) and Josh Seeley (Howland, Maine). Flynn tallied 156 career points which ranks 11th on Maine’s all-time scoring his. Abbott finished his career with 146 points which ranks tied for 17th on Maine’s all-time scoring list. O’Neill became just the seventh defenseman in Maine history to register 100 career points, finishing his career with 101. Abbott scored 62 points his senior season, which is the most since Steve Kariya scored 65 during the 1998-99 season.