Maine had Hobey Baker finalist Spencer Abbott back in their lineup, but it wasn’t enough for the Black Bears to defeat defending national champion Minnesota-Duluth in Saturday night’s NCAA Northeast Regional semifinal. Minnesota-Duluth advanced to the regional’s championship game with a 5-2 win.
Maine took advantage of three Minnesota-Duluth penalties in the first period to keep the game’s momentum going in their favor. Abbott, who was injured in last week’s Hockey East Tournament, provided a first period spark to his teammates. He connected with linemate Brian Flynn to notch the game’s first goal 17 minutes into the first period.
In the second period, Maine continued to fly down the ice with confidence. Matt Mangene scored on a beautiful shot while sailing down the the left side of Minnesota-Duluth goaltender Kenny Reiter. There was some question as to if the goal would be allowed because Maine’s own net had come loose, but the goal stood after the officials’ review. Despite Maine’s strong play up to that point in the game, Mangene’s tally would be the Black Bears’ last goal of the night.
Minnesota-Duluth controlled the action from there on out. Hobey Baker finalist Jack Connolly kicked off the scoring for the Bulldogs, pressuring Maine goalie Dan Sullivan on the power play and finally getting the puck in. Teammates Caleb Herbert and Jake Hendrickson followed with two more goals on Sullivan before the close of the second period.
Maine skated sleepy in the third period, and Minnesota-Duluth took advantage. They padded their lead with a back handed goal by J.T. Brown, giving the Bulldogs a 4-2 lead with just over ten minutes left in the game.
Minnesota-Duluth’s David Grun went to the penalty box on an untimely charging call with just three minutes left in the game, but Maine couldn’t take advantage of the man advantage. Maine pulled Sullivan for the extra attacker, but it only resulted in an empty-net goal for Minnesota-Duluth’s Hendrickson.
Sullivan ended the night with 21 saves for the Black Bears, while Reiter amassed 25 for the Bulldogs. Maine finishes the season with a 23-14-3 record.
Minnesota-Duluth will play Boston College for a Frozen Four berth at 8 p.m. on Sunday.