DURHAM — Mitchell Fossier’s four-point night led the University of Maine men’s hockey team to a 5-3 victory over archrival New Hampshire Saturday night in front of a sold-out Whittemore Center crowd.
UNH (10-9-8, 6-6-5 Hockey East, 15 points) is tied with Providence for sixth place in the Hockey East standings while Maine (10-13-3, 6-7-3, 13 points) occupies the No. 8 spot. Only eight of the league’s 11 teams will qualify for the postseason tournament.
Fossier clinched the victory for Maine with 48.1 seconds remaining, when he put away an empty-net goal to cap the game’s scoring. The junior forward also scored a power-play goal with 3:58 remaining in the first period to give the Black Bears a 2-0 advantage and tallied two assists.
Maine sophomore defenseman Brady Keeper broke a 2-2 tie with his power-play goal that came with 1:15 left in the second period. Keeper beat UNH goaltender Mike Robinson (22 saves) with a slap shot from in front of the right circle.
UNH went 0-for-2 both on the penalty kill and the power play. The Wildcats entered the weekend with the No. 10 penalty-kill percentage (.86) and No. 11 power-play percentage (.233) in the nation.
Maine junior Chase Pearson gave his team a 4-2 cushion when he scored 2:50 into the third period off a feed from Fossier.
Max Gildon scored following a Marcus Vela offensive-zone faceoff win with 1:49 remaining while UNH had an extra skater on the ice to pull the Wildcats within one. UNH pulled Robinson, a sophomore from Bedford, for the extra skater with 3:07 remaining.
Maine scored the game’s first two goals but two quick tallies from UNH’s Frankie Cefalu and Ara Nazarian late in the first period created a 2-2 deadlock entering the first intermission.
Cefalu, a senior, redirected a Benton Maass blast from the right point by with 3:58 left in the first period to put UNH on the board and record his first goal of the season.
Nazarian scored a rebound goal 17 seconds later to pull the Wildcats even at 2-2. The senior wing logged three goals in the series, including the overtime game-winner Friday night.
Maine opened the game’s scoring with 8:45 remaining in the opening period, when Tim Doherty scored off assists from linemates Jacob Schmidt-Svejstrup and Brendan Robbins, a senior from Nashua. Fossier crashed the net to score his power-play goal 52 seconds later.
UNH outshot the Black Bears, 44-27. Maine sophomore netminder and Boston Bruins draft pick Jeremy Swayman made 41 saves.
Maine forward Brendan Robbins did not score in Friday’s loss to UNH but that does not mean he didn’t make his presence known.
Robbins, a senior from Nashua, logged four shots on goal, one of which came on a breakaway 5:55 into the third period. Had Robbins beaten UNH sophomore goaltender and Bedford resident Mike Robinson on the shot, he would have scored Maine’s first goal of the game.
Robbins also had an opportunity to knot the score at 1-1 at the 1:35 mark of the second period but Robinson denied his uncontested wrister from the slot.
In addition to his scoring chances, Robbins also helped the Black Bears’ penalty-kill unit hold UNH to five shots on goal over its three power-play opportunities.
Robbins entered Saturday’s game against UNH with six points on four goals and two assists. The Nashua North graduate logged a single-game season-high two goals in Maine’s 4-4 tie with the Wildcats on Jan. 21.
“Brendan has a big-league motor,” said Maine coach Red Gendron, who is a Berlin native and New England College alum. “He plays one way and that’s at maximum intensity every night he steps out on the ice.
“He works, he battles, he skates. When he’s too exhausted to keep going, he gets off the ice, he rests up and (does) it again. And that’s the way he’s played his entire career here at Maine and in the interim, he’s improved himself as a hockey player — his skill level and his hockey IQ and all that stuff. Now as a senior, he’s a pretty darn good hockey player.”