There haven't been many times in St. Lawrence University hockey history that they have been able to send a crowd home early in a visiting rink, but they did just that Friday night at Maine's Alfond Arena, rolling to a 5-0 win over the Black Bears to extend their unbeaten string against Hockey East opponents to six straight games.
Matt Weninger was solid in goal and the Saints scored three special team goals and two even strength markers in an impressive performance against a young Maine team. It was the second win in the last three games against Maine at Alfond and the 2-1 Saints will be out to get a sweep and add to an impressive start to the young season when the two teams play a rematch at 7:07 p.m. on Saturday.
The Saints, 5-0-1 against Hockey East teams since January of 2010, did a little line juggling to generate more secondary scoring and got another outstanding performance on special teams for their third road win in three starts. "It was a solid game," said Saint coach Greg Carvel. "Special teams were excellent and we have to win the special teams battles each night because we are not real explosive five-on-five. The only frustrating part was the number of penalties we took. Teams aren't usually going to be successful taking nine penalties, but out kill did an excellent job tonight and Wenny was tremendous in net from start to finish."
The Saints took the early lead in the game when junior defenseman Riley Austin sent a shot toward net from the left point and it deflected off a Maine defender and past goaltender Dan Sullivan at 7:48. Greg Carey picked up his fourth assist of the season on the play as he passed the puck back to the point from the center slot afssure from the Maine defense with Jeremy Wick also getting an assist.
The Saints spent much of the rest of the first period killing off a trio of Maine power plays, but they did it well, allowing no shots to get through to goaltender Matt Weninger on any of the three man advantage chances for the Black Bears.
Special teams continued to play a role in the second period and the Saints cashed in both on the power play and on the penalty kill.
Chris Martin made it a 2-0 game just 1:08 into the period, taking a pass down low from Kyle Flanagan and snapping a shot just under the crossbar for his second of the year with Carey also assisting on the play. The Saint penalty kill, which was perfect in nine chances, then cashed in with a short hander as Flanagan, who had four assists in the game, picked off a Maine pass and broke in two-on-one with Pat Doherty on his wing. Flanagan dished to Doherty on the right side of the faceoff circle and Doherty beat Sullivan from point blank range for his first of the year at 10:13.
The Saints made it a 4-0 game 3:45 into the third when Gunnar Hughes took a pass from his brother George and tucked the puck around Sullivan from the near post for his first of the year with Flanagan also assisting and Baker sent the crowd home early when he scored on a power play at 7:40 with Jordan Dewey and Flanagan assisting as Baker pinched from the point and snapped a wrister over Sullivan's shoulder from the hash marks for his first of the year.
"Things always look better after a win, but I did like our line combinations tonight. Sean McGovern is a natural center and having him in the middle helped us after he played on the wing last week. Patty Doherty got a jump start and Essery and Wick were outstanding as a checking line. I thought Tommy THompson also turned in a very good game tonight."
Weninger finished with 30 saves for his fifth career shutout with 10 of those 30 saves coming on nine Maine power plays. It was the first time Maine has been shut out at home since 2008. Sullivan had 17 stops on 22 shots through 47:40 while freshman Matt Morris made one save in 12:20 of action.