March 25, 2012

Abbott returns, but Maine gets knocked out by UMD

By Roman J. Uschak

Spencer Abbott made it back into the Maine lineup on Saturday evening as the Black Bears faced Minnesota-Duluth in the first round of the 2012 NCAA Northeast Regional at the DCU Center in Worcester, Mass. 

Maine forward Spencer Abbott reaches past UMD netminder Kenny Reiter. (Dave Arnold Photography)

In the end, though, the defending national champion Bulldogs overcame a two-goal deficit to top Maine, 5-2, and set up a regional final date with 2010 NCAA champion Boston College on Sunday night.

“Obviously we’re disappointed not to advance,” said Maine head coach Tim Whitehead. “I felt we came out very strong, but Duluth did a great job coming back.”

“Our guys showed resiliency all year,” said UMD head coach Scott Sandelin. “This one we were able to get back in and get the lead.”

Abbott, who missed the Hockey East championship game after being injured in the semifinals, put the Black Bears on top with a power-play goal at 17:16, as his wrist shot from the left point eluded UMD goaltender Kenny Reiter. It was the 21st goal of the season for the Hockey East Player of the Year.

“I got a lane, and I didn’t know it went in,” said Abbott.

The Black Bears (23-14-3) made it 2-0 at 7:10 of the second period when Mike Cornell hit Matt Mangene on the right side, and Mangene sped in alone to beat Reiter (25 saves) with a backhand. The goal was reviewed, as Maine’s net had been dislodged by a UMD player; but the Black Bears maintained possession, and officials allowed the goal to stand.

The Bulldogs (25-9-6) then showed that they still had plenty of bite.

After Ryan Hegarty was sent off for slashing, Jack Connolly took a cross-ice pass in the right circle from Travis Oleksuk, and wristed a shot far side through Joe Basaraba’s screen to put the Bulldogs on the board at 10:47.

“That’s how the game is,” said Maine captain Will O’Neill, who assisted on both goals, including his 100th career point. “They got some momentum and made it a one-goal game, but there was no quit on our bench.”

UMD then knotted matters when Caleb Herbert stole the puck from Brice O’Connor at the Maine blueline and skated in on Maine netminder Dan Sullivan (21 saves), only to shoot over the net. The puck, however, caromed off the glass, back over the net, and off the back of Sullivan’s right leg and into the goal at 16:28.

“We’ve been working on that in practice,” quipped Herbert.

Brady Lamb then intercepted Sullivan’s clearing attempt up the left wing boards and skated in for a shot that Sullivan stopped, only to have Jake Hendrickson put home the rebound at 17:28.

“I still felt good after two (periods),” said Whitehead. “We just couldn’t get the equalizer, and I give credit to Duluth.”

J.T. Brown potted his 24th of the year when he picked up the rebound of Oleksuk’s shot in the left circle and swept a backhand under Sullivan at 9:15 of the final stanza.

“There’s not much you can do when you can’t get in their zone,” said Abbott.

Maine had one last try when it went on a power play with three minutes left, and then pulled Sullivan for an extra attacker; but Hendrickson hit the empty net with 42 seconds left to ice it.

“This is the end of four of the best years of my life,” said O’Neill.