Auburn, ME – What a difference a week makes. Just seven days after dropping their home opener in lopsided fashion to a talented Bentley squad, the Mustangs hockey team rebounded for an emphatic 8-4 victory over their in-state rival St. Joseph's College Monks.
It was a quiet first period from the Norway Savings Bank Arena, with each team receiving few opportunities in a tight-checking contest. Drake Goupil would offer the only moment of offense, finishing an odd-man rush by beating St. Joseph's goaltender Matt Burnham five-hole to give Central Maine a 1-0 lead with 13:08 left to play in the first period. Alec Howes and Isaiah Dubois would add assists on the play.
The score would remain a 1-0 throughout the remainder of the first, with each team registering 11 shots in the opening frame. Mustangs goaltender Anthony Tilelli made a few important stops through the first to keep his team in the lead in a much-improved display from the home team.
"I thought the first period was fantastic," said Mustangs head coach Matt Buotte. "We came out flat in our home opener last weekend and we wanted to put a good foot forward. I was proud of how the guys game out tonight from the opening whistle."
The Mustangs offense would roar to life in the second period, tilting the ice from the opening face-off. The hosts would stretch their lead to 2-0 3:18 into the middle stanza, with Collin Sheehan finishing off a beautiful rush spearheaded by defenseman Parker Springer. After Springer entered the zone and whipped a cross-ice pass to center Jordy Knoren, Springer continued his path to the net while Knoren found the trailing Sheehan who blistered a wrist shot over Burnham's glove to send the Mustangs faithful into a frenzy.
Before the crowd could sit down, Knoren would give them another reason to cheer. After defenseman Willy Baxter thwarted a Monks rush with a crushing body check, the Mustangs turned up ice and sprung Knoren on a 1-on-1 rush. Knoren would drag the puck to the middle before releasing a beautiful wrist shot that beat Burnham and pushed the Mustangs lead to 3-0.
Shortly after the Knoren goal, the Mustangs would themselves in a bit of adversity. Forward Pat Pearson would be ejected for contact to head with 13:40 to go in the 2nd, putting the Mustangs down a man for an entire five minutes. Despite a spirited kill, the Mustangs would finally break with 1:14 to go on the power play. Alex Passahume would bounce a puck off of Tilelli's back and in on a goalmouth scramble to cut the Monks deficit to 3-1.
"It was difficult to give one up after so much good work on the kill," said Buotte afterward. "We just kept going, though. We pushed through and restored the lead and it was great to see."
From there, Mustangs freshman Carl Bear would steal the show. He began his huge night with 8:46 to go in the 2nd, burying a Goupil feed on the power play to put Central Maine back on top by three. Defenseman Shawn Sullivan would add an assist on the play. Bear would strike again three minutes later, this time at even strength. Knoren drove the offensive blue line before dishing to Bear who wired a wrist shot from the top of the circles past Burnham to extend the lead to 5-1 with 5:22 to play. Springer would convert a 3-on-2 rush just 1:25 later to effectively seal the win for the Mustangs after a fortuitous bounce in the neutral zone sent the Mustangs in with numbers. Springer would rip a wrist shot through Burnham to extend the advantage to 6-1, with forward Sean Coleman adding an assist.
The Monks would claw one back with 2:57 to go in the 2nd, with Richard Wilmot cutting the lead to 6-2 with an even strength marker. The good feeling would be short-lived, however, as Bear would finish his hat trick just seconds later. After Knoren intercepted a pass in the defensive end, the Mustangs charged up ice on a 2-on-1. Knoren would slip a pass cross-crease to a flying Bear who simply tapped the puck into the open net for his third of the game.
Central Maine had a 7-2 advantage after two, holding a 31-20 advantage in shots on goal. It was a stark contrast to the previous weekend, where Central Maine found themselves down 8-3 after two periods of play against Bentley.
"The biggest difference was that me moved the puck a lot better as a team," said second year defenseman Jacoby Robinson. "We worked harder to win 50/50 pucks and on getting pucks to the net. [We had success] in the defensive zone and the effort everyone put in over the full 60 minutes. Everyone left all they had on the ice and we came out with a good win."
The Mustangs would put the finishing touches on the victory in the third period, burying two more in the final period. Carl Bear would complete his breakout night just 2:08 into the third, potting his fourth of the evening. Knoren would add his fourth assist of the night, with Sullivan picking up his second. The Monks would add two consolation goals at the end to trim the lead to 8-4, but the Mustangs had done the hard work and emerged victors, improving to 2-1-0 overall and 1-1-0 at home.
"Getting our first win at home was huge," said Sullivan, who continued his strong play with two assists, a shot on goal, and +1 rating. "Our first home, guys were a little nervous and didn't really know what to expect. Once we got a game under our belt I think we all really settled in and played our game."
Bear, who has now notched six goals in his first three games as a Mustang, was thrilled with the result.
"It felt great to have such a successful game," the former Gorham, Me. Standout remarked. "After the tough loss against Bentley we definitely wanted to win one at home. Our line really seemed to click tonight and it showed on the scoreboard."
Central Maine outshot the Monks 48-33 while going 1-for-3 on the power play. St Joe's finished the evening 1-for-4 on the man advantage. The Mustangs will wrap up a three game homestand on Sunday, October 21st as they host the University of Maine. The puck drops at 4:00 p.m.
"We will enjoy this one for a bit," concluded Buotte. "But when practice starts Tuesday the focus turns to Maine. It's a big game for our team and we want to keep this good feeling going."