Auburn, ME. - It is often said you cannot win a game in the first period, but that you can lose it.The Central Maine Community College hockey team learned this lesson the hard way on Sunday, falling into a 3-0 hole just five minutes into an eventual 8-4 loss to the University of Maine Black Bears. The loss saw the Mustangs end an up-and-down home stand at 1-2-0 and drop to 2-2-0 overall on the young season.
Maine's Conor Tully opened the scoring just 61 seconds into the contest, with Jared Parent burying one of his own just :48 later to spark Maine to a 2-0 lead. Both goals came as a result of defensive breakdowns in the Mustangs end as Maine scored on their first two shots on goaltender Jacob Strout.
the Mustangs were presented with a golden opportunity to claw back some of the deficit in the early stages of the first period when Maine's Cole Fisher was sent to the box for charging. Instead Maine's Oliver Hedner was able to break free in the offensive zone and slam a one-timer past Strout for a shorthanded goal and a 3-0 Black Bear lead just 4:31 into the contest. Mustangs coach Matt Buotte called a timeout after the goal to settle his charges.
"Our start was embarrassingly flat," said Buotte afterward. "We had no jump whatsoever. We left our goaltender out to dry in the first five minutes or so. We had to refocus and I have to give the guys credit, the remainder of the period was much better. We just can't come out that flat again."
The Mustangs would get their first jolt of life just over halfway through the first, when forward Trevor Roche alertly shot a pass from his own end to a streaking Sean Coleman, who powered his way to the net and slipped a shot past Maine goaltender Cam Dutra to cut the lead to 3-1.
In what has become a recurring theme for the Mustangs, momentum was relinquished nearly immediately after the goal. Maine's Alex Fallon would place a gorgeous shot over Strout's shoulder to reclaim the three goal advantage for the visitors. The goal was unassisted. The first period would end with Maine leading 4-1 and holding a 21-9 shot advantage.
"We were way too loose in the first period," continued Buotte. "We really have to work on tightening things up and limiting chances going forward."
The second period started in a much quieter manner, with the teams exchanging opportunities. Mustangs forward Collin Sheehan would have two of the best--a pair of clearcut breakways--but was robbed by Dutra on both occasions. The Mustangs would then trim the lead to 4-2 with 14:25 to play in the period. Zac Brown would pot his first college goal on a beautiful 2-on-1 rush with Jordy Knoren, who dropped the puck to Brown in the slot. Brown would fire home a one-timer over Dutra's shoulder and send the home crowd--which included Brown's Kennebunk, Maine family--into a frenzy.
"It felt so amazing to score," remarked Brown afterward. "I'm so glad my whole family could be there to see it."
The good feeling was short-lived, however, as the Mustangs conceded again just 1:09 after Brown's goal. Will Lawrence would score unassisted to push Maine's lead back to three. Despite the Mustangs several odd-man rushes they were unable to pull the game any closer throughout the remainder of the period. Strout made several key saves to keep the Black Bears at bay until Conor Tully would notch his second goal of the night with Trevor Roche in the penalty box for hooking, extending the lead to 6-2. Peter Lajuenesse would add a goal of his own with 3:40 to play in the middle frame, effectively putting the game out of reach heading into the third.
Despite the deficit the Mustangs continued to fight until the last buzzer. Collin Sheehan would trim the lead to 7-3 just :23 into the period after a fluke deflection saw a Maine defenseman turn the puck into his own net. The game remained 7-3 until Maine's Scott Klouda would deposit a Nick Dunne feed with 13:25 remaining, putting the visitors on top by five again. Central Maine's Trevor Roche would finish the scoring with 8:27 remaining, burying a Jordy Knoren feed shortly after a Mustangs power play had expired.
Jacob Strout stopped 42 of 50 shots he faced in defeat. Anthony Tilelli would come on in the last 4:52 in relief of Strout, stopping the three shots he faced. Cam Dutra stopped 26 of 30 as the winning goaltender. The Mustangs power play went 0-for-4 in defeat while Maine went 1-for-3.
"When you take the first five minutes out it was an exciting, competitive game," said Buotte. "We learned a pretty valuable lesson today. You have to show up from the very first puck drop, you can't turn it on and off."
The Mustangs next head to Gordon College to take on the Fighting Scots on Saturday, October 27th at 2 p.m. The game begins a 3 game road trip for Central Maine, which also includes visits to New England College and Mass Maritime. The team is next at home on Friday, November 2nd when the UNE Nor'easters make the trip to Auburn. Puck drop will be at 7:00 p.m.