Cambridge, Ma. – It was another up-and-down weekend for the Central Maine Community College hockey team. Wrapping up a stretch of five games in eight days the Mustangs secured a weekend split, defeating the University of New England at home on Friday by a final count of 6-4 before falling to Suffolk University 7-2 on the road the following evening.
After a spirited 3-0 road defeat to a quality Mass Maritime squad midweek the Mustangs returned home hosting a UNE team they had split the season series with a year prior. Central Maine—who had entered the game 0-4-0 when conceding the first goal—would find themselves in a 1-0 hole early yet again. Just 2:21 into the contest Colby Robinson would break the ice, firing a wrist shot over Mustangs goalkeeper Jacob Strout from the top of the left circle.
The Mustangs would answer immediately, however, as sophomore Drake Goupil would clean up a rebound in front and poke it past Nor'easter goaltender Sam Fuller to level the score at 1. The teams would exchange chances throughout the rest of the period until the 16:00 mark when Jordy Knoren took a Steve Mercia feed and streaked in alone to deposit a shorthanded tally past Fuller.
The momentum was short-lived, however, as the Mustangs would surrender a power play goal just 13 seconds later when Dylan Porior converted an odd-man rush to pull the teams level at 2, which is how the period would end.
"I thought our first period was good, if a little loose," said Mustangs head coach Matt Buotte. "It wasn't the start we wanted but we really dug in from there."
The second period remained at 2-2 until nearly the halfway mark when Mustang newcomer Beau Armstrong would pot his first goal as a member of the club. After a broken play, Armstrong collected the puck at the top of the circle and fired a shot past Fuller to push the home side to a 3-2 lead and send the home crowd into a frenzy. Trevor Roche and Shawn Sullivan added assists on the play.
The second period ended with the teams squared at 3-3 before Armstrong would tally again to give Central Maine a 4-3 lead that they would not relinquish. With Nathan Potvin serving a slashing penalty the Mustangs power play would convert just :23 into the third period. Sullivan slipped the puck to Armstrong at the center point and he rifled a slapshot through Fuller for his second of the evening. Knoren added the secondary assist on the play.
The Mustangs would take their first two goal lead of the night with 13:34 to play. After a fantastic diving keep at the offensive blue line by Mercia, Alec Howes would collect a loose puck and play it along the end boards to Armstrong who found a streaking Carl Bear in the slot. Bear fired home to give the hosts a 5-3 lead.
After UNE pulled one back with 4:03 remaining on a 5-on-4 power play, the Mustangs would round out the scoring and put an exclamation point on a massive home victory. After a neutral zone turnover the Mustangs raced in 3-on-1, with Sean Coleman patiently sliding a pass cross-crease to Knoren for a tap-in goal and a 6-4 advantage that would hold as the final score.
UNE held a 36-35 shot advantage, with Strout making 32 saves for his first victory of the year. Armstrong, playing in his second game for the Mustangs, finished with three points (2 G, A) and seven shots on goal.
"It was truly a great win for our team," said Buotte afterward. "We really earned this one. It was without a doubt the most satisfying win of the season."
From there the Mustangs traveled to Cambridge, Massachusetts to take on Suffolk University and looking to ride the momentum of a big win on home ice.
"In hindsight, we were really up against it against Suffolk," said Buotte. "We really paid the price to win on Friday. We were playing our fifth game in eight days with a lot of travel and not a lot of rest. It was a recipe for a rough night."
And a rough night it was. Suffolk built a 3-0 lead in the first 12 minutes of the contest, outshooting the Mustangs 13-0 in that stretch. Starting goaltender Anthony Tilelli stopped 10 of the 13 before he was pulled in an attempt to rally the beleaguered Mustangs. The Mustangs would outshoot the Rams 7-6 the rest of the period but found themselves in a 4-0 hole after one.
Shawn Sullivan pulled one back early in the 2nd to cut the lead to 4-1, but Suffolk answered immediately to restore their four goal lead. Carl Bear would add one a short time later on a Sullivan feed but the Rams offense proved too much, burying two goals in a matter of minutes to push the home side to a 7-2 lead after 2. The score would hold through the third period and stand as the final, dropping the Mustangs to 4-5-0 on the year. They were outshout 49-25 in Cambridge.
"Overall, for where we're at right now, we had a lot of positives this week," said Buotte. "We got good wins over Gordon and UNE and proved we can compete with some of the best teams in our league. By the end of the week we were pretty beat up, but we'll get rested and get back at it against Thomas on Wednesday."
The team plays twice this week—once at home versus Thomas College on Wednesday at Norway Savings Bank Arena with a 7:00 start time, then they travel back to Gordon to take on the Fighting Scots on Saturday night for another 7:00 puck drop.