Auburn, Me. - The Central Maine Community College hockey team wrapped up its first semester of the 2019-2020 season with a thrilling 6-3 victory over ACHA rival University of New England, stretching their win streak to three games after sweeping a set of weekend home games.
The hosts picked up where they left off after an explosive 6-3 win over Suffolk the night before. Austin Taylor continued his torrid scoring pace, collecting a Sean Coleman feed off of the half wall and slicing a wrist shot over Nor'easters goalkeeper Sam Fuller for his 6th ACHA goal of the season. The goal came just 1:50 into the contest.
"That was the exact start we were looking for," said Mustangs head coach Matt Buotte. "That line has been buzzing all year and they were leaders again tonight. They really set the tone from their first shift."
The Nor'easters would find their footing after the Taylor tally, starting to take play over throughout the first period. With just under four minutes to play the visitors would crack Mustangs goaltender Jacob Strout, who also started in the Mustangs 5-4 win at UNE on October 26th. Jon Petrow would find himself alone in front of the Central Maine cage, poking home a Dylan Poirier feed to level the game at one just before the break.
The Mustangs would then continue a familiar theme as the game resumed--a strong second period. The Mustangs burst to life early in the middle frame, scoring twice in a 30-second span to deal a huge body blow to a UNE team that was skating with just 10 players. First, Shawn Sullivan collected a Tanner Garand feed and threw an innocuous-looking wrist shot at the net that redirected upward and arched over a screened Fuller to settle into the back of the net and give the Mustangs captain his fourth goal in the last two games, all of which came in the second period. Moments later a UNE turnover would see Sean Coleman alone in the high slot, where he twisted a wrist shot past Fuller to give him his 2nd ACHA goal of the year and first since opening night nearly two months earlier. It was his team-leading 15th point of the year.
With 8:43 to go the Mustangs would deal another huge blow as Cam Bourassa, playing in just his fifth game as a late semester addition, would notch his first collegiate goal. Brock Geoffroy let a booming slapshot go from the right point that was kicked directly to Bourassa, who scooped up the loose change and fired past Fuller to give the Mustangs a 4-1 lead. Just 35 seconds later the Mustangs would bury again, this time Austin Taylor burying his second of the night and team-leading 7th of the season to seemingly put the game out of reach.
"We had a 5-1 lead heading into the third against these guys last time," said Buotte. "We couldn't take our foot off the gas. We knew we had to keep plugging. They may have been shorthanded but nothing will give you legs like a couple of quick goals."
The Nor'easters would do their best to claw back into the game and the Mustangs did their part to help in the early going of the third period. Despite starting the period on the power play, a miscommunication on the Mustangs breakout saw Luke Wescott steal the puck in front of Strout and pop the puck home for a shorthanded goal to pull the visitors within three. Then, with just over seven minutes to play, Petrow would grab another goal for the Nor'easters to pull them within two. Central Maine would call a timeout to regroup as UNE began to tilt the ice and push for an equalizer.
The Mustangs would regroup out of the timeout, building shift after shift and nullifying the UNE attack as the wound out the clock. Desperately searching for the tying goal UNE would pull their goaltender and call a timeout with an offensive face-off with 1:09 remaining. Their efforts were in vain, however, as it took the Mustangs just seven seconds to deliver the final blow as Tanner Garand would chip a puck into space, sending Zac Brown racing in on an open net. Brown would dive head-first to poke the puck into the yawning cage and spark euphoric celebrations around Norway Savings Bank Arena as the Mustangs closed out their semester with an emphatic 6-3 victory, bringing their record to 5-9-1 in all competitions and 4-7-1 in ACHA play.
Central Maine improved to 6-3-0 all-time against the Nor'easters, while Strout improved to 4-1-0 in his career against the Mustangs in-state rival.
"UNE is one of the biggest rivals we play," Strout said of the victory. "To beat them twice this semester is huge. It was a big win for the program and the past few games just goes to show what happens when we buy into the system and play as a team."
The Mustangs will now head into the semester break, returning to action on January 24th when Dartmouth comes to Auburn. Looking head, the club still has massive second semester games including a road trip to play ACHA DIII foes Colombia and St. Thomas Aquinas in New York, as well as arch rival Thomas College and will be looking to build on an exciting end to a successful first semester.
"We had a slow start in the beginning of the year but the boys really started to pick things up toward the latter half of the semester," continued Strout. "We're going into the break on a three game win streak and I'm excited to come back and keep the ball rolling."