It was an emotional night for University of Maine captain Jakub Sirota on Friday as his Black Bears faced Boston College in a crucial playoff-related Hockey East game.
His grandfather had died earlier in the day.
But Sirota put in an outstanding performance, including a crucial power play goal late in the second half, and the Black Bears triumphed 6-3 in front of a large and enthusiastic crowd at the Alfond Arena.
“It was a special night, tonight. It was a great night and I’m sure he watched,” said Sirota, whose goal with 1:55 left gave UMaine a 4-2 lead after Boston College scored two power play goals to one 3 to cut -0 deficit to 3:2.
The Black Bears extended their unbeaten streak to six games (3-0-3), moving closer to a spot on home ice for the first round of the Hockey East Playoffs.
UMaine improved to 14-13-5 overall and 8-9-4 in Hockey East. UMaine is now 3-0-3 in its last six games.
UMaine received goals from six different players and at least one point out of 12.
UMaine skipped Boston College to seventh overall. The top five teams will receive byes in the first round, and the sixth, seventh and eighth place teams will receive eleventh, tenth and ninth place respectively in the first round on March 7th.
BC fell to 12-13-6 and 7-9-5 after cutting short a three-game winning streak.
The teams end their series at 7 p.m. on Saturday evening
The Black Bears took a 3-0 lead through goals from Aidan Carney and Donavan Houle in the first period and a power-play goal from Luke Antonacci in the second period before Andre Gasseau and Cutter separated the Eagles just 2-16 on the power play Gauthier.
Sirota’s goal gave UMaine some breathing room and Felix Trudeau extended the lead to 5:2 (6:33) in the third period.
BC head coach Greg Brown called Sirota’s goal “deflationary”.
“We got the power play goals and then had a good time in the offensive zone, but that took the momentum out of us,” Brown said.
Sirota took a pass from Grayson Arnott in the high slot and launched a wrist shot that deflected past BC goalie Mitch Benson off an Eagle player.
“I was just trying to put my shot in the net,” said Sirota, whose goal was his fifth of the season.
Freshman Trudeau ended a scoreless 17-game drought when he reached out and swept the rebound of a Michael Mancinielli shot past Benson.
“I just thought, ‘Go online.’ Good things happen there,” said Trudeau, who noted that he simply “thrown” the puck into the net as BC players came his way.
“I didn’t know it was going in until I heard the student section cheer,” he said.
“Those were two big goals,” said UMaine head coach Ben Barr.
Nikita Nesterenko scored BC’s third power play goal at 10:15, his 11th goal of the season, after a perfect feed from Gauthier.
BC pulled Benson in favor of an additional attacker while the Eagles were on the power play, but Lynden Breen put the puck off the ties and into the empty net to thwart the game with 2:57 left.
“I know nobody’s going to believe me, but I actually practice it a lot,” said a grinning Breen, whose goal was the assistant captain’s 17th of the season.
“Jakub and Breen were fantastic tonight,” Barr said. “That’s what you need from your leaders.”
Breen said it was a quality win.
“We kept fighting and kept the lead all night. I was pretty proud of the boys. We stuck with it,” Breen said.
“Our guys blocked a lot of shots and it wasn’t nice at times, but the guys find ways to win. They grind it up,” said Barr, whose team blocked 15 shots on BC’s six blocks.
“Maine came flying out in the first 10 minutes and did a great job of setting the tone. They always had answers for us,” Brown said.
Victor Ostman made 31 saves and also collected one assist for UMaine.
Benson finished with 23 stops.
Carney opened the scoring at 5:15 into the game by smacking a backhander into the top corner from a Reid Pabich feed for his second goal of the season.
Houle made it 2-0 on his ninth at 18:22 when he sneaked behind the defense, took a long pass from Breen and snapped the puck past Benson’s blocker from the right faceoff circle.
In the second half, Antonacci scored his third goal of the season when he took a cross-ice pass from David Breazeale and flicked the puck past Benson from the top of the right faceoff circle.
Gasseau’s seventh goal put the Eagles on the board when he was set up well by Gauthier at the top of the crease and flicked the puck once past Ostman’s glove.
Gauthier scored his 15th with a wrist shot from the top of the left circle that was deflected by a black bear and rolled past Ostman.
Breen had two assists before his goal and BC’s Nesterenko and Gauthier also had a goal and two assists. Breazeale had two assists for UMaine.