ST. PAUL, Minn. - The University of Maine men's ice hockey team opened the season with a 3-1 win over Minnesota in the US Hockey Hall of Fame game at the Xcel Energy Center on Friday night. Maine had goals by Josh Soares and Bryan Plaszcz in the first period and Teddy Purcell added an empty net goal in the third. Ben Bishop had 29 saves for the win. Minnesota was ranked second in the USA Today/USA Hockey preseason poll, while Maine was ranked eleventh.
The Black Bears wasted little time in opening the scoring for the season when Matt Duffy (Windham, Maine) fired a shot from the point that was deflected into the net by Josh Soares (Hamilton, Ontario). Michel Léveillé was also credited with an assist on the goal just 21 seconds into the game. Maine had the first power play chance of the game and Léveillé and Keenan Hopson (Prince George, British Columbia) had shots saved by Golden Gopher goalie Jeff Frazee. Minnesota had a power play that began at 9:14, but the Black Bears were able to kill the man-advantage.
Maine took a 2-0 lead in the game when Bryan Plaszcz (Apple Valley, Minn.) put the puck between Frazee and the short-side post. Wes Clark (Oakville, Ontario) and Brent Shepheard (Shawnigan Lake, British Columbia) had assists on the goal at 12:03. The Gophers scored late in the period when Jay Barriball put a rebounded puck behind Ben Bishop (Des Peres, Mo.) for a goal at 18:54. Mike Vannelli had the original shot on the play. Maine had an eleven to five edge on shots in the period.
In the second period, the momentum shifted in favor of the Golden Gophers. On their first power play of the period, Minnesota had four shots on net that were saved by Bishop. With 4:51 remaining in the period, Jay Barriball had a break-away, but Bishop made a tremendous glove save. Maine was able to kill three Minnesota power plays in the period, but were outshot sixteen to three, including nine shots on the power play.
The third period began with an early power play opportunity for the Black Bears, and Teddy Purcell (St. John's, Newfoundland) had a strong chance saved by Frazee. Maine then killed the fifth power play of the game for Minnesota. Minnesota's Jim O'Brien had a couple good chances at the midpoint of the period, but both were saved by Bishop. With six minutes remaining in the game, the Golden Gophers were on the power play for the sixth time, but the Black Bear penalty kill once again stood strong. With 3:19 remaining in the game, Maine had a power play chance but were unable to convert. The Golden Gophers pulled Frazee with 40 seconds left in the game, but Maine responded as Matt Duffy chipped the puck up to Michel Léveillé, who hit Teddy Purcell just over the blue line and took the puck in for the empty net goal. The goal at 26 seconds was the first college goal for Purcell. Maine was outshot in the third period nine to seven.
In goal, Maine's Ben Bishop allowed only one goal and had 29 saves. For Minnesota, Jeff Frazee had two goals against and 18 saves. Maine had eight penalties for sixteen minutes and Minnesota had seven penalties for fourteen minutes. On power plays, Maine was 0-5 and Minnesota was 0-6. For the game, Maine was outshot by the Golden Gophers 30 to 21.
The season opening win marked the tenth straight season that the Black Bears have been unbeaten. Maine is 9-0-1 in openers since the 1997-98 season, including four wins against Minnesota. The goal at 21 seconds was the fastest goal to open a season since Tony Frenette scored 13 seconds into the game against Miami in 1995.
Maine will host Bemidji State next weekend at Alfond Arena for a two-game series. The game Friday night begins at 7:00 pm and will be broadcast by WABI-TV 5. On Saturday, the game will begin at 8:00 pm. For tickets or more information on University of Maine athletics, visit www.GoBlackBears.com or call 581-BEAR.