DURHAM, N.H. — Three minutes into Saturday night’s hockey game, Maine goaltender Matt Morris was bent in half and staring at the ceiling of the Whittemore Center Arena after being bowled over by a New Hampshire skater.

It was the beginning of a long, bruising and ultimately triumphant night for the Black Bear sophomore. Morris was quick on his skates, quick with his temper, and too thick for the Wildcats, stopping 40 shots in a 4-0 win that silenced the crowd of 6,501.

It gave the Black Bears (10-15-1, 5-7 Hockey East) a weekend sweep of their bitterest rival. It gave Morris his second shutout of the season, although this one was much tougher than his 29-save blanking of Massachusetts on Jan. 10.

“I just wanted to see the puck and make the first save for my teammates,” a low-key Morris said. “I just care about the win. The shutout’s definitely a bonus, but a shutout is a team effort.”

Morris didn’t get much help from his team early on. Playing on an Olympic-sized ice sheet, Maine defenders continually tried to press the Wildcat forwards, resulting in a series of odd-man rushes.

Morris was a wall.

“In the first period, we did have a lot of breakdowns. Mo had our back on those,” Maine defenseman Mark Hamilton said. “I give the credit to him.”

Maine went on the power play 9:25 into the first period and Liam Pecararo scored on a centering pass by Cam Brown. Morris made that 1-0 lead hold up through two busy periods, stopping 28 shots, most from close range. He was stripped of his stick on one sequence and borrowed one from a defenseman while keeping the puck from crossing the line. Frequently he disappeared under a pile of bodies, only to pop up when the whistle finally blew and skate to a corner for a breather.

Morris took a tripping penalty himself in the second period and helped kill it off. Once, New Hampshire forward Dan Correale appeared to have beaten Morris after abruptly wheeling and charging to the net from the extended goal line. That was waved off after officials ruled Correale had clipped Morris with his skate on his way through the crease. It was the lightest blow Morris absorbed all evening.

Said Maine Coach Red Gendron of Morris: “He was seeing the puck. He was getting to his spots. He was getting set. He played great. When he had to battle, when there was some chaos in front of the net, then he let his competitiveness take over. So he made some saves in that way, too.”

In the third period, after Morris killed off yet another penalty – one of four UNH power plays – Maine finally gave him breathing room. Brown and Nolan Vesey scored 21 seconds apart. Steven Swavely finished off the Wildcats (8-14-2, 3-8-1) with his third goal in two nights midway through the period. The fans scrambled to put on their coats and head out. They knew there was no way Morris would lose a four-goal lead.

Late in the game, Morris preserved the shutout, the one he said wasn’t all that important, by sliding to his left and robbing Correale on a one-timer from below the right circle. Correale slammed his stick in frustration. It was a long night for the Wildcats, too.

“Those are the two biggest wins we’ve had this season, so it feels great today,” Hamilton said.

Mark Emmert can be contacted at 791-6424 or:

[email protected]

Twitter: MarkEmmertPPH

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.