ORONO — By the late stages of the third period, Alfond Arena was as lifeless as the team fans had come to the building to cheer.

Connor Sodergren’s goal early in the third proved the difference in the face of a fantastic goaltending effort from the University of Maine’s Jeremy Swayman, and UMass Lowell skated away with a 1-0 win in a Hockey East game Saturday night. It was the first home loss of the season for the Black Bears (3-4-1), and the first conference win of the young season for the River Hawks, who had lost to Maine Friday night here.

While UMass Lowell head coach Norm Bazin praised his team’s effort as its best of the year thus far, Maine’s Red Gendron made the polar opposite assessment of his squad.

“The bottom line is we’ve got to be better than this, that’s just how it is,” Gendron said. “We didn’t move the puck, we’d look off simple plays, so we were constantly turning it over. We couldn’t get ourselves into the game like we did (Friday) night.”

Swayman finished with 44 saves, the best player on the ice all night for Maine, including 16 as the backbone of the Black Bears’ 5 for 5 penalty kill. It was of little consolation to the sophomore after Sodergren broke the ice at the 5:32 mark of the final period for the game’s only goal.

The play was briefly reviewed for possible goaltender interference, but the call on the ice stood.

“I was on the rush and I saw traffic going to the net,” Sodergren said. “I don’t know who scored the goal, to be honest with you. I just shot it on net, and luckily it went in.”

“Guys are plowing the net, I’m getting pushed over and the puck’s trickling in,” said Swayman, who has started all eight games for Maine this season. “It’s a questionable call, but it’s out of my hands.”

Things didn’t start any better than they finished for the Black Bears, who had fallen behind by two goals Friday night in the series opener before rallying to a 4-3 win.

Three times inside the first 10 minutes of the opening stanza Maine players were whistled off for minor penalties. In a second period that was a bit better for the home team, small sparks were snuffed out before they could catch fire by untimely penalties.

Senior Tim Doherty was sent free on a breakaway thanks to a stretch pass through the neutral zone from defenseman Keith Muehlbauer, though Doherty’s shot sailed over the net.

Less than 30 seconds after trying to establish that chance as budding momentum, Maine’s Simon Butala took a holding penalty to send Lowell back to the power play.

Even a five-minute major and a game misconduct to River Hawk defenseman Jon McDonald for an open-ice hit on Maine’s Brendan Robbins in the final minute of the second period was neutered when Black Bear captain Chase Pearson took a cross-checking call just 34 seconds later.

Neither Pearson — Maine’s leading scorer — nor Butala saw the ice in the third period.

“Instead of us potentially building momentum, we let them build momentum,” Gendron said. “Unlike (Friday) night, we never really turned it around.

“I was pretty angry with the penalties. That’s why people didn’t play that you would have thought should be playing (in the third period). We’re not going to be just an OK team. We’re going to be championship caliber, or we’re not. And we’re not going to allow behavior that’s not championship caliber, period.”

The Black Bears were marginally better in the final period.

Hernberg made a good post-to-post save on Mitchell Fossier midway through the period to keep Maine off the scoreboard. Hernberg finished his sixth career shutout with Maine pulling Swayman in favor of an extra attacker over the final 1:30.

“That’s the most complete effort of the season thus far for us,” Bazin said. “I thought both goalies were excellent, and I thought it might come down to one goal. I was right.”

Maine, which is off next weekend before a weekend series at Boston University Nov. 16-17, went 0 for 4 on the power play. Three of those were shortened by Black Bear penalties during the man-advantage.

Travis Barrett — 622-5621

[email protected]

Twitter: @TBarrettGWC


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