CANTON Competing against the University of Maine seems to bring out the best in Matt Weninger.
Weninger, a senior goaltender, made 25 saves and junior Patrick Doherty scored the game-winning goal to help spark St. Lawrence past the Black Bears, 3-1, before a turnout of 2,350 at Appleton Arena in the season opener for both teams.
After allowing a goal barely two minutes into the second period, Weninger shut down Maine the rest of the way, including stopping all eight shots in the final 20 minutes.
Matt made some huge saves for us when we needed them down the stretch, St. Lawrence coach Greg Carvel said. He wasnt tested a lot, but he played well when they did.
With Weninger in goal, the Saints (1-0) have won all three meetings against the Black Bears (0-1) dating back early last season when they won two games at Maine. In all, Weninger has stopped 91 of 93 shots.
But more importantly to Weninger, St. Lawrence generated a strong effort in its 2013-14 campaign opener.
It was a good start, Weninger said. Its really something to build off. I think both teams are in the same situation as far as seeing what they had with so many new bodies. But to get this first one out of the way is a good feeling.
In a season which their success will depend greatly on the Saints leadership as well as a group of 11 incoming players, including 10 freshmen, they also received a goal each from newcomers Gavin Bayreuther and Brian Ward.
Our freshmen look like theyre going to be able to fill those holes that we hope they could right away, Carvel said. In order for us to be successful we need these freshmen to play right away. They did a good job tonight.
Its a great start, its exactly what we were looking for, Doherty said. We were able to roll four lines, which is going to be key for us this year with everyone contributing.
After Bayreuther opened the scoring in the first period to stake the Saints to a 1-0 lead, Blaine Byron drew Maine even 1 minute, 48 seconds into the second period. He one-timed a feed from Brian Morgan past Weninger from in close.
St. Lawrence responded 52 seconds later as Doherty cruised down the middle, chipped the puck past a defender and lifted a shot over goalie Martin Ouellettes blocker for the go-ahead goal.
Were going to win games when we respond like that, Weninger said.
We played hard, but we didnt play enough to win, said Dennis Red Gendron, who made his debut as Maine head coach. St. Lawrence deserved to win and its no more complicated than that.
After Weninger robbed Maines Ryan Lomberg with a glove save with 8:35 left in the middle period, Ward finished off a 2-on-1 break with freshman Woody Hudson, who crashed the net and Ward tipped in the rebound at 13:14.
I felt a lot more comfortable out there tonight since the preseason game, said Ward, a sophomore transfer from Dartmouth. The pace (in juniors) is pretty similar to this pace, so it wasnt really too much of an adjustment.
Weninger was again clutch in the third period as, after foiling an attempt in close by Lomberg early in the third period, he snared the puck with a glove save to deny Mark Anthoines breakaway bid with 12 minutes remaining.
Matt played great, he picked up where he left off last year, Doherty said of Weninger. He was one of our best players last year, and he won us a lot of games. ... Tonight, he wasnt too flashy, but that means hes playing well for us.
Bayreuther, a freshman defenseman, opened the scoring 13:07 into the game with a blast from the top of the right faceoff circle, with Greg Carey assisting.
I felt good, its a big change the guys out there are bigger and stronger at this level, Bayreuther said. I thought I played a simple game, which I think helps.
Carvel added: Our puck management wasnt great, but we played hard. And its nice to see that we can win without our first line scoring thats a good sign for the team.
The two teams will square off again at 7 tonight as part of St. Lawrences homecoming weekend.
nNOTES: Freshman center Matt Carey, younger brother of Greg Carey, made his regular-season debut with the Saints by centering the first line with brother Greg and Jeremy Wick on the wings. The younger Carey finished with four shots and a plus-one rating. Daniel Laperriere , a Hobey Baker award finalist and an All-American for the Saints in 1992, will be inducted into St. Lawrences Athletic Hall of Fame today. Massena native Conor Riley, a sophomore defenseman for Maine, finished with one shot on goal and registered a minus-one.