The latest chapter of the Border Battle unfolded this past weekend at the Whittemore Center, as the University of Maine men’s ice hockey team endured two tough shootout losses at the hands of their archrival, the University of New Hampshire.
Each game counts as a tie per NCAA regulations, however, UNH takes home two extra conference points, as each shootout win awards the winner an extra point in the conference standings.
Coming out of this weekend series, Maine now sits at No. 8 in the Hockey East Association standings with 26 points, just ahead of New Hampshire who have 23 and just behind Boston College who have 27.
Game one of this year’s Border Battle was skated to a 2-2 tie as each squad played hard-nosed hockey until the final whistle. Second-year forward Nolan Renwick started the scoring action for the Black Bears on a power play goal late in the first frame. Fourth-year forward Ben Poisson and first-year defenseman Grayson Arnott were credited with the assists.
Poisson has 16 assists on the season, the most of any Black Bear.
New Hampshire answered with a power play goal of their own not long into the second period, when first-year forward Kristaps Skrastins scored off of assists from fourth-year forward Ryan Black and first-year forward Stiven Sardarian.
The game remained tied up until late in the third period, when fourth-year forward Didrik Henbrandt scored the go-ahead goal. Poisson picked up his second assist of the contest, and first-year defenseman Luke Antonacci was credited with an assist as well.
Unfortunately for UMaine, the wind was not taken out of New Hampshire’s sails after the late goal by the Black Bears. Fourth-year forward and captain Chase Stevenson scored on a deflection with two minutes left in regulation. The goal was reviewed due to the possibility of a high stick, but ultimately stood, tying the game at two goals apiece.
Both sides headed into overtime exhausted and motivated to score. Maine had a splendid chance to put the game away late in the overtime period, but New Hampshire’s fourth-year goaltender David Fessended made an outlandish sprawling glove save across the crease to save the game for the Wildcats.
In the end, the contest ended in a rather anticlimactic 1-0 victory in the shootout for New Hampshire, who once again bested the Black Bears on home ice.
Saturday’s affair was much less eventful. The teams skated to a tense but frustrating 0-0 tie after three periods and overtime, only for another 1-0 shootout victory for the Wildcats. Fans of college hockey have for a long time called into doubt the merit of the shootout, as it decides games in a seemingly arbitrary way compared to the way hockey is traditionally played.
Many fans on social media seemed to share the sentiment that it was a shame to watch such a historic rivalry end twice in a shootout.
As for the games themselves, these two results come as a heat check to a Maine team that had been streaking since December. They look to finish their season strong with two home series against Boston College and the University of Massachusetts.