In a highly anticipated showdown between two bitter rivals, the University of Maine men’s hockey team tied the University of New Hampshire (UNH) 3-3 in overtime on Friday at Alfond Arena. All of Maine’s points came in the second period, as the Black Bears scored three consecutive goals within five minutes. With a career-high 50 save performance, second-year goaltender Daniel Tirone played lights out for New Hampshire, keeping the Wildcats afloat against a high-pressure Maine offense.
Maine walked away from the matchup with a 4-8-4 record on the season, while being 2-4-1 in Hockey East contests. The tie puts New Hampshire at 4-6-4 overall and 1-1-4 in conference action.
Maine came into the matchup riding a mid-season resurgence, as they had won four straight games, but New Hampshire looked sharper out of the gate.
The Wildcats put the first point on the board 10 minutes into the game. During a power play, second-year forward Andrew Poturalski slid the puck to fourth-year forward Dan Correale, who hit it into the back of the net, giving New Hampshire the 1-0 lead and the only point of the first period.
Though the Black Bears generated pressure in the form of 19 shots on goal in the first 20 minutes, Tirone stood as an impassable force. He stopped all 19 attempts, as the Black Bears could not find a way around him.
In the second period, a holding penalty by Maine set up another New Hampshire power play. With a quick shot into the right corner of the net, Poturalski earned his nation-leading 27th point by notching his 12th goal of the season. The score raised the Wildcats lead to 2-0.
With just under 10 minutes before the second intermission, the Black Bears desperately needed a spark, and they got it in the form of three goals in less than five minutes.
On the Black Bears first score, second-year forward Cedric Lacroix took advantage of a deflection from second-year defenseman Mark Hamilton. Lacroix grabbed the puck and immediately shot, sending in the first puck that found its way past Tirone.
Fourth-year forward Will Merchant grabbed his team-leading sixth goal when he slammed the puck into the top of the net. The play happened so quickly that the puck originally appeared to hit the crossbar, and was ruled a miss by officials. However, during a video review, it was revealed that the puck had bounced off the back pipe and then back out. The play was overturned, tying the game at 2-2.
Using excellent stickhandling skills, third-year forward Brian Morgan grabbed a rebound, weaved past a defenseman, lured Tirone out of the net, and then tipped the puck into the goal. The crowd went wild as the Black Bears took the 3-2 advantage.
Maine’s lead didn’t last long, as the Wildcats found a quick answer. With two minutes remaining in the period, fourth-year forward Kyle Smith struck a rebound that beat fourth-year goaltender Matt Morris. The score tied it 3-3 heading into the final period of regulation.
Though Maine managed to outshoot New Hampshire 15-12 in the third, neither team could find any points. Fatigue plagued both teams as routine passes failed to meet their targets. The clock expired, ending regulation and forcing five final minutes to decide it all.
Each team had a chance to win it in overtime, as both sides took a shot on the goal. For Maine, fourth-year forward Steven Swavely had an opportunity to steal the show with a minute and a half left in the contest. On the play, Swavely spun by a defenseman, and in a last ditch effort, flung the puck towards New Hampshire’s net. With a save by Tirone, the clock expired, preserving the 3-3 tie.
Despite outshooting New Hampshire 53-36 in the matchup, Maine could not capitalize on some key opportunities. Outside of a high-octane, five-minute performance in the second period, the Black Bears found no points. Their power play woes continued as they went 0-1, while the Wildcats went 2-2. Morris finished the game with 33 saves, while Tirone put up 50 in his dominant performance.
UNH drops Maine 5-2
The Black Bears did not fare better at the Whittemore Center, dropping a 5-2 decision on the road.
The Wildcats were bolstered by two goal performances from fourth-year forwards Maxim Gaudreault and Andrew Poturalski. First-year forward Ara Nazarian had the Wildcats other goal on the power play.
Maine had goals from second-year forward Cedric Lacroix and fourth-year forward Steven Swavely.
Goaltending, once again was one of UNH’s strengths, as second-year goaltender Daniel Tirone had another impressive start, stopping 28 shots while allowing two goals.
“He competed again here tonight,” UNH Head Coach Dick Umile said. “Everybody plays off that confidence…He was playing on the aggressive side, and he had to to make the saves.”
The Black Bears started first-year Rob McGovern in net, and he allowed four goals on 28 shots, making 24 saves in the loss.
“[McGovern] played well before he was injured and I wanted to give him a game before we hit the semester break,” Maine Head Coach Red Gendron said on his decision to start the first-year. “I also thought he had an excellent week in practice and that’s why we decided to [start him].”
New Hampshire’s power play was effective again in game two, scoring once on five chances, generating nine shots on goal. Maine was held off the board on the man advantage, going 0-2.
The first period yielded three goals as the Wildcats got out to an early 2-0 lead.
The first goal was scored at the 3:29 mark by Poturalski. After clearing their defensive zone, the UNH top line sliced their way through the Maine defense with some crisp passing by fourth-year forwards Dan Correale and Tyler Kelleher.
Correale eventually found Poturalski in the slot and hit shot beat McGovern five hole to give UNH a 1-0 lead.
The Wildcats would only need seven minutes to add another, when the Black Bears got caught up-ice. Fourth-year forward Kyle Smith found Gaudreault open in the neutral zone, and he skated into the offensive zone uncontested.
Gaudreault unleashed a quick slap shot from the top of the circle that beat McGovern on the blocker side to increase the UNH lead to two.
Lacroix would get the Black Bears on the board at 13:20. After a turnover was forced by the Maine forecheck, first-year forward Daniel Perez found the puck. Perez passed the puck down low to third-year forward Andrew Tegeler, who threw the puck into the slot to Lacroix.
Lacroix did not miss, and tapped the puck past the diving Tirone to cut the UNH lead to 2-1.
After some pushing and shoving at the end of the first, UNH would take the 2-1 lead into the locker room.
Maine controlled the play for the first half of the second period, but the Wildcats were able to get a quick goal to take the momentum back.
The Black Bears got caught up ice, and the UNH defense was able to connect on a stretch pass to Poturalski who fed Kelleher for a quick shot that was saved by McGovern.
The rebound however, was gathered by Gaudreault who tucked it past the goalie to give UNH a 3-1 lead.
“The reason why we gave up so many goals is because we turned the puck over,” Gendron said. “UNH is very good at taking advantage of mistakes their opponents make and we made them, and they took advantage of them.”
A Maine penalty gave way to another potent UNH power play, and they only needed 28 seconds of the man advantage to score their fourth goal of the game.
Smith found some open ice and took a shot that was blocked in front of the net. In the ensuing scramble, the puck slid towards the back post, and was thrown into the net by Nazarian to increase the lead to 4-1.
At the end of a close third period, Maine would pull McGovern in favor of the extra attacker after matching minors sent play to 4-on-4. That’s when Swavely took a lightly contested shot that beat Tirone over the glove shoulder to cut the UNH lead to 4-2.
Maine would pull the goalie again, but this time Poturalski notched the empty net goal to seal the win.
“Obviously this was a big weekend for us. Getting three points under the circumstances with everything going on, the injuries; I think we played one of our better games of the season tonight,” Umile said after the game.
“Horseshoes and hand grenades. We didn’t do it,” Gendron said after the game on his team’s performance. “We lacked energy in the third and there were plenty of chances in the second that we didn’t finish.”
After the weekend, Maine falls to 4-9-4 (2-5-1 Hockey East) and UNH improves to 5-6-4 (2-1-4 Hockey East) after their three point weekend.
Maine will take a couple of weeks off before returning to the ice against New Hampshire for a home-and-home series at the Cross Insurance Arena in Portland on Dec. 29 and the Verizon Wireless Center in Manchester on Dec. 30.