BOSTON, MA – The University of Maine (11-6-5) was a mere two minutes away from earning their 12th win of the season, as well as sweeping the season series against Northeastern University (7-10-5) on Saturday, but Wade MacLeod’s goal for the Huskies in the final two minutes, forced overtime and a 3-3 tie, but also, an important Hockey East conference point.
“It was exciting (tonight). The crowd was good tonight, which is nice because it kind of disappeared for a while, but we’re back and it was pretty good momentum. I just turned and saw the puck went in off (a teammates) leg and I was pretty excited,” said MacLeod.
“It was a hard fought game,” said Northeastern Huskies assistant coach Albie O’Connell explained in his post-game press conference.
After the opening face-off, both teams exhibited their physical play and combined for five first period penalties, which neither team was able to capitalize on during their various power plays.
Maine finished the first period with only nine shots on Huskies goaltender Chris Rawlings (34 saves), but the sophomore continued his “shut-out” play from his past few previous contests and helped the Huskies defense deny any possible goal scoring opportunities, which could have given the Black Bears momentum and possibly the game.
“It looked like both teams were kind of feeling each other out in the first (period). It was really kind of a sleepy period, there was not a lot going on,” said O’Connell.
Northeastern began the second period with more energy and watched Anthony Bitetto beat Maine’s goaltender, Shawn Sirman, (19 saves) to score the first goal of a the game and the excitement would continue nearly 55-seconds later when Mike McLaughlin added another goal, which gave the Huskies a commanding 2-0 lead.
“(After Northeastern got two goals) I think that really put our backs against the wall. We definitely played with a lot of urgency from that point on,” said Maine’s head coach Tim Whitehead.
Yet, the Huskies then committed multiple penalties throughout the remainder of the second period, which gave the Black Bears a great opportunity to rally and score their first goal on the power play. Junior forward Gustav Nyquist connected with Brian Flynn, who not only scored Maine’s first goal, but also recorded his 13th of the season. Spencer Abbott would record his 13th goal too, when he added Maine’s second goal, which set up a critical third period.
“We had pretty good control of the game (during the second period), we were up two goals and then they scored two power plays (and) got back in the game,” said O’Connell.
Maine and Northeastern skated to five minutes of scoreless hockey to begin the final period, but Black Bears center Tanner House, would break the tie to score what appeared to be the deciding goal. Although, House’s 11th goal on the season proved not to be the game winner because the Huskies rallied to tie the game at 2:36 when Wade MacLeod pushed the puck passed Maine’s goaltender, Shawn Sirman, which forced overtime.
“It was a hard fought game and we had our chances obviously to finish it off in overtime, but (the Huskies) battled and blocked a lot of shots and made some great plays around their net. It was hard fought and we just got one point, but perhaps it’s certainly better than none,” said Whitehead after the game.
With the tie, Maine remains in fourth place in the Hockey East standings and Northeastern continues to reside in sixth place.