ORONO — Entering Saturday night’s Hockey East game against Northeastern University, University of Maine junior defenseman Ryan Hegarty had one goal in 64 career games and sophomore center Klas Leidermark had two in 39 contests. Hegarty’s previous goal was an empty-netter against Merrimack on Jan. 9. Leidermark last scored on Jan. 30 in a 4-4 tie at Vermont.
But Hegarty scored the game-winner and Leidermark added an important insurance goal as Maine rallied from a pair of one-goal deficits to triumph 4-2 behind a three-goal third period. Fifth-ranked Maine improved to 6-1-3 overall, 4-0-1 in Hockey East and is unbeaten in its last six games (5-0-1). Maine is also 5-0-1 at the Alfond Arena.
Northeastern lost its fifth straight and fell to 1-7-2 and 1-4-1, respectively.
Tyler McNeely gave NU a deserved 1-0 lead with the only goal in a first period dominated by the tenacious and puck-hungry Huskies. Spencer Abbott tied it in the second period on a five-minute power play courtesy of a Mike McLaughlin contact-to-the head five-minute major and game misconduct. But NU’s Wade MacLeod broke the tie with 1:53 left in the period.
“Everybody is contributing. That’s a big part (of our success),” said freshman goalie Dan Sullivan, who made 17 saves including five Grade-A (high-percentage) stops. “When some of our key guys aren’t putting the puck in the net, we have confidence in everybody else. Somebody is going to put it in. That’s a really big boost for everybody.”
Joey Diamond added, “Everybody has been contributing in our wins. That’s a good feeling.”
Twelve Bears had a goal or an assist.
Diamond started the comeback with his ninth goal in 12 games dating back to last season.
He gathered a loose puck behind the net off a Brian Flynn rebound and was able to outmuscle Northeastern defenseman Randy Guzior and wheel out front where he beat goalie Chris Rawlings with an eight-foot backhander.
“(Mike) Banwell called the play. If we won the faceoff back to him, he was going to take the puck to the middle and give it to (Flynn) near the side boards so (Flynn) could take a shot,” said Diamond. “I got the puck behind the net, protected it and made a quick move. I was lucky enough to get around (Guzior) and jam it five-hole.” That came at the 4:19 mark in a four-on-four situation. Banwell and Flynn assisted.
Hegarty scored the game-winner 2:08 later by following up a scintillating rush by speedy Matt Mangene that produced two in-close Rawlings saves.
“Nine times out of 10, Mangene is going to beat the defenseman wide,” said Hegarty, who had gone 24 games without a goal. “He usually creates a chance and a good rebound. I figured I should follow it up. It squirted out in the slot, I saw (Rawlings) down and I put it up top.”
Mangene and third-line linemate Kyle Beattie had the assists.
Fourth-line center Leidermark’s goal at the 12:22 mark involved linemates Mike Cornell and Mark Anthoine, who created a scramble in the low slot after Rawlings had saved an Anthoine shot.
“I didn’t even see it go in,” said Leidermark, who scored from the middle of the circle to Rawlings’ right. “I kicked the puck to my stick and threw it on net.”
“I lost my goal stick and he put his shot along the ice,” said Rawlings, who played well again with 36 saves including 17 Grade-A’s.
Leidermark had gone 22 games without a goal.
Maine outshot NU 18-4 in the third period and had a 15-1 edge in Grade-A scoring attempts.
Sullivan made an important save with 3:01 remaining when he robbed an unattended MacLeod, who received a diagonal pass from Garrett Vermeersch.
“Thankfully, I got over in time and was able to squeeze it between my arm and my body,” said Sullivan.
Northeastern coach Greg Cronin said McLaughlin’s penalty was pivotal because “it killed our momentum.” He also thought his team got tired and “stopped skating” in the third period and “couldn’t win a faceoff.
“But Maine has a very good team,” said Cronin.
A wide open McNeely opened the scoring at the 7:23 mark with a 20-foot wrister off a MacLeod pass.
Later in the period, Sullivan kept the Bears within one when he scrambled across to get his stick on Steve Silva’s one-timer off a McNeely feed.
Abbott tied it when he intercepted an NU clearing attempt, cut left to right and wristed a screened shot inside the post to Rawlings’ left.
MacLeod replied 13:49 later with a blocker-side wrister from the middle of the slot off a Silva pass.
Sullivan has started the last five games (4-0-1) and has allowed just two goals in each of them.