ORONO, Maine — It was Seniors Night at Alfond Arena on Saturday night and it turned out to be an emotional roller coaster for the University of Maine men’s hockey team’s five seniors.
But, in the end, it was a pair of freshmen who stole the show in overtime as
Danny Perez’s goal off the rebound of a point shot from fellow freshman Rob Michel with 3:11 left gave the Black Bears a wild 3-2 triumph over Merrimack College Saturday night at Alfond Arena.
Maine senior captain Steven Swavely had broken a scoreless tie in the defense-minded game with 11:12 remaining in regulation and junior center Cam Brown made it 2-0 on the power play 5:25 later.
But just when it appeared as though it was going to be a satisfying win in regulation, the lead evaporated as the Warriors stunned the crowd of 4,184 by scoring two goals with goalie Drew Vogler pulled in favor of an extra attacker, giving them four extra-attacker goals over the last five games.
Chris LeBlanc scored with 1:43 remaining and Brett Seney notched the equalizer with just 22 seconds left.
But Maine prevailed in OT as Perez was camped out just beyond the crease when Michel’s 40-foot wrister off a Nolan Vesey pass spilled over to him.
“I was in front trying to blind the goalie and I turned around and found the puck sitting there. I was there at the right time. I shot it and it went five-hole,” said Perez.
“We wanted to send the seniors off on the right foot. I was trying to do whatever I could,” added Perez whose goal was his second of the year and first since Oct. 30.
“It was awesome to see everybody bear down and get us the win,” said senior captain Swavely. “We needed those two points badly.”
The goal snapped Maine’s five-game losing streak and eight-game Alfond Arena winless skein (0-6-2). Maine is now 8-20-6 overall, 5-13-2 in Hockey East, while Merrimack fell to 9-16-7 and 3-10-7.
Swavely had opened the scoring when he backhanded a Will Merchant rebound past Vogler after Merchant had redirected a Conor Riley pass on net.
Brown expanded the lead when he gathered in his own rebound in the right circle, cut to the middle and wristed the puck past Vogler’s blocker. A Riley shot had been saved initially by Vogler before it landed on Brown’s stick.
But LeBlanc made it 2-1 from 10 feet out when Derek Petti passed it out from to him from behind the net and he beat Rob McGovern with a one-timer.
Seney tied it when Maine standout defenseman Dan Renouf elected to try to shoot the puck into the empty net from his own zone rather than chip it off the boards and his attempt landed on the stick of Jared Kolquist just inside the blue line. Kolquist fired the puck right away and Seney deflected his shot shot past McGovern.
Maine outshot Merrimack 33-23.
“I was really happy for our seniors,” said Maine coach Red Gendron. “The team’s effort was outstanding. We played really well.”
“Our guys battled hard, said Merrimack coach Mark Dennehy. “Obviously when you get two extra-attacker goals it shows this team has no quit in it. I would have liked to have gotten a point of out of this for sure. We didn’t shoot the puck enough.”