It appeared as though the University of Maine’s hockey team was finally going to get its second win of the season, taking a 3-1 lead into the third period of Saturday night’s game against Union College.
But nothing comes easy for the Black Bears.
Union College capitalized on two blunders by UMaine goalie Victor Ostman to tie the game and, after graduate student left wing Keenan Suthers gave UMaine a 4-3 lead with his second goal of the game, the Black Bears had to kill off a five-minute elbowing major assessed to Donavan Houle with 5:32 left in regulation to earn a 4-3 triumph at Alfond Arena.
UMaine will enter the Christmas break with a 2-11-4 record after playing in its 11th game decided by one goal or less.
Union College (N.Y.) is now 5-9-3.
Ostman finished with 27 saves. Connor Murphy made 38 saves for Union.
Chaz Smedsrud’s second goal of the season staked Union to a 1-0 lead but UMaine answered with three unanswered goals by Suthers (2nd), Ben Poisson (3rd) and Nolan Renwick (1st) to take a 3-1 lead into the third period.
Just 1:38 into the third period, Ostman’s pass intended for one of his defensemen landed right on the stick of Caden Villegas and he fired it into the open net for the freshman’s first career goal.
Just 5:44 later, a seemingly harmless wrist shot by Villegas was misplayed by Ostman as it hit him in the shoulder and dropped behind him and Matt Allen tapped it over the goal line for his first of the season.
But Suthers scored the game-winner just 2:03 later as Renwick passed the puck to Dawson Bruneski at the right point and he wristed it toward the net.
“It took a funny bounce and hit their defenseman’s skate and it popped right to me. I didn’t get all of it but I got enough of it to get it across the line,” said the 6-foot-8 Suthers.
“We haven’t gotten many lucky bounces so it was good to be able to capitalize on one,” Suthers added.
The aggressive Black Bears then did an exemplary job on the five-minute penalty kill as the Dutchmen had trouble getting the puck into the offensive zone and setting up.
UMaine coach Ben Barr called it an “ugly” win but said “the guys deserved to win at least one game this weekend. This was another step in building our culture. It was good to see them get what they deserve.”
The teams played to a 1-1 overtime tie on Friday night in which UMaine outshot Union 52-13.
“It was drama all the way to the end,” said senior defenseman Jakub Sirota, who had two assists, rang two shots off the crossbar and was a pivotal figure on the penalty kill.
UMaine had gone 0-4-3 in its past seven games following the 6-5 overtime win over Merrimack on Nov. 12.
Freshman Renwick’s first career goal 2:05 into the second period supplied the Black Bears with their first two-goal lead of the season.
Sirota took a pass from David Breazeale at the right point and stickhandled until he made a nifty spin move to gain separation from a Union forward.
That created some open ice and Renwick backed up to get himself into a shooting lane before taking a perfect pass from Sirota between the face-off circles and firing a one-timer past Connor Murphy’s blocker into the far corner.
Smedsrud began the scoring as he skated across the slot and deflected Ryan Sidorski’s wrister from the midpoint past Ostman on the blocker side.
Villegas had set the play in motion by coming off the wall and slipping the puck back to Sidorski.
Suthers snapped a 12-game goalless drought off a nice pass from Tristan Poissant.
He broke in alone down the left side, used his long reach to pull the puck around Murphy and backhanded it inside the far post.
Poisson snapped a nine-game goal famine and provided UMaine with its first power play goal in eight games.
Lynden Breen threw a pass across from the right circle to the far post to Houle. The puck glanced off Houle’s stick back across to the near post where Poisson stopped it and roofed it before Murphy could get across.