ORONO, Maine — Things looked grim for the University of Maine men’s hockey team as it trailed Merrimack College 2-0 in the third period with the Warriors going on the power play with 10:45 remaining.
But UMaine junior center Lynden Breen scored a pair of shorthanded goals on that power play to tie it and, after UMaine killed off a five-minute major in the last six minutes of regulation, senior left wing Ben Poisson won the game with 1:24 left in overtime as the Black Bears triumphed 3-2 at the Alfond Arena on Sunday afternoon.
UMaine is now 12-13-2 overall and 6-9-1 in Hockey East while Merrimack fell to 16-12-1 and 11-8-0.
UMaine had been 0-12 when trailing after two periods this season.
Alex Jefferies’ first-period goal and Ryan Leibold’s third-period goal had staked Merrimack to a 2-0 lead.
Breen became just the fifth player in UMaine hockey history to score two shorthanded goals in a game.
“Ben [Poisson] and I are two offensive players so we aren’t just going to ice the puck” during the penalty kill, Breen said. “If we get a chance to go, we’re going to go.”
Breen and Poisson both said they knew the team needed a goal so they were thinking about trying to score.
Breen made it 2-1 with 10:34 left in the game when Poisson and Breen broke down the ice on a two-on-one and Poisson fed it across to Breen at the far post and he directed it into the empty net past Hugo Ollas.
Just 1:04 later, Breen scored on a breakaway off a pass from behind the UMaine net by Grayson Arnott.
“I cheated a little bit,” said Breen, who was 20 feet behind any Warrior. “I saw [Arnott] with the puck behind the net and hoped he was going to clear it. If I didn’t get the pass, I figured I would at least be the first one to get on the puck. But [Arnott] put it right on my tape,” said Breen, who sailed a 15-foot wrist shot past Ollas’ blocker.
Both teams had great chances in the overtime only to have Ollas and UMaine goalie Victor Ostman rob them.
Ostman finished with 30 saves while Ollas finished with 25.
Finally, Breen burst down the ice and broke into the Merrimack zone down the right wing. He passed it to Luke Antonacci at the left point and Antonacci fired a diagonal pass to Poisson at the far post and he tipped it past Ollas from point-blank range.
“I came off the bench late” on a line change, said Poisson. “Their two guys were focused on Breen so no one picked me up.”
Poisson called it an “awesome” win.
“The biggest thing we’ve been preaching this year is our culture and the fact we’re never out of a game,” Poisson said. “To come back down by two with 10 minutes left and having to kill a five-minute major shows the culture we’ve built.”
UMaine head coach Ben Barr said to have his team overcome the adversity it had to endure was good to see.
“We didn’t have our A game for the first period and a half. But our veterans like Breen, Poisson, [Jakub] Sirota and [David[ Brezeale really stepped up. And [Ostman]made some big-time saves,” Barr said.
UMaine’s penalty killers won the game, Merrimack coach Scott Borek said.
“We were too aggressive on the power play. Then, on the five-minute major, we were back on our heels,” Borek said. “We didn’t get it done at the end. They won the most important part of the game.”
The Warriors have now lost three straight games, all in overtime.
Jefferies scored just 1:25 into the game and the score remained 1-0 after two periods.
Jefferies received a pass from Matt Copponi in the low slot and his 20-foot one-timer beat Ostman to his glove side inside the near post.
The Warriors carried the play in the first period and did an exceptional job breaking the puck out of the defensive zone, preventing the Black Bears from establishing a forecheck.
But UMaine did generate some good chances while shorthanded.
Ollas got a piece of his glove on Thomas Freel’s shorthanded blast from the high slot and then stopped Freel’s backhander off his partial breakaway on the same shift.
UMaine had some second-period opportunities on the power play but Ollas made a terrific glove save off Sirota, who was set up for a one-timer from the inner half of right circle by Nolan Renwick.
He also kicked out his right pad to thwart Donavan Houle from the left circle.
UMaine had its best chance of the game when Didrik Henbrant came out of the penalty box and went in alone on Ollas, only to have the goalie stick out his left pad and make the save.
Leibold extended the lead with a one-timer off a two-on-one with Jordan Seyfert, who slid the puck across to him.
UMaine next travels to Boston College for a Friday night game at 7 p.m. while Merrimack hosts Boston University on Friday, also at 7 p.m.