BOSTON — Northeastern University senior defensenman Louis Liotti had scored just two career goals in 121 games entering Friday night’s game against the University of Maine.
But Liotti’s second goal of the game, coming with 2:31 left in overtime, gave the Huskies a 3-2 men’s hockey victory over the Black Bears in the 100th career meeting between the two schools.
The irony is Liotti’s game-winner was meant to be a pass.
The teams were skating four-on-four when Mike McLaughlin carried the puck through the neutral zone and fed it over to Liotti streaking down the right wing.
Liotti wristed the puck from a difficult angle outside the right faceoff circle and the puck deflected off Maine defenseman Ryan Hegarty and changed directions, nestling in the upper short side corner over the glove of Maine goalie Scott Darling after glancing off his shoulder..
“I saw [Steve] Silva going to the net and I tried to get it over to him. It hit off their defenseman’s shin pad,” said Liotti.
Northeastern, ranked sixth in the country in one poll and eighth in another, improved to 11-3-2 overall, 8-2-1 in Hockey East.
Maine fell to 7-5-1 and 4-4-1, respectively. Maine has now gone three games without a win (0-2-1) and it was the Bears’ second straight 3-2 setback.
Maine, which had won the last five meetings at Matthews Arena, will travel to North Andover, Mass., for a Sunday afternoon game against the Merrimack College Warriors. Game time is 2 p.m.
NU swept the season series.
Maine, which rallied from a 2-0 deficit, had two glorious chances to win it in the final minute and a half.
Maine freshman right wing Gustav Nyquist set up both opportunities.
Defenseman Jeff Dimmen snuck to the far post and Nyquist feathered a pinpoint pass to him. But Dimmen’s shot toward the half-empty net was deflected by NU defenseman Jim Driscoll.
“That was a great block by Driscoll. That probably would have been a goal,” said NU goalie Brad Thiessen.
Then, with 10 seconds left, Nyquist carried the puck into the NU zone, held it while linemate Tanner House drove to the net and flipped a pass that House re-directed only to have Thiessen make the point-blank save.
“That was a great play by Nyquist. He’s a skillful player,” said Thiessen. “I was going to try to pokecheck the puck but House beat me to it. I was able to squeeze it with my left arm.”
“He made a great save. But I’ve to bury those chances,” said House, who was set up alone in the slot by Nyquist on two occasions in the second period but Thiessen got his glove on House’s knuckler and House missed the net on the next one.
Wade MacLeod’s goal from a wild scramble in front with 1:01 left in the first period staked the Huskies to a 1-0 lead and Liotti expanded the lead 12 seconds into a five-minute major assessed to Maine’s Will O’Neill for hitting from behind.
Liotti worked a give-and-go with Joe Vitale and snapped a wrist shot over Darling’s glove from the left circle.
“We work on that play in practice,” said Liotti.
A penalty on NU’s David Strathmen gave the Bears some breathing room in the middle of the five-minute penalty-kill and the Bears were able to kill off the remaining time.
The Bears climbed back into the game 50 seconds after the O’Neill penalty elapsed when Brian Flynn swept home the rebound of a Keif Orsini slapper from the right point. Thiessen kicked it out but it went to the unattended Flynn who deposited it into the exposed net.
Strathman was assessed a five-minute major for hitting from behind 3:18 later, 23 seconds after NU’s Silva had received a minor for roughing.
The Bears capitalized with the two-man advantage when Matt Duffy ripped a one-timer into the upper short side corner off a pass from Josh Van Dyk.
Thiessen finished with 31 saves, including 24 over the last two periods, while Darling stopped 23 with 10 coming in the first period.
“We played well and we got better as the game went along,” said Maine coach Tim Whitehead. “I thought the two goalies were the best players on the ice. We had our chances to go up 3-2 but we didn’t convert.”
“I thought we let the game go,” said NU coach Greg Cronin. “We were up 2-0 but we took some bad penalties which is something a veteran team shouldn’t do. Maine got back into it and got a lot of juice [from tying it up].”
He said Maine used their momentum to carry the play in the third period “but we were very fortunate to get that lucky goal at the end.”
In addition to their 33-26 edge in shots on goal, Maine attempted 65 shots to NU’s 46.