ORONO — The University of Maine Black Bears hadn’t allowed a shorthanded goal all season and they picked an inopportune time to allow their first one.
Sophomore right wing Mike Sislo’s shorthanded goal with 6:58 remaining triggered a flurry of three goals in a span of 4:37 to erase a 4-2 deficit and supply the University of New Hampshire with a dramatic 5-4 men’s hockey triumph over the Black Bears Sunday at Alfond Arena.
Senior left wing Greg Collins tied it with 3:59 remaining while the Wildcats enjoyed a two-man advantage and junior right wing Bobby Butler won it with an even-strength goal off a three-on-two just 1:38 later.
UNH, playing without leading scorer James van Riemsdyk and productive freshman defenseman Blake Kessel, who are with the United States team in the World Junior Championships in Ottawa, improved to 9-6-3 overall and 6-4-2 in Hockey East.
UNH has now won the last five meetings with the Black Bears and they have won five straight at Alfond Arena.
Maine, playing without injured senior defenseman and co-captain Simon Danis-Pepin (sprained ankle) fell to 10-7-2 and 5-5-1, respectively. Maine had its winless streak extended to three games (0-2-1).
Maine spotted UNH a 1-0 lead on Phil DeSimone’s power-play goal in the first period before receiving unanswered second-period goals from Will O’Neill (two-man advantage), Jeff Dimmen and Tanner House (power play).
Collins’ power-play goal sliced the lead to 3-2 1:36 into the third period but Matt Duffy answered with Maine’s second five-on-three goal 2:32 later.
Maine went back on the power play with 7:21 left but Josh Van Dyk had his shot blocked by Sislo at the left point. Sislo then skated past Van Dyk to pick up the loose puck and break down the right wing before his wrist shot from the faceoff dot to freshman goalie Scott Darling’s left deflected into the upper short-side corner.
“There was definitely a little sense of urgency [down by two goals] so any time you can get an opportunity like that, you want to take advantage,” said Sislo. “I didn’t see too much [to shoot at]. He’s pretty big and covers a lot of net. I tried to get the shot on net. The puck rolled on me and might of hit something. I didn’t get all of it either.”
“It deflected off a stick,” said Darling. “It was going low glove side and it hit a stick and went high glove side.”
“That was definitely the turning point,” said Butler.
“That showed inexperience on our part,” said Maine coach Tim Whitehead. “Instead of putting the puck in the corner, Josh tried to get it through [Sislo’s] shin pad [and put it on net].”
Maine defensemen Mike Banwell and Dimmen took penalties 1:02 apart to give UNH its two-man advantage and Collins capitalized.
Kevin Kapstad partially fanned on a shot from the point but it trickled down to Peter LeBlanc positioned along the extended goal line to Darling’s left.
“I was looking for a rebound and LeBlanc ended up making a nice soft pass on my stick and I tapped it in,” said Collins, who was just outside the crease.
Maine had a three-on-two but its line of Robby Dee, Chris Hahn and Lem Randall didn’t convert or get the puck deep and UNH transitioned quickly to produce Butler’s game-winner.
Butler carried it down the right wing and beat Darling to the upper short-side corner from the right circle for his team-high fourth career goal against Maine.
“[Darling] went down and left the short side a little open. I found a spot and put it there,” said Butler.
“I challenged him. I didn’t think he had a pass he could make. He made a good shot over my glove,” said Darling who allowed more than three goals in a game for the first time in his career.
“We didn’t stick to our game plan,” said Maine senior defenseman Duffy. “We didn’t get pucks deep and we took penalties that cost us. But they’re good on the power play. They tied it up and got the win and you’ve got to give all the credit to them.”
UNH went 3 for 10 on the power play while Maine went 3 for 8.
DeSimone opened the scoring with a low power-play wrister from the mid-point.
O’Neill tied it 7:41 into the second period with a screened snap shot and Dimmen gave Maine the lead by converting a Kevin Swallow pass with a wrister from the left circle that sailed through junior goalie Brian Foster’s blocker side arm and his body.
House made it 3-1 by directing a pinpoint pass from Gustav Nyquist pass a helpless Foster from the top of the crease.
Collins started the third period by sweeping home a Butler rebound from the middle of the slot but Duffy’s low slap shot through a maze of bodies slipped between Foster’s pads.
Foster finished with 29 saves, including 11 Grade-A (high-percentage) stops, while Darling wound up with 23, including 12 of the Grade-A variety.