ORONO, Maine — University of Maine junior center and captain Tanner House said he can’t remember ever scoring an overtime goal.
His first one Sunday night is going to provide him with a lasting memory.
House scored 5:10 into overtime to give the Black Bears a 3-2 win over UMass Lowell in the third and deciding game of their Hockey East quarterfinal series at Alfond Arena.
Fourth seed Maine, 18-16-3, will make its first trip to Boston’s TD Banknorth Garden for the semifinals since 2006 where they will take on third seed Boston University, also 18-16-3, in Friday’s 8:00 semifinal.
Top seed Boston College, 23-10-3, and No. 8 Vermont, 17-13-7, will meet in the 5 p.m. semifinal.
“That’s definitely the biggest goal I’ve ever scored,” said House, who was set up by linemate Brian Flynn.
Flynn took a pass from Will O’Neill and went wide down the left wing around a River Hawk defenseman and tried to center it to House only to fan on his first attempt.
Flynn pursued the puck, gathered it off the boards and immediately backhanded a pass to House, who one-timed the puck past UML goalie Carter Hutton into the short-side corner.
“I think [Hutton] thought [Flynn] was going to carry it around the net,” said House. “That gave me some space [short side] and I put it in mid-blocker off the post.”
House said the goal supplied him with a source of redemption.
“I wasn’t happy with the way I played over the first half of the game,” said House, whose line was victimized for UML’s first goal.
Sophomore defenseman Will O’Neill sent the game into overtime by scoring his second goal of the game with 4:48 remaining in regulation,
UMass Lowell junior center Scott Campbell had broken a 1-1 tie 7:42 into the third period with a power play goal.
O’Neill’s game-tying goal was set up by freshman Matt Mangene, who was moved from center to defense to take the place of junior assistant captain Jeff Dimmen, who suffered a leg injury late in Saturday night’s game.
Dimmen, one of the nation’s top goal scorers among defensemen with 12, skated in pregame warmups, but it was determined that he couldn’t play so freshman center Kyle Beattie took his place in the lineup and Mangene moved to defense.
On the tying goal, Mangene took a pass from Gustav Nyquist at the left point and faked a shot before pulling the puck around a diving River Hawk and sliding the puck across to O’Neill.
O’Neill’s one-timer deflected off River Hawk defenseman Nick Schaus’ stick and snuck through the pads of Hutton.
“I just tried to connect with it and shoot it as hard as I could. Matt did a great job faking the shot and passing it over to me,” said O’Neill.
“It was going to be a routine blocker save, but it hit Nick’s stick and changed direction,” said Hutton.
Both teams had great chances to decide it in regulation, but Maine senior goalie Dave Wilson held the short side post to stop a short wrister by Patrick Cey and Hutton came up with a terrific right pad save off O’Neill, who ripped a one-timer from the middle of the slot off a Nyquist feed.
Campbell had given the River Hawks the lead with Nyquist in the penalty box when he was set up beautifully from behind the net by David Vallorani.
The unattended Campbell had virtually an entire open net and swept it home.
UMass Lowell freshman right wing Colin Wright broke a scoreless tie 5:48 into the second period O’Neill equalized on the power play 7:56 later.
The River Hawks pinned Maine in its own end for several seconds with their tencious forechecking and Wright came out of the right corner and beat Wilson with a short backhander through the pads from the low slot.
O’Neill tied it when Nyquist passed it over to him and O’Neill gave a little head fake as if he was going to return the puck to Nyquist before he skated to the middle of the high slot. He snapped a screen shot over Hutton’s blocker.
“I never saw it,” said Hutton.
Hutton was the story in the first period as the senior goaltender kept the dominant Bears off the scoreboard.
Maine outshot UMass Lowell 16-5, but Hutton was razor sharp. He made two alert pad stops off one-timers from the high slot by David deKastrozza, who was set up by Spencer Abbot on both occasions.
Hutton’s best stops came during a Maine power play late in the period.
Abbot’s wrist shot from the top of the right circle was tipped in front requiring the first save and when the rebound spit out to the far post, Hutton scrambled across and smothered a one-timer by Mangene from the base of the left circle.
“I’m so proud of this team,” said Maine coach Tim Whitehead. “They’ve overcome a lot of adversity this week.”
“Matt Mangene was arguably our best defenseman tonight,” added Whitehead.
Senior center Brett Carriere re-injured his knee in Friday night’s 2-1 loss and junior defenseman Mike Banwell discovered he had an infected knee after Friday night’s game. Carriere, who has also played defense in his career at Maine, probably would have been moved back to defense to fill in for the loss of Banwell and Dimmen if he was healthy. With freshman defenseman Nick Pryor out for the season after hip surgery, that left Maine with just five healthy defensemen.
Maine was also without suspended goalie Scott Darling, but Wilson was outstanding, finishing with 26 saves. Hutton wound up with 33.
“The better team won the series,” said Hutton.