ORONO — The University of Maine Black Bears expected a tough battle from a Northeastern University team that had won three of the last four meetings at Alfond Arena.
But the fifth-ranked Black Bears rallied for a hard-fought 4-2 men’s hockey triumph to extend their unbeaten streak to five games (4-0-1). Maine is 5-1-3 overall, 3-0-1 in Hockey East. NU lost its fourth straight and fell to 1-6-2 and 1-3-1.
The teams conclude their series tonight at 7.
Joey Diamond gave Maine its first lead of the game with a power-play goal at the 9:51 mark of the third period, and Gustav Nyquist added an empty-netter.
Maine erased a pair of one-goal deficits to enter the third period tied 2-2.
Rob Dongara’s power-play goal with 2:54 left in the first period came against the run of play as Maine outshot NU 14-4 in the first period.
Jeff Dimmen tied it on the power play 1:33 into the second period, but Mike McLaughlin’s power-play goal regained the lead for Northeastern with 6:48 remaining in the period.
Spencer Abbott drew Maine level 1:30 later with an even-strength goal.
Adam Shemansky set up Diamond’s game-winner.
Shemansky had the puck behind the net to the right of NU goalie Chris Rawlings and appeared as though he was going to continue skating around the net. However, he made a quick near-post pass to Diamond just beyond the top of the crease and Diamond one-timed it home.
“I saw some separation between their defenseman and Joey,” said Shemansky. “(Diamond) gave me a good target, so I thought I’d take a chance. Joey made no mistake. It was a great goal by him.”
Diamond said just seconds earlier, Shermansky had skated around the net and tried to find him with the puck, but it didn’t get through.
“There was a guy guarding me, but he left me to go after (Shemansky). I was open and (Shemansky) gave me a great feather pass and I put it five-hole,” said Diamond.
Rawlings said, “We had talked about how they like to make plays from behind the net. That was a sneaky play that caught us off-guard a little bit. It was a bang-bang play.”
The Huskies had a chance on the power play later in the period and had four shots on goal. Maine freshman goalie Dan Sullivan stopped all four, including a left skate save on a screened backhander from the left circle by Steve Silva.
NU pulled Rawlings in favor of an extra attacker with 51 seconds left, but the Bears were able to protect the net front. Abbott eventually carried the puck to center ice and slid it across to Nyquist, who fired it into the vacated net with 11 seconds left to extend his points streak to 10 games (5 goals, 11 assists).
Sullivan made 17 saves while holding an opponent to just two goals for the fourth straight game. He finished with seven Grade-A (high-percentage) saves among his 17. Rawlings played well in defeat, turning aside 30 shots with 13 being of the Grade-A variety.
Maine controlled play in the first period, but Rawlings came up with seven Grade-A saves, and his mates did a good job limiting Maine’s second-chance opportunities.
Maine had an 11-1 margin in shots on goal until the Huskies went on the power play. Wade MacLeod took a pass from Garrett Vermeersch at the mid-point and took a quick snap shot that Dongara tipped over the glove-side shoulder of Sullivan, who was trying to scramble to his feet after falling in his crease.
Dimmen tied it with his second goal in as many games.
Brian Flynn tried to thread a pass from the left wing boards to Diamond just outside the crease, but the pass deflected off Diamond to Dimmen at the top of the right circle.
Dimmen took a stride and beat Rawlings with a wrist shot to the glove side.
NU, which entered the game with the nation’s sixth worst power play (9.3 percent) among 58 teams, regained the lead when Sullivan spit out a rebound into the slot off Mike Hewkin’s point shot and McLaughlin shoveled it home.
But Abbott answered.
Tanner House carried the puck down the slot and slid it across to Josh Van Dyk for a one-timer from the right circle.
Rawlings made a great toe save and then made another off Van Dyk.
The rebound deflected to Abbott in the middle of the left circle, and he snapped it through a maze of players past Rawlings into the short-side corner.
“I don’t know how it got through,” said Abbott.
“That was unlucky for me,” said Rawlings.
“We did a good job coming back,” said Sullivan. “(Our resiliency) is a great asset. We stuck with it. It wasn’t pretty, but two points is two points. Northeastern has a great hockey team.”
‘”They haven’t allowed more than four goals in a game this season. We had to grind it out,” said Diamond.
NU coach Greg Conin, a former Maine interim head coach and assistant, said Maine is a “very good team.” He said the Bears played with confidence thanks to their experience.
Cronin was pleased with the way his team weathered the early first-period onslaught and took the crowd of 5,173 out of the game with the first goal.
“After we scored that first goal, we relaxed. It was a pretty good game the rest of the way,” said Cronin.
Flynn had two assists for Maine. Abbott and Diamond had an assist apiece to go with their goals.