ORONO — Before many of the 5,350 fans at Alfond Arena took their seats for Saturday night’s Hockey East game between the University of Maine Black Bears and the Boston University Terriers, Maine had already taken a 1-0 lead.
Unfortunately for the Black Bear faithful, that was the only goal their team would score.
Junior defenseman Will O’Neill scored on Maine’s first shot 21 seconds into the game but BU junior goalie Kieran Millan stopped the next 41 as the Terriers earned a 1-1 overtime tie to take three out of a possible four points from the series.
BU overcame a 3-1 deficit to win Friday night’s game 4-3.
“It’s a feather in our caps to get a win and a tie up here but it’s more of a feather in the cap of Kieran Millan,” said BU coach Jack Parker.
Millan, who is BU’s career leader in wins over Maine with seven, wasn’t as severely tested as he was on Friday night when he made 22 Grade-A (high-percentage) stops among his 34.
He was forced to make just six Grade-A saves on Saturday night.
But the aggravating part for the Black Bears was they held BU to just three Grade-A shots on goal with an impressive display of smothering team defense.
Freshman goalie Martin Ouellette had to make only two Grade-A saves among his 19 although his glove save off Chris Connolly’s wrister during a two-on-one with Joe Pereira late in the third period preserved the tie.
The duo had combined for BU’s goal while the Terriers were shorthanded at the 7:00 mark of the first period with Connolly feeding Pereira on a two-on-oh.
It was the eighth shorthanded goal allowed by the Bears this season and three of them have turned potential wins into ties.
Maine is now 11-7-6 overall, 8-5-4 in Hockey East while BU is 12-7-7 and 9-5-5, respectively.
“It’s frustrating but if we keep playing like that, we’ll be fine,” said O’Neill, who opened the scoring with a screened slap shot from the left point after Brian Flynn rimmed it around the boards to him. “I had a lot of time (to tee up my shot).”
Pereira tied it 6:39 later with BU’s first shot.
Maine’s Spencer Abbott tried to make an ill-advised no-look point-to-point pass to O’Neill that was poked free into the neutral zone by Connolly, who chased the puck down and broke in alone on Ouellette.
“They like to use their points on the power play and I got my stick on it,” said Connolly. “I thought I was alone but I looked over and saw Joe.”
“I knew (Ouellette) was sliding over so I just tried to get my shot off quick,” said Pereira.
“I read the pass and got a piece of my glove and arm on it. But it rolled in off my leg,” said Ouellette.
The goal was reviewed because the net came off its moorings but it was ruled that the puck crossed the goal line before it came off.
Maine limited BU to a season-low two shots in the first period while generating 20 of its own.
BU received a five-minute power play in the second period when Maine defenseman Mark Nemec was assessed a major penalty for a contact-to-the-head, high-sticking infraction. That became a two-man advantage for 1:58 when Tanner House was called for a hooking.
But the Bears did a tremendous job killing off the penalties thanks to the work turned in by defensemen Mike Banwell and Ryan Hegarty.
Maine’s Mark Anthoine nearly put the Bears ahead in the second period when the puck deflected off the back boards to him and he flipped a wrister on which Millan came up with a miraculous backhanded glove save.
“These boards and glass are terrible,” said Millan. “Shots hit them and sometimes bounce in front. I was kind of lackadaisical and then I saw (Anthoine) chip it. I stuck my glove out and it landed in it.”
Maine had a pair of five-on-threes spanning 27 and 28 seconds in the third period and BU turned in some quality penalty-killing.
Flynn hit the underside of the cross bar on one power play.
Ouellete made his great glove save off Connolly with 4:48 left in regulation.
“I knew he (Pereira) had to pass so I moved over and caught (Connolly’s shot),” said Ouellette.
“I didn’t get much on it but (Ouellette) was in great position,” said Connolly.
Maine’s Josh Van Dyk had a glittering chance to win it from the right circle with three seconds left in overtime but he fanned on a pinpoint diagonal pass from Matt Mangene with half of the net exposed.
Maine coach Tim Whitehead said he was “really proud” of his team’s performance and “very impressed” with Ouellette’s play.
“He didn’t see a lot of shots and those can be tough games for goalies. But he handled it extremely well,” Whitehead said.