AMHERST, Mass. — It should have been a win, maybe even a comfortable one.
Instead, for 19 seconds, it appeared as though it was going to be the ugliest of losses.
But the University of Maine Black Bears salvaged a 4-4 overtime tie with the University of Massachusetts on senior center Robby Dee’s goal with 1:45 left in regulation, 19 seconds after Adam Phillips had scored UMass’ fourth straight goal.
The Black Bears had their six-game winning streak snapped and wound up the regular season 17-10-7 overall, 14-8-5 in Hockey East. The fifth-seeded Black Bears will travel to face No. 4 Merrimack College (22-8-4, 16-8-3) in their best-of-three Hockey East quarterfinal series on Friday, Saturday and, if necessary, Sunday at 7:30 p.m.
UMass finished 6-21-6 and 5-16-6, and the tie enabled the youthful Minutemen to earn the eighth seed and a quarterfinal series appearance at top seed Boston College (26-7-1, 20-6-1).
Their tie prevented Providence from leap-frogging them into eighth.
Maine built a 3-0 lead on first-period goals by Gustav Nyquist, Brian Flynn and Will O’Neill.
Rocco Carzo’s second-period goal made it 3-1 and third-period goals 18 seconds apart by Danny Hobbs and Michael Pereira tied it before Phillips gave them the short-lived lead.
“They were desperate. They came out intense in the third period and we didn’t really match their intensity,” said Flynn. “We were pretty sloppy defensively.”
Van Dyk added, “Kudos to them. They played very well. We have to play a full 60 minutes. We weren’t tight defensively like we needed to be. That’s something we have to work on.”
Hobbs scored 5:44 into the third period when he camped at the top of the crease and jammed a Chase Langeraap pass through the pads of Maine goalie Dan Sullivan.
“I thought I had it but I guess I didn’t,” said Sullivan.
Pereira tied it when Flynn lost the puck in the defensive zone, enabling Pereira to break in on a two-on-none and he lifted the puck past Sullivan’s glove.
“(Van Dyk) chipped it up the boards and I tried to pull the puck to the middle but it came off my stick. It was a bad turnover by me,” said Flynn.
“(Pereira’s shot) hit my glove or my arm and went in,” said Sullivan.
Phillips gave Merrimack the lead in a four-on-four when he raced to the far post and swept a pinpoint cross-ice pass from Hobbs past the helpless Sullivan.
But Van Dyk set up Dee nicely at the far post with a diagonal pass for his third assist of the game and his eighth point in the last four games (3 goals, 5 assists).
“I got a loose puck off the boards, spun off a guy and hit Robby Dee with a pass at the back door,” said Van Dyk.
“It was a sweet pass,” said Dee, who had scored the game-winning goal in Friday night’s 4-3 victory, snapping a 13-game goal-less drought. “I just had to tap it in. The goalie (Paul Dainton) didn’t get over in time.”
However, Dainton did preserve the tie with a point-blank pad save off Flynn in the waning seconds of regulation.
“It was a three-on-two and I went to the back door. (Van Dyk) got it to me and it kind of got deflected on the way. The goalie was in pretty good position,” said Flynn.
“It was a read and react play and I was able to get my pad on it,” said Dainton, who mentioned that a motivational pep talk by senior left wing Marc Concannon after the first period was instrumental in their comeback.
Nyquist scored his 17th goal of the season and 10th in his last 10 games to open the scoring at the 3:32 mark, Flynn made it 2-0 at 10:27 with his 50th career goal and sixth in the last seven games and O’Neill made it 3-0 6:26 later, ending a seven-game goal-scoring drought.
Carzo scored his first goal of the season with a nifty individual effort early in the middle period.
Nyquist flipped home a close-range rebound after Dainton made a save off Tanner House’s point-blank redirection off of a Van Dyk pass.
Van Dyk picked up his second assist by sliding the puck from the right-wing boards across to Flynn, whose one-timer beat Dainton to the far corner (blocker-side).
O’Neill finished off a pretty passing sequence as he shoveled a Spencer Abbott pass past a helpless Dainton.
Carzo, who also had two assists, had made it 3-1 by beating a Maine defenseman wide and roofing the puck into the far corner from a tight angle.
Maine outshot UMass 36-30. Sullivan had 11 Grade-A (high-percentage) saves among his 26 and Dainton had 14 among his 32.
“This was huge for us especially considering the consequences,” said UMass coach Don Cahoon.