ORONO, Maine — It appeared to be a promising goal-scoring opportunity for Boston College.
But a hustling play by Jon Swavely transformed it into a three-on-one for the University of Maine, and freshman Connor Leen capitalized for his first college goal and point with 2:59 left in regulation to break a 4-4 tie and give Maine a 7-4 men’s hockey win over Boston College on Saturday night at Alfond Arena.
Maine completed a sweep of the nationally ranked Eagles — Maine won 4-3 in overtime Friday night — and it marked the first time Maine has won a season series from BC since the 2005-2006 season when Maine won all three meetings with BC.
Maine improved to 12-8-3 overall, 9-7-2 in Hockey East, thanks to its sixth win in its last eight games (6-1-1). BC, ranked third in one poll and fourth in another, fell to 14-10-1 and 10-7-1, respectively. BC is 2-5-1 in its last eight.
On the game-winner, BC had a three-on-two rush and Steven Whitney carried the puck into the Maine zone. He tried to pass it back to a teammate trailing the play but Swavely poked the pass away and Leen pounced on it.
Leen skated down the right side on the three-on-one and, after BC goalie Brian Billett kicked out his shot from the right circle, Leen swatted home the rebound.
“This is the biggest moment of my life so far,” said a grinning Leen. “I was trying to put a shot on net for a rebound and I just happened to get my own rebound and I put it over the goalie’s short side pad.”
“He hit it out of the air,” said Billett, a freshman from Brunswick.
Joey Diamond iced it 53 seconds later with an empty-net goal from 150 feet and Matt Mangene added another empty-netter with 24 seconds left to complete his first collegiate hat trick.
Diamond’s empty-netter came from right along the left-wing boards in the defensive zone.
“I was just trying to get it out of the zone,” said Diamond. “The puck was right on my stick. I had a weird feeling it was going to go in.”
The Black Bears displayed resiliency as the energetic and determined Eagles jumped out to well-deserved 2-0 lead on goals 2:12 apart by Barry Almeida and Johnny Gaudreau.
But the Black Bears equalized with power-play goals 2:46 apart by Diamond and Brian Flynn as Maine extended its streak of consecutive games with at least one power-play goal to 15 (28-for-73).
“To be down 2-0 and to be able to come back is huge,” said Maine senior defenseman and co-captain Will O’Neill. “We didn’t get down on ourselves, we stuck to the game plan and kept grinding it out. We know we can score.”
Mangene scored a pair of second-period goals, the first one on the power play and the second one shorthanded, to give Maine a 4-2 lead but BC received a power-play goal from senior left wing Almeida to pull within 4-3 and Almeida finished off his first college hat trick with a shorthanded goal to tie it 8:36 into the third period.
Maine coach Tim Whitehead said the Mangene shorthanded goal was crucial “because even though BC scored one on us, it allowed us to break even.”
BC received a five-minute power play courtesy of a Mike Cornell hitting-from-behind major but Mangene scored 11 seconds later when he used a burst of speed to beat a defenseman wide, fired a quick wrister and put the rebound past Billett.
“I wanted to get the momentum in our favor early (in the penalty-kill). I shot at his pads at first and chipped the rebound over his shoulder,” said Mangene, who had scored earlier in the period when he parked at the far post and swept a Spencer Abbott cross-ice pass into the open short side.
Almeida closed the gap 35 seconds after Mangene’s shorthander when he took a Whitney pass at the post and nestled the puck inside the far post.
But Maine killed off the rest of the penalty and an ensuing two-minute minor on Diamond.
Almeida’s shorthanded goal was courtesy of a Whitney feed from behind the net as he one-timed a 15-footer past Maine goalie Dan Sullivan.
Almeida opened the scoring at the 2:21 mark of the first period when he converted his own rebound from a tight angle.
Gaudreau tapped in a perfect feed from Tommy Cross.
Diamond cut the lead in half at the 13:01 mark when he was positioned alone in front of goalie Billett and angled his stick so O’Neill’s pass from the midpoint deflected up over Billett’s glove.
Flynn tied it on a two-on-one after a BC rush was stopped in the neutral zone by a linesman’s skate.
Abbott gathered in the puck, broke down the left wing and slid the puck across to Flynn, who redirected it between Billett’s pads.
“Full credit to Maine. They’re a very sound hockey team and their crowd was a real good factor for them,” said BC coach Jerry York who felt his team played well and competed hard.
Sullivan finished with 31 saves, including 15 of the Grade-A (high percentage) variety and Billett made 28 of which 16 were Grade-A’s.