BOSTON — The University of Maine’s home ice aspirations for the Hockey East quarterfinals took another major hit Friday night.
Freshman left wing Adam Reid’s goal with 1:14 remaining in regulation gave the Northeastern University Huskies a 4-2 win over the Black Bears at Matthews Arena.
Northeastern, fighting for a playoff spot after entering the game in ninth place, moved up to eighth with the win and improved to 12-14-5 overall, 8-12-4 in Hockey East. The Huskies snapped a five-game winless streak (0-3-2).
Maine fell to 18-11-3 and 13-10-2 and is now in a fourth-place tie with Merrimack, which has played one fewer game than the Black Bears.
Maine has now lost to ninth-place UMass and eighth-place Northeastern in consecutive games.
The teams will play again Saturday night at 7.
Maine had the puck in the NU zone and had generated some scoring chances when Kyle Beattie’s ill-advised pass back to the point was poked free by Joseph Manno, who broke in alone on Maine goalie Dan Sullivan.
The puck squirted away from Manno at the last moment but he jabbed at the puck and Sullivan made the save.
The rebound sat just outside the crease and after Matt Mangene slashed the stick of Justin Daniels to prevent Daniels from converting, Reid busted in and swatted it home.
“When I saw Manno on the breakaway, I skated up the ice looking for a rebound,” said Reid. “The goalie made the initial save and Justin got slashed but was able to get a piece of the puck to keep it away from the goalie. Then I swooped in. I don’t think the goalie knew where the puck was.”
Beattie shouldered the blame for the goal.
“It was a horrible play,” said Beattie. “I heard Nick (Pryor) calling for the puck and I made a no-look pass to him. Then I didn’t get back and it was my guy who scored the goal.
“I blew it,” said a somber Beattie.
“It wasn’t one mistake that cost us the game,” said Maine senior defenseman Ryan Hegarty. “We didn’t stick to the game plan. We didn’t get enough pucks to the net,.”
Reid said NU coach Jim Madigan told his team after the second period that this was a playoff game “and we can’t be denied.”
Vinny Saponari added an empty-net power-play goal to ice it after NU goalie Chris Rawlings made a nice left-skate save off Brian Flynn’s deflection.
Rawlings finished with 29 saves while Sullivan made 24.
Northeastern’s Garrett Vermeersch scored the only goal in the first period but Maine’s Flynn tied it 15 seconds into the second period and Spencer Abbott’s shorthanded goal in the midst of a five-minute penalty kill supplied Maine with a 2-1 lead.
Justin Daniels drew the Huskies level at the 14:30 mark by converting off a two-on-one.
The Huskies took a deserved lead at the 10:25 mark of the first period.
Vermeersch and Anthony Bitetto exchanged the puck at the blue line.
Vermeersch quick-stepped from right to left to find a shooting lane and his wrister evaded Sullivan with Steve Quailer screening in front. It appeared to deflect off a Maine stick in front.
Northeastern had much more pressure in the offensive zone and Vermeersch nearly expanded the lead moments later when he corralled a Hegarty turnover in the corner to the right of Sullivan, skated to the net front and took a short wrister that Sullivan saved with his shoulder.
Northeastern had eight Grade-A scoring attempts in the first period to Maine’s four.
Maine’s best chance came early when Mark Nemec slipped the puck to Flynn at the edge of the crease to Rawlings’ right.
The net was exposed but Flynn had his back to the net and was only able to redirect the puck through his legs. Rawlings was able to move across and smother the shot with his right pad.
Flynn scored with a tip-in off a Will O’Neill wrister from the left point.
Joey Diamond passed it to O’Neill and Flynn angled his stick so he was able to deflect O’Neill’s wrister over the blocker of Rawlings.
Abbott’s goal also came on a redirection as he was positioned to the right of Rawlings and directed Diamond’s pass from the high slot over the glove of Rawlings into the short-side corner.
Maine killed the five-minute major to Mike Cornell, who was called for contact-to-the-head penalty. He also received a game misconduct.
Daniels tied it when the Huskies pushed the puck past Nemec at the right point and he broke in down the right wing.
A Maine back-checker was hustling back to tie up the potential pass recipient and Nick Pryor sprawled to try to block a pass so Daniels wristed the puck past Sullivan’s glove into the short-side corner.
Sullivan had dropped early and cheated toward the potential pass recipient leaving the short side exposed.
“(Daniels) made a poised play,” said Maine coach Tim Whitehead.
Madigan called it a closely-contested game “and we got the bounce at the end.”
He has been preaching to his team to take the puck to the net and Manno did just that which created the game-winner.
Whitehead said he figured it would be a one-goal game but turnovers proved costly. He said a turnover led to Daniels’ goal and the Beattie miscue resulted in the game-winner.