ORONO — Mark Nemec was understandably somber.
The University of Maine men’s hockey team’s senior defenseman and tri-captain had just seen his team overcome a three-goal, third-period deficit to force overtime against No. 13 Boston University only to lose it 5-4 with 3.8 seconds left in overtime when his dump-in hit a stanchion and took a bad bounce which launched a 2-on-0 rush resulting in Matt Nieto’s game-winner.
“It definitely hurts,” said Nemec. “We’re down three goals, we come back to tie it, all of our fans are pushing us on and it was just that one break off the stanchion (that decided it). We had all the momentum. We really wanted those points. It’s very frustrating.”
It was just the third time this season Maine had scored more than two goals in a period.
“I’m proud of our players. I don’t think too many people thought we were going to come back,” said Maine coach Tim Whitehead. “This game is a lot like life. Sometimes, it takes some weird turns. You’ve just got to get back up and keep fighting and that’s what we’ll do.:”
Nemec was carrying the puck up the ice leading a last-ditch rush and he tried to flip the puck around the boards behind the BU net.
Instead, it hit a stanchion and landed right on the stick of BU’s Danny O’Regan.
Maine’s players got trapped because they were heading to the BU net and O’Regan made a smart pass up to Evan Rodrigues on the right side with Nieto busting down the left wing.
“I looked up and there were only eight seconds left. I was scared we were going to run out of time,” said Nieto. “Evan made a great (shot) fake, the goalie (Martin Ouellette) went down and Evan slid it right over to me. I just had to tap it in.”
“I thought (Rodrigues) was going to shoot. But (Nieto) went back door and ( Rodrigues) made a nice tape-to-tape pass,” said Ouellette.
“It’s heartbreaking,” said Maine freshman center Steven Swavely who tied the game with 39 seconds left in regulation.
BU is now 14-12-2 overall, 11-7-2 in Hockey East while Maine fell to 8-16-6 and 4-11-6.
BU is 8-1- 3 in its last 12 games at Alfond Arena. Maine fell to 1-9-5 at home this season.
Second-period goals 7:19 apart by O’Regan (power play), Cason Hohmann and Matt Grzelcyk cancelled out Ryan Lomberg’s first-period goal and gave the Terriers a 3-1 lead before O’Regan’s second power-play goal 1:03 into the third period off a great cross-crease feed from Ahti Oksanen made it 4-1.
But Joey Diamond’s four-on-four goal and Devin Shore’s shorthanded goal set the stage for Swavely’s dramatic tying goal..
Diamond began the comeback at the 3:59 mark when Shore’s pass was deflected back across the grain to him by Ben Hutton. Diamond easily tapped it into the exposed net for his team-high 12th goal of the season and 99th career point.
Shore made it 4-3 4:36 later off the rebound of a Conor Riley shot. Riley burst down the left wing and took an tight-angled shot on goalie Sean Maguire. Maguire made the first save, Riley swatted the rebound on him and the puck dropped into the crease where Shore spotted it and shoved it home.
Maine tied it with Ouellette on the bench in favor of the extra attacker.
Shore won a faceoff to Jake Rutt and Rutt’s low slap-pass was deflected past Maguire by Swavely.
Lomberg staked Maine to a 1-0 lead in the first period with Maine’s fourth power-play goal in its ninth chance during the weekend series.
He jammed home a Diamond rebound from the top of the crease.
But O’Regan tied it at the 11:50 mark of the middle period when he tracked down a loose puck in the low slot and lifted a backhander into the short-side corner.Oksanen, who scored the tying goal in Friday night’s 3-3 deadlock, had the initial shot from the right point but it hit a body in front and deflected across to O’Regan.
Hohmann scored a scintillating goal 3:48 later when he took a Wade Megan pass, skated down the left wing with Maine defenseman Kyle Williams draped all over him and freed his stick enough to flip a 10-footer past Ouellette.
Grzelcyk scored with a wrister from the top of the left circle that beat Ouellette cleanly to the glove side.
“I should have had that one,” said Ouellette.
Maine attempted 80 shots to BU’s 50 and finished with a 44-34 edge in shots on goal including an 18-8 advantage in the first period.
Maguire finished with 19 Grade-A (high-percentage) saves among his 40 while Ouellette wound up with 16 Grade-A’s among his 29 stops.
BU coach Jack Parker said the crowd of 4 594 and the New England Sports Network viewers got their money’s worth.
“It was a fabulous game,” said Parker.