ORONO, Maine — The University of Maine men’s hockey team displayed some resiliency and character Tuesday night.
After spotting the University of New Brunswick a 3-0 lead, the Black Bears scored four unanswered goals, capped by Devin Shore’s 4-on-3 power-play goal 19 seconds into overtime, to earn a 4-3 exhibition victory over the defending Canadian national champion Varsity Reds at Alfond Arena.
Shore, positioned at the base of the right faceoff circle, one-timed a diagonal pass from Brice O’Connor past Joel Vienneau.
“Brice made a nice pass and saw that I had a shooting angle. I put it right along the ice and it went short side,” said Shore.
Ryan Lomberg sent the game into overtime by racing unattended into the slot and chipping a Connor Leen pass past Vienneau’s blocker with 6:07 left.
Thomas Nesbitt scored two first-period goals and Ben Duffey also scored as the Varsity Reds built a 3-0 lead.
But Maine, decisively outplayed in the first period, clawed its way back on goals by Brady Campbell and Stu Higgins in the second period.
However, Higgins suffered a leg or knee injury when he tried to make a quick cut on UNB’s Matt Petgrave and his knee caught Petgrave’s hip.
“I didn’t mean to hurt him,” said Petgrave. “He jumped in the air and I stuck my hip out.”
Dan Sullivan stopped all nine shots he faced after replacing Martin Ouellette in the second period. UNB outshot Maine 26-24.
Campbell scored at the 4:14 mark of the second period when he swooped on the puck after Bill Norman freed it up at the blue line, sliced to the middle of the slot and beat Charlie Lavigne with a screened wrister.
The Varsity Reds gave the Black Bears a two-man advantage and Maine capitalized when Higgins deposited an O’Connor pass into an empty net from the left faceoff circle after a flurry in front.
The Varsity Reds were a step quicker in the first period and won most of the battles for loose pucks as they had the lethargic Black Bears on the back foot for the entire 20 minutes.
Nesbitt opened the scoring 2:46 into the game when the puck took a fortuitous bounce off the boards and he one-timed the puck past Ouellette from the top of the right circle.
Nesbitt expanded the lead 6:16 later when he finished off a textbook triangle passing sequence involving Cam Braes and Nick MacNeil with a one-timer into a half-empty net.
Duffey made it 3-0 when Philippe Maillet lifted Ben Hutton’s stick and stole the puck before snapping the puck across to him. Duffey’s one-timer beat the helpless Ouellette.
Maine coach Red Gendron wasn’t pleased with his team’s first-period performance but said he tried a new forecheck which resulted in tentative play from his team and they also hadn’t skated in two days which contributed to their lethargy.
Gendron said his team focused on team defense in the wake of Saturday night’s 7-2 loss at Boston College but two defensive mistakes led to UNB’s second and third goals.
“But they showed pride and a willingness to work hard after that first period. They stayed in it,” said Gendron, who went back to a more familiar forecheck.
“We didn’t battle and didn’t play with any passion in the first period,’ said Shore. “That (Maine) crest on the front of our jerseys means a lot to us and to our fans. We showed our resiliency.”
He also said UNB was a “really good team” which made this a valuable tune-up before their home-and-home series with the University of New Hampshire this weekend.
Gendron praised Sullivan, saying he made “four or five really good saves” and added that they received important contributions from freshmen Campbell, Brian Morgan and Josh Henke at different stages of the game.
“I thought I played well enough to win,” said Sullivan. “Our team identity is that we handle adversity and we did tonight.”
UNB coach Gardiner MacDougall thought his team played a “tremendous first period” but the “officiating changed the game in the second period” by giving Maine a pair of five-on-threes.
“It was a really fun game,” said UNB winger Philippe Halley. “After we went up 3-0, we thought it was going to be easy. But they came back hard. They’re a good team. They’re very fast and they play very hard.”