The University of Maine men’s hockey team notched its first road win of the season Friday night and the Black Bears may have been the beneficiaries of some good fortune to do so.
The University of Notre Dame appeared to have scored the tying goal with 26.4 seconds remaining but the referees overturned the call based on video review and the Black Bears hung on for a 2-1 victory at the sold-out Compton Family Ice Arena in South Bend, Ind.
Notre Dame’s Jeff Costello scored an extra-attacker goal with 1:23 remaining to pull Notre Dame with 2-1 and it appeared as though he was going to force overtime when he jammed a rebound through Maine goalie Martin Ouellette only to have the goal nullified.
Maine coach Red Gendron said he thought the referees told him it was disallowed because Ouellette had the puck covered and was he shoved into the net with the puck.
But he also admitted he wasn’t really clued in to their explanation.
“It went our way and I didn’t care why,” said Gendron. “It looked to me like Marty got pushed into the net but I couldn’t see where the puck was.”
“I had the puck covered between my pads and two or three of their guys pushed me into the net. There wasn’t much I could do. I didn’t think it was a good goal. I was hoping it was overturned but you never know,” said Ouellette.
Maine is now 13-9-3 overall and 7-4-2 in Hockey East while Notre Dame fell to 15-12-1 and 4-9-1, respectively.
Maine is now 1-8-2 on the road while Notre Dame is 12-5-1 at home.
The two teams will conclude their series Saturday at 8 p.m.
Maine junior left wing Connor Leen snapped a nine-game goalless drought just 59 seconds into the game and sophomore center Steven Swavely, in his first game back after missing four games with a knee injury, extended the lead with 6:39 left in the third period.
Leen’s goal was his fourth of the season and Swavely picked up his eighth.
Ouellette was immense between the pipes, finishing with 36 saves.
Steven Summerhays wound up with 29 stops for Notre Dame.
Leen opened the scoring with Cam Brown and Josh Henke picking up the assists.
Brown bumped Notre Dame’s Shayne Taker behind the net to pry the puck free and Henke skated on to it before finding the unattended Leen in the middle of the slot.
Leen took a stride and beat Summerhays to the glove side from 20 feet out.
The Black Bears nearly expanded the lead later in the period when Jon Swavely won the puck behind the net and fed Will Merchant in virtually the same spot as Leen.
But Merchant’s one-timer rang off the far post.
Notre Dame nearly tied it late in the period but Ouellette came up with a number of good saves in a flurry during an Irish power play.
Notre Dame generated a number of quality chances in the second period but again Ouellette was stellar to keep his team ahead. He robbed an unattended Austin Wuthrich with his glove, snaring the 18-foot wrister from the left circle.
Ouellette came up with a gem near the end of the period as Mike Voran had an open lane down the left wing only to be turned away by Ouellette, who slid over to hold the short side post.
Ouellette had to be sharp again in the third period as the Irish pressed for the equalizer.
But Swavely scored what proved to be the game-winner against the run of play.
Ben Hutton fed Brice O’Connor at the right point and O’Connor faked a slap shot and wristed the puck toward the net where it was deflected downward by Swavely and it bounced past Summerhays.
“That was a big time play by our captain (O’Connor),” said Gendron.
The Black Bears did a credible job protecting the lead until the Irish pulled Summerhays and pulled within one when a Vince Hinostroza shot created a wild scramble in front and Costello poked the rebound past Ouellette for his ninth of the season..
But the potential tying goal was waved off less than a minute later.
“It feels great,” said Ouellette. “I saw the puck well tonight. The guys did a great job in front of me clearing rebounds and moving guys out of the way so I could see the puck.
“Getting that first goal was huge. It was a big momentum swing for us. It was a great way to start the game,” said Ouellette.
Maine had never had a lead in its previous five road games.
“It certainly helps to play from in front especially against a team that is exceptional defensively,” said Gendron. “That certainly makes things easier. We played with a sense of confidence.
“These are two huge points. Our kids know they can win on the road now and this is as hard a place to win as it is in Boston,” Gendron added. “Our guys did what they always do: battle, scratch and claw. They got it done. We had our moments when we didn’t play so well but Marty was huge.”