DURHAM, N.H. — University of Maine sophomore right winger Kyle Beattie summed up Saturday night’s demoralizing 5-4 men’s hockey loss to New Hampshire appropriately.
“It’s a sick and twisted game that can be brutal on you,” said Beattie, who scored a pair of goals. “It’s been like this all year. We play so hard and play so well but we just can’t hang on in the last minutes.”
But this game was a little different than the others.
With 37 seconds left in regulation, Maine junior right wing Gustav Nyquist raced on to a loose puck in the neutral zone and had a breakaway.
UNH junior goalie Matt Di Girolamo came charging out at him but Nyquist cut to his left and got around the goalie.
Nyquist was tripped up and was falling to the ice but was also staring at a wide open net.
However, his shot from the middle of the left circle hit the short-side post.
UNH eventually came up the ice and Paul Thompson carried it wide down the left wing.
From a virtually impossible angle to the right of Maine goalie Shawn Sirman, he flipped a backhander toward the front of the net that hit Sirman and trickled into the net with 15.3 seconds remaining to win it.
Thompson explained that he took a pass from Matt Campanale and was going to try to get a shot on net off the rush “but I fumbled the puck and wound up going a little wider (than I wanted to). I just threw the puck on net to see what would happen. I don’t know how it got in. I saw the crowd going nuts and that’s when I knew it was in.”
Sirman took responsibility for the goal.
“I can’t tell you what happened. I thought I had it,” said Sirman. “We played a great game. I’ve got to make big saves at times and I didn’t make them tonight.”
Nyquist, who scored his fourth goal of the weekend series in the first period but missed an open net with a shorthanded opportunity in the second period, preferred not to comment after the game.
UNH won its fourth straight game and improved to 17-5-4 overall, 15-2-2 in Hockey East. The Wildcats, 6-3 winners on Friday night, have now beaten Maine eight straight times at the Whittemore Center.
Maine fell to 11-9-6 and 8-7-4. Maine had its winless streak extended to five games (0-2-3) and the fifth-place Black Bears are now 1-7-2 against the four teams ahead of them in the standings (UNH, Boston College, Boston University and Merrimack).
The game was a microcosm of the last 16 games in which Maine has gone 5-8-3 after a 6-1-3 start.
Maine’s inability to finish its chances, defensive lapses, sub-par goaltending and penchant for allowing late goals proved costly.
“We outplayed them. Everyone turned in a great effort. Everyone was going as hard as they could,” said Maine junior left wing Spencer Abbott, who had two assists. “But, for some reason, we can’t buy a win in close games like this.”
Thompson was sympathetic to the Bears’ plight.
“It was an awesome game,” said Thompson. “It didn’t turn out like Maine would have liked but they played awesome and probably deserved more out of this weekend (than they got).”
John Henrion opened the scoring with a wrister off a faceoff but Nyquist and Beattie gave Maine its first lead of the series as Nyquist backhanded a House rebound past Di Girolamo and Beattie swept a Tanner House pass inside the near post from point-blank range.
Maine had a golden opportunity to extend the lead off a three-on-one but Di Girolamo made a save off Matt Mangene, who was set up by Brian Flynn.
Just a few moments later, with 40 seconds left in the period, Henrion fired a Mike Beck rebound between Sirman’s pads.
Kevin Goumas gave UNH a 3-2 lead with the only goal of the second period after Maine turned the puck over in its own zone. Goumas shoveled a Stevie Moses rebound behind Sirman.
Beattie tied it by snapping home the puck from the middle of the slot after Abbott had a shot blocked.
Mike Borisenok answered 1:31 later when a seemingly harmless floater from the point was dropped by Sirman and Borisenok banged it home.
Will O’Neill tied it with 6:36 left off a four-on-three rush. Jeff Dimmen carried the puck into the offensive zone and fed O’Neill for a close-range wrister past Di Girolamo’s blocker.
Di Girolamo finished with 28 saves, including 12 Grade-A’s (high-percentage). Sirman made 22 stops including 11 Grade-A’s.