ORONO, Maine — University of Maine junior right wing Brendan Robbins scored an unconventional hat trick on an even-strength goal, a penalty shot and a shorthanded tally but it took a goal 20 seconds into overtime by sophomore right wing Patrick Shea to beat Merrimack 4-3 on Friday night at Alfond Arena.
Shea was setting a screen in front of the Merrimack net and Patrick Holway snapped wrist shot from the right point that deflected off Shea’s stick past Merrimack junior goalie Craig Pantano to extend UMaine’s unbeaten streak to six games (4-0-2).
UMaine improved to 15-9-4 overall, 9-6-3 in Hockey East.
Merrimack’s fifth straight loss dropped the Warriors’ record to 7-16-4 and 4-12-2. It was the Warriors’ third straight one-goal loss and second OT setback in a row.
The teams will play again Saturday at 7 p.m.
Merrimack’s Ludvig Larsson had forced the overtime by scoring off a Marc Biega rebound with 1:19 left in regulation and Pantano on the bench in favor of the extra attacker.
In the overtime, Nolan Vesey burst down the left wing and carried the puck behind the net before slipping the puck to the open Holway at the right point.
“Nolan used his real good speed and their forward got sucked down (low instead of covering me). So I just tried to get a shot on net. Patrick Shea was screening,” said Holway.
“We just haven’t been able to get a bounce all year,” said Merrimack coach Mark Dennehy. “It was a seeing-eye goal.”
“It was a big win for us,” said UMaine coach Red Gendron. “We could have played an awful lot better. Our defensive zone coverage left a lot to be desired. And we didn’t shoot enough.
“It was an unbelievable performance by Brendan Robbins and we were able to make a big play at the end,” Gendron added.
Robbins’ hat trick was the first of his UMaine career and gave him a team-leading 10 goals on the season.
Robbins said he can’t remember when he had his last hat trick.
“Mites (ages 8 and under),” quipped Gendron.
“Maybe squirts (9-10 year-olds),” said a smiling Robbins who added that it “felt good to get the win.”
UMaine had three one-goal leads but the resilient Warriors battled back.
Larsson forged the last tie when he was positioned behind a Black Bear at the bottom of the left faceoff circle and Biega’s shot from the left point rebounded to him off UMaine freshman goalie Jeremy Swayman’s stick.
Larsson reacted quickly and wristed a 12-footer into the half-empty net.
Merrimack outshot UMaine 39-28 including a 30-16 edge over the final two periods and the OT.
Swayman finished with 36 saves while Pantano made 24 stops.
Biega and Brett Seney had erased one-goal deficits in the second period for Merrimack.
But Robbins’ shorthanded goal with 3:08 left in the second period snapped a 2-2 tie and came off a two-on-one with Chase Pearson.
Robbins carried the puck down the right wing and the Merrimack defenseman moved over to cover Pearson so Robbins sailed a wrist shot past Pantano from the right faceoff dot.
“(Gendron) always says unless you can make a pass across for a tap-in goal, take the shot,” said Robbins. “I saw an opening over his shoulder (short side-glove side).”
Robbins had opened the scoring with 1:28 left in the first period.
UMaine created a three-on-one in the neutral zone and Emil Westerlund threaded the needle with a diagonal pass to the unattended Robbins, who directed it past Pantano from the edge of the crease.
Biega tied it 1:08 into the second period from a tight angle to Swayman’s right.
Swayman fell backwards and was laying on his back when Biega capitalized with a wrister from the bottom of the left circle.
Just 1:56 later, Robbins used his speed to break in alone on Pantano only to get hooked by Seney just as he was about to shoot.
UMaine was awarded a penalty shot and Robbins converted as he made a couple of fakes before pulling the puck to his backhand and flipping it past Pantano’s blocker.
“Our goalie coach (Alfie Michaud) said (Pantano) played back in his crease so I came in and went forehand to backhand,” said Robbins.
Merrimack stayed on the power play and after Seney and Brady Keeper got tangled up.
Keeper gave Seney an ill-advised shove to the head in the neutral zone, was whistled for interference and Seney capitalized on the two-man advantage by skating between the faceoff circle and sailing a well-placed wrister past the screened Swayman’s glove.
Merrimack carried the play for a large portion of the period but Swayman made several important saves to keep the score tied.
He robbed Patrick Kramer, who beat a UMaine defenseman wide and sliced across the top of the crease. Swayman also smothered a pair of follow-up attempts.
Just moments later, he stoned Cole McBride, who was set up for a one-timer from the slot by Larsson.
The Black Bears had a slight edge in play in the first period although high-percentage scoring chances were scarce as both teams limited the opponents’ time and space with the puck.
The Black Bears forced the action in the early going but the Warriors went on the power play and generated a couple of opportunities while also gaining some momentum.
Jared Kolquist was set up nicely by Brett Seney in the high slot but Swayman came up with a solid save off Kolquist’s one-timer.
Moments after the penalty ended, UMaine’s Patrick Shea nearly broke the deadlock but his deflected shot fluttered onto the top of the net after Pantano took a swipe at it.
UMaine had a pair of power play chances later in the period but didn’t generate much and Swayman came up with his best stop of the period with four minutes left as he flashed out his left pad and kicked out Sami Tevernier’s 20-foot one-timer from the inner half of the right circle.
“We played pretty well,” said Dennehy. “But we gave up a shorthanded goal and we hadn’t given one up all year and another one was basically shorthanded,” he said, referring to the penalty shot goal.