Paul Kariya poses with the Hobey Baker Memorial Award that he won in helping the University of Maine capture the 1993 NCAA hockey national championship in 1993. Credit: University of Maine athletics

It was April 3, 1993.

The University of Maine men’s hockey team was playing in its first NCAA championship game against Lake Superior State at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee.

The Black Bears had been to three previous Frozen Fours [1988, ’89 and ’91] but had been eliminated in the semifinals.

This time, a late third-period goal by Cal Ingraham and an overtime winner off the stick of the late Lee Saunders rallied UMaine past Michigan 4-3 in the semifinals.

The Black Bears then capped a remarkable 42-1-2 season with a 5-4 come-from-behind victory over Lake Superior State for the first of their two national titles.

Credit: University of Maine athletics

“The rink itself and the magnitude of the game is one of the first things that comes to mind,” said Mike Latendresse, who was a sophomore left wing on that 1993 team. “We were confident in our abilities. We had some great leadership from [head] coach [Shawn] Walsh to [assistants] Grant [Standbrook] and Red [Gendron].”

In the final, the Black Bears again found themselves trailing.

After jumping out to a 2-0 lead on goals by Patrice Tardif and Chris Ferraro, Mike Bachusz’s goal late in the first period and second-period tallies by Clayton Beddoes, John Hendry and Wayne Strachan gave the Lakers with a 4-2 lead entering the third period.

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The Black Bears were not to be denied.

Two critical things happened between the second and third periods that laid the groundwork for a three-goal, third-period comeback.

First, captain Jim Montgomery gave the team a memorable pep talk during which he told his teammates there was no doubt in his mind they were going to come back and win the game.

“He was a phenomenal leader and he still is,” Latendresse said. “He gave us what we needed heading into the third period. Leadership is a crucial part of a team. You can have great coaches but if you don’t have leadership in the locker room, there is a gap there. Jimmy was a really strong communicator.”

Secondly, head coach Shawn Walsh and his staff decided to change goalies, replacing Mike Dunham with Garth Snow. Snow had terrific puck skills and was like having a third defenseman.

Credit: University of Maine athletics

Walsh and his staff believed Snow could significantly reduce the amount of time the hardworking Lakers could spend on the forecheck in UMaine’s zone by shooting the puck up the ice to trigger the breakout.

It worked to perfection.

“That was a game-changer,” said Latendresse, who set up Tardif’s game-opening goal. “It was the perfect decision for that situation.

“That changed the flow of the game. By playing the puck, Garth helped our defensemen out and helped our forwards move the puck a lot quicker. It was a lot harder for Lake Superior to put pressure on us.”

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It was Montgomery who also led on the ice that day. He scored all three third-period goals, within a span of 4 minutes, 35 seconds, to provide the margin of victory.

“That was pretty impressive,” Latendresse said.

Freshman Hobey Baker Award-winner Paul Kariya assisted on all three goals to reach the 100-point mark for the season (25 goals, 75 assists).

Credit: University of Maine athletics

Snow stopped all eight shots he faced in the third period in addition to his critical puck-moving.

Montgomery, also a Hobey Baker finalist, was chosen as the tournament’s most outstanding player. He wound up with 95 points on the season (32 goals, 63 assists) while Ingraham, the third member of the line, finished the campaign with 46 goals and 39 assists.

Gendron, who is now UMaine’s head coach, was on Walsh’s staff during the 1992-1993 season. He said the goaltender change was one of the things that helped.

“Getting the puck out of your zone more easily is one thing, but you still have to put the puck in the other team’s net and that line went out and scored three goals so you have to give them some credit, too,” Gendron said.

He remembers the pandemonium on the ice as the game ended.

“I remember how good it felt running out on the ice,” Gendron said. “The players were so excited and rightfully so.”

Credit: University of Maine athletics

Latendresse and Gendron said they will never forget the reception the Black Bears received when they landed at Bangor International Airport and got on a bus headed for a celebration at Alfond Arena in Orono.

“There were people everywhere. There were signs hanging off the overpass,” Latendresse said. “And the rink was packed. That’s when you realized how impactful it was not only to us, but to the community and the state.

“It was a special moment in Maine history. I still see people who want to talk about that game and that year,” Latendresse added.

UMaine set NCAA season records for goals with 292 (6.49 per game), assists (481, 10.69 per game) and points (773, 17.18 per outing).

“It was a special team,” Gendron said. “To finish it off [with a win] under difficult circumstances certainly cemented the team’s legacy as one of the best, if not the best, team [of all-time] in college hockey.”