The University of Maine and the University of New Hampshire waited nine months to play a hockey game due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The two archrivals got the opportunity to try out the new overtime format on Friday night at the Whittemore Center in Durham, New Hampshire.
Junior defenseman Simon Butala scored in the fifth shootout round to provide the Black Bears with an extra point in a 1-1 Hockey East game played in the empty arena.
Fans were not allowed due to coronavirus safety protocols.
The score was tied 1-1 after regulation and overtime before UMaine outscored UNH 3-2 in the shootout.
This season, instead of a five-minute, five-on-five overtime, college hockey has adopted a three-on-three format followed by a three-round shootout. If it is still tied after the three rounds, it goes to a sudden death scenario in the shootout.
Hockey East teams receive three points for a regulation win and two for an overtime or shootout victory. A team that loses in overtime or the shootout earns one point.
In the eyes of the NCAA, a team is credited with 55 percent of a win in the Pairwise Rankings if it is victorious in overtime. The teams split it 50-50 if it goes to a shootout.
The Black Bears and Wildcats play again at 7 p.m. Saturday when UMaine will look to extend its unbeaten streak against the Wildcats to five games.
UNH sophomore defenseman Kalle Eriksson opened the scoring with just 7:18 left in regulation, but UMaine freshman center Lynden Breen answered 32 seconds later.
Both teams had glittering chances in the 3-on-3 extra period, but UMaine goalie Matthew Thiessen and UNH’s Mike Robinson came up with some terrific saves to force the shootout.
Jackson Pierson converted in the second shootout round by tucking the puck between Thiessen’s right skate and the post, but Breen beat Robinson stick side to equalize. Charlie Kelleher gave UNH another lead by beating Thiessen to the glove side in the sudden-death fourth round, before freshman Donavan Houle extended the shootout by firing one under Robinson’s glove.
Thiessen then smothered a Nick Cafarelli wrister with his body before Butala, who has one goal in 71 career games, decided it with a nifty move and wrister through Robinson’s legs.
“We’ve been working on shootouts in practice and Simon scores all the time,” UMaine head coach Red Gendron said.
Thiessen, who appeared in only one game last season while backing up Hobey Baker Hat Trick finalist and first-team All-American Jeremy Swayman, finished with 37 saves. He made 25 through the first two periods as UNH outshot UMaine 25-4.
“If Matt didn’t play the way he did through the first two periods, we wouldn’t have won the game,” Gendron said.
Thiessen made a number of high-percentage saves throughout, including a gem on a clean break-in down the right side by Eric MacAdams with five minutes left in regulation.
Eriksson scored his first career goal as he was able to maneuver past freshman defenseman Kabore Dunnn and beat Thiessen with a 10-foot wrist shot.
Breen tied it up by finishing off a nifty passing sequence involving Adam Dawe and Eduards Tralmaks. Dawe carried the puck through center ice into the UNH zone and left a drop pass for Tralmaks. He took a stride and slid the puck ahead to Dawe, whose pass across the net front left Breen with an easy tap-in.
Robinson finished with 15 saves for UNH.
Gendron was pleased with the win, saying the most important thing was that his team hung with it.
The Black Bears did an exceptional job on the penalty kill, thwarting all seven UNH power play chances.