ORONO, Maine — Homecoming weekend at Maine took on a special flavor this year. The Black Bears were facing Ohio State in a pair of games and, most importantly, head coach Shawn Walsh was making his return to the Maine bench.
Walsh missed the first two weeks of the season while receiving his final round of immunotherapy treatment for kidney cancer in California.
As Walsh stepped onto the ice, he was greeted with a thunderous ovation from the sellout crowd. “I was grateful for that reception,” Walsh said.
The scene was set for an emotional victory for the Black Bears. However, someone forgot to submit the script to Buckeye goaltender Mike Betz.
The Ohio State freshman turned away 58 shots, including one from point blank range with a minute remaining to keep OSU in the game. Immediately following Betz game-saving stop, forward Scott May stunned the Black Bear crowd, scoring his first goal of the season on a breakaway with 48 seconds remaining in overtime to give the Buckeyes a 3-2 victory.
The heroics of Betz and Mays spoiled a two-goal performance by Maine’s Gray Shaneberger.
The final seconds of the game represented an appropriate microcosm of the entire contest. With just over a minute remaining in the extra period and the Black Bears storming the Buckeye net, Maine defenseman Peter Metcalf took a feed from the point, skated around an OSU defenseman and directly to the top of the crease.
“I walked right in,” said Metcalf. “I had the right side open and didn’t get much on it. I don’t know how he got it.”
Betz stacked his pads and somehow managed to turn the Metcalf wrister away. “He was so close,” said Betz. “I didn’t know what else to do, I just went down and slid across and it hit me.”
The loose puck was swatted back toward the point, where May was attempting to cover an open Black Bear shooter.
“I was just trying to get to the defenseman,” said May. “The puck just skipped over his stick and I got by him. The puck wouldn’t settle until I got into the (Maine) zone and when it did I just saw an opening and fired.”
Mays’ shot beat Black Bear goalie Matt Yeats (21 saves) between the pads and an eerie hush fell over the arena.
“That’s college hockey,” said Walsh, disappointed but undaunted by the loss. “One minute Peter (Metcalf) has the puck alone in front and the next minute they’re breaking in alone on us. It was just a great game.”
OSU head coach John Markell put things in perspective.
“The game was secondary,” said Markell. “It was good to see Shawn, he’s been through a lot and he looked good.”
Markell found the win similar to Maine’s victory in Columbus, Ohio, last season.
“They stole one from us last year,” he said. “We stole this one. This game belonged to Mike Betz.”
Betz admitted that Maine was “the most intimidating place I’ve ever played,” but added, “with around 10 minutes left in the third period, I knew things were going my way.”
The freshman turned away 23 shots in the third period en route to his third victory of the season.
Shaneberger put Maine on top in the second, rapping home the rebound of a Michael Schutte slapper. OSU answered six minutes into the third when R.J. Umberger walked off the backboards and slipped a soft backhander between Yeats’ pads.
“I didn’t come out enough,” Yeats said. “That’s a shot I should have stopped.”
Shaneberger answered for Maine 19 seconds later, tipping in a Cameron Lyall rebound. His [Lyall's] shot fell between the goalie’s skates,” said Shaneberger. “He didn’t see it and I just got a piece.”
OSU winger Yan Des Gange sent the game to overtime, picking up a loose puck from a scramble in front and beating Yeats to the stick side.
“We outchanced them,” said Shaneberger. “That goalie played a great game, you’ve got to give him credit.”
“We played our game,” said Black Bear captain Doug Janik. “We got to the net, created opportunities, we just didn’t bury the shots.”
Markell, whose team improved to 3-1, was already thinking about the next game. “It’s a big win,” he said. “Now we have to focus on tomorrow night, they’ll be gunning for us.”
Maine dropped to 1-2-1 on the season. The two teams square off in the series finale on Saturday night.