BOSTON — It was a game that Tigran Petrosian would have been proud of.
Petrosian, the World Chess Champion in the early sixties, was famous for playing a style that frequently resulted in the chess equivalent of a low-scoring tie. Many other grandmasters accumulated more wins, but he was almost impossible to beat.
So it was at Matthews Arena as Maine and Northeastern played risk-free hockey to a 1-1 tie, playing a waiting game of who would make the first mistake. Holding back on the all-out attack, they pushed the pawns of dump-and-chase hockey and flipping the puck out of the defensive zone into neutral ice at the first sign of trouble.
“It was a chess game,” said Maine coach Shawn Walsh. “Nobody wanted to make a mistake. It was really like a playoff kind of game. That’s the beauty of Hockey East. The points are so hard to come by.
“It was a good road effort against a very good team that plays well at home. We got swept here last year and we were a Final Four team. This is a tough place to play, so I’m pleased.”
For Maine, the Petrosian-like approach was born out of the 2-3-1 record it brought into the game.
“Our style was because I’m getting sick of us outshooting teams, 2-1, and getting nothing to show for it,” he said. “Our goalie sits in his end without any shots and then he gets a high-quality one and it’s tough for him.
“So we backed off and didn’t forecheck until the overtime. I thought we limited their real high-quality chances until our defense got a little tired. I liked the way we played.”
Northeastern’s Petrosian posture was dictated by its opponent.
“The one thing with Maine is that they’re a very good transition team,” said NU coach Bruce Crowder. “One of the things we told the guys before the game is that we can’t have danger-zone turnovers. That’s one of the things they capitalize on. They’re a team that can really hurt you that way if you’re not careful.”
Despite the risk-free style, the game was anything but boring. Both teams had lost one night earlier — Northeastern to Boston College and Maine to Providence — raising the stakes. Neither team wanted to emerge from the weekend with a goose egg, although Northeastern’s performance at BC had been so poor that it arguably had more to prove.
“For us, it was a 180 degree [turnaround] from the team that showed up [against BC],” said Crowder. “We got some nice play out of Brian Tudrick in his first college hockey game and Joe Mancuso did a great job [in his first game this year]. [Mike] Gilhooly made some real good saves.
“So there are a lot of really encouraging things that came out of this. The only negative is that we didn’t get two points; we only got one.”
All the scoring came in the first period. Both teams got their lone goal of the night on the man advantage.
The Black Bears needed only 14 seconds on the power play to take the early lead. Matthias Trattnig ripped home a low one-timer from the right slot after taking a pass from Chris Heisten along the left boards.
Northeastern would get the next three power plays, but the first was ineffective and the second almost included a Maine shorthanded goal off a Peter Metcalf and Dan Kerluke bid.
Prior to the third man advantage, the two teams swapped almost identical opportunities off feeds to the weak side. Scott Selig deflected Mike Ryan’s pass wide while Gilhooly stopped Lucas Lawson’s attempt from Todd Jackson.
Three times proved to be a charm, however, for the Huskies’ power play. They converted at 19:34 when Ryan Dudgeon passed from behind the goal line in front and Willie Levesque fended off a defender to shovel it in.
Maine had the best chances in the first half of the second period. In the opening minutes, Heisten found Kerluke trailing the play on the left wing and hit him in stride, but Gilhooly made a quick side-to-side move and the save. The NU netminder then made a nice stop on a Trattnig shot from the slot. And at 8:50 Metcalf dropped down from the point and had lots of open net to shoot at after getting a feed from the far corner but fired wide.
Penalties dominated the second half of the period; they were almost a mirror image of the opening frame. This time Northeastern had three to Maine’s one, but had a strong shorthanded bid by Arik Engbrecht and Selig. The period ended, though, with the score still deadlocked, 1-1.
Northeastern generated the best chances early in the third period, starting with a Tudrick shot from the slot that went wide. Morrison then made two of his best saves of the night on Ryan Dudgeon.
Despite trying to avoid mistakes, the two teams’ offensive prowess still created opportunities and both goaltenders had to be at their best. This continued into the overtime when Chris Lynch and Mike Ryan tested Morrison and freshman Mike Mantenuto almost beat Gilhooly short side for the win, but missed wide.
Next week, both teams continue with Hockey East action, hosting their lone games. Maine (2-3-2, 0-1-1 HEA) faces Merrimack while Northeastern (4-2-1, 1-1-1 HEA) takes on Boston University.