ORONO, ME. — The Sacred Heart Pioneers came into Alfond Arena knowing they would have to play a sound defensive game if they were to have a chance against the Maine Black Bears on Sunday. Sacred Heart did that and more to earn a 4-4 tie with the tenth-ranked Black Bears.
“We had to stick to systems tonight,” said Sacred Heart coach Shaun Hannah. “With the attack they have and the forwards they have, we knew we would have to protect the front of the net and not give up any odd-man situations.”
The defense played a good game, despite surrendering 51 shots on net, but they kept Maine from getting good opportunities on the doorstep. When Maine did get opportunities, junior netminder Eddy Ferhi was there to save the day.
“Today, [my defense] made it easy for me,” said Ferhi, who made 47 saves on the evening. “They blocked shots, taking away rebounds. Most of the shots weren’t easy [to stop], but they were easily handled [and cleared].”
Early on, it looked like it would be the dominant Maine performance that everyone expected. Niko Dimitrakos netted the first goal of the off of a loose puck after an offensive zone face off.
“I got to the puck. They’re defenseman stayed in the middle, so I decided to shoot it,” Dimitrakos said. The shot went over Ferhi’s glove at 5:23 of the first to give Maine the 1-0 advantage.
The Black Bears went up 2-0 only 3:20 later. Off of another offensive zone face off, Robert Liscak won the draw to Chris Heisten. He found Shields at the top of the slot. He wristed a hard shot that beat Ferhi high to the stick side.
But another miscue in the defensive zone after going up by two gave the Pioneers an easy chance that they cashed in on, like Boston University had done on Maine two nights earlier.
After poor passing in slot, Prestin Ryan coughed up the puck to Martin Paquet at the right face-off dot. He ripped a quick wrister that caught Maine goalie Matt Yeats by surprise and beat him short side to make it 2-1 at 8:58, just fifteen seconds after the Shields goal.
The score remained, 2-1 Maine, until the second period, one that Maine dominated territorially, but got nothing to show for it.
Ferhi made 19 saves in the period. He got a little luck when Todd Jackson got a breakaway and moved the puck around him in the slot, but his shot rang off the post, and Ferhi covered the rebound.
The Pioneers tied things at 8:05 when Nick Nutcher made a pass from the left wing boards to Lloyd Marks, who was in traffic in the slot, but unmarked. Nutcher threaded the needle and Marks shot a one-timer low to the glove side of Yeats.
Another defensive miscue cost Maine the lead later in the period. The puck came loose behind the Maine net, but both Peter Metcalf and Matthew Deschamps failed to clear the puck. Richard Naumann got to it and skated in front of the net unmolested. He beat a surprised Yeats with a wrist shot at 17:50.
Maine came out flying in to start the third period. Maine peppered Ferhi to start the period and finally got one by him at 1:31. Ferhi made a save on Dimitrakos and sprawled out to try and corral the rebound. Lucas Lawson got to it first and snuck one under the cross bar to tie the score.
Maine took the lead on a power play at 5:24. Tom Reimann hit a blistering slapper from the point that Ferhi gave up a rebound on. Michael Schutte had a whack at it on the doorstep, but he pushed his shot wide. Martin Kariya was there to poke it in to give Maine the lead and the momentum it looked like they needed to finally put Sacred Heart away.
But that was not to be.
Hannah called a timeout after the goal to get his team focused.
“I told them to listen to the noise [during the timeout],” Hannah said. “This should get you going, get some fire under your butts and away you go.”
Hannah thought the timeout worked. “I tried to use [the Maine fans' noise] to our advantage. I think it was effective. The guys responded.”
Lloyd Tennant was able to tie the score with 4:40 left in regulation.
“Garrett Larson made a great behind the back pass,” Tennant said of the set-up. Paul Sposito sticked it to me and I just shot it. It was a greaser goal.”
Tennant’s shot deflected off of a defenseman’s skate and past Yeats, who made nine saves on the night.
Maine had another power play opportunity at the end of regulation and into overtime, like on Friday, and again could not score. Ferhi robbed Tom Reimann with the glove late in the power play after a blistering wrist shot from the top of the circle. It was Maine’s best chance of the overtime.
Maine interim head coach Tim Whitehead thought his team’s defensive zone play cost them.
“It only takes a few odd-man rushes and coughing the puck up in the zone to cost you,” he said. “We had our chances, but sometimes the game of hockey turns that way.”
Peter Metcalf called this game a loss for Maine.
“This was definitely a winnable game,” he said. “There aren’t any [psychological] ties in hockey, you either win or lose.”
Hannah thought the result was a big step for his program, in its fourth year of Division I hockey.
“It would have been nice,” said Tennant. “But to get a tie, up here in Maine, is a pretty special result for our program.”
Sacred Heart picks up its MAAC schedule on Friday with a game at Army. Maine will host Northeastern in a big Hockey East game on Friday at Alfond Arena.