ORONO, Maine — Prominently featured every week in the University of Maine men’s ice hockey game notes is a statistic that many around the state love to talk about.
This week it was located on page four and read: when taking the lead into the third period, the Black Bears have been unbeaten in the last 115 games. For not only the team, but its fans, that streak was a source of pride.
Next week however, the note will need some editing.
In a shocking turn Sunday, the Black Bears surrendered three unanswered goals to lose 4-3 to Boston College in overtime; with just 52 seconds remaining in the extra frame, the Eagles’ Joe Rooney delivered the Black Bears their second straight defeat at home.
Trailing 3-1 with 15 minutes to go in the contest, the No. 7 Eagles used to an opportunistic goal by captain Brian Boyle to begin the comeback. In a matter of 19 minutes, the Eagles achieved something that hadn’t occurred since 2001.
“I’m glad we’re the team that ended that,” said Boyle of Maine’s streak.
“That’s definitely not a stat you want to be part of,” said Maine netminder Ben Bishop about watching the Eagles end the stretch . “No one is proud of that.”
At the end, the Eagles, who had played the early part of season with inconsistent results, were elated. .
“You don’t come up to Maine, trailing by two in the third period and beat them — it doesn’t happen,” said netminder Cory Schneider. “It was great to see our team show some resolve and come back.”
After recording his second goal of the game, captain Michel Leveille and the rest of the Black Bears looked to have the game in hand. The Eagles saw otherwise.
“You guys know about the stats, all I know is we lost and it’s unacceptable to let them come back with three goals,” said Leveille.
The loss will drop the Black Bears from the top spot in the rankings, a spot they have held since the middle of October.
“There were some breakdowns defensively,” said Bishop. “Maine in the past has always been a defensive-minded team and when you get away from that in the third period with a two-goal lead it’s unacceptable. That should never happen. We just have to look in the mirrors and figure out what we’re doing wrong.”
Of all the breakdowns, the most glaring came at 4:08 of overtime. In a display of sheer speed, the Eagles’ leading point man, Rooney, broke in free on Bishop and sent a sharp shot into the back of the net.
“I went down the left side and Benn Ferriero went down the right to just try and spread them out,” said Boyle. “That left Joe with a one-on-one play. It was all Joe after that. It was a spectacular individual effort. He realized it was a one-on-one play and he made the most of it.”
“That was the prettiest goal I’ve seen all year,” said Boyle, who assisted on the tally along with Ferriero.
“I just kind of dropped it and took off towards the net,” said Boyle of the drop pass he gave Rooney. “He bailed me out. If that didn’t go in and we ended up tying, I would’ve put a lot of blame on myself for that last goal.”
Boyle had high praise for Rooney, who knotted the game up at 14:04 of the third period.
“Wait ’till you see him this year, he will be up there as far as goals are concerned,” said Boyle. “He’s got tremendous offensive skill. He’s one of the top players in the league, absolutely no question. Playing with him makes it a lot easier. The way we play off each other is a big thing.”
Rooney registered the game-tying goal after backhanding a high shot over Bishop’s stick-side shoulder. Again it was Rooney’s speed that beat the Black Bears.
“I think we were getting a little too anxious to score a goal,” said Bishop. “He walked through most of our entire team and that should never happen. ”
The score came barely seven minutes after Boyle had started the rally with a easy tally off a mistake. On the ensuing play, defenseman Matt Duffy misplayed a puck in front of the net. The long-reaching Boyle capitalized on the play.
“They just put it on net and the puck was there,” said Maine forward Mike Hamilton, who scored the Black Bears’ second goal. “I don’t know if Duffy knew Boyle was right behind him. He went to turn and he kind of missed the puck. Boyle just tipped it and it went right in.”
After going up 3-1 at 2:59 of the third period, the tally was all the Eagles needed to get back into the game.
“I don’t think it’s a lack of playing hard, it’s a lack of focus,” said Leveille. “We’re making little, little mistakes that end up in the net.”
Leveille, who had willed the Black Bears to the lead with two goals, scored his second on a play that saw him jump the boards and break in on a big rebound. But after that, Schneider thought the Eagles woke up.
“Once they scored that third goal, I kind of sat back as a spectator,” said Schneider. “Our team played fantastic. We were rolling three lines and outworking, outhustling them.”
Maine received its second goal and what looked to be the eventual game winner when Mike Hamilton finished off a tape-to-tape pass from Josh Soares on the power play. The goal came at 11:47 of the second period.
“We’ve got to bounce back; two losses at home in a row is definitely something uncharacteristic of a Maine hockey team,” said Hamilton.
The squads were deadlocked at the end of the first period after tallies from Leveille and Nathan Gerbe. The Eagles tied up the duel at 17:51, just 41 seconds after the Black Bears scored.
Maine will now head to Vermont this Saturday with its first two-game losing streak of the season. On the other hand, the Eagles feel they have discovered their identity with the upset victory on the road.
“We’ve been working hard all year to try and get a full 60 minutes of hockey put together as a team,” said Boyle. “Tonight not only did we get a full 60, we got 65. ”
“I think we found our team here,” said Schneider.