BOSTON — And the brooms rained down.
Northeastern swept its season series with Maine for the first time since 1984-85, Hockey East’s inaugural season, led by senior defenseman Louis Liotti’s two goals, including the game-winner in overtime. Skating down the right wing, he tried to get the puck to Steve Silva, but the puck deflected off a defenseman into the net.
The goal set off a jubilant celebration by the Huskies and by the Doghouse fans in the balcony above. Northeastern had taken a 2-0 lead, taking advantage of a five-minute major assessed to Maine, but surrendered the lead while killing a major penalty of its own.
The win sends the Huskies (11-3-2, 8-2-1 HEA) into the holiday break solidly ensconced in first place.
“We wanted to end with a win going into the break,” Liotti said. “We came out strong but let them back in the game with a couple dumb penalties. But we battled hard and came back. It was a good win.”
Arguably the turning point came with the score tied at the beginning of the third period as the Huskies had to kill the remaining 3:06 of the major and then a minor penalty. They allowed only two shots in that stretch with Chris Donovan a particular thorn in Maine’s side.
“They had three and a half minutes on a power play with clean ice after getting all that momentum,” NU coach Greg Cronin said. “That was the deciding factor in the game. If they score a goal after all the momentum they generated in the second period, it’s a completely different game. So you have to give credit to our penalty killers.”
Maine (7-5-1, 4-4-1 HEA) gets another chance to go into the holidays with a league win on Sunday at Merrimack, but felt the sting of an overtime loss after erasing a two-goal deficit.
“To come back and not even get one point is tough but the game can be cruel sometimes,” Maine coach Tim Whitehead said. “It’s not a movie; it’s a game. If it was a movie, then it would work out perfect for both teams. But it doesn’t. It’s a good win for them and a tough loss for us.”
The Huskies got the early jump, going on the power play just 23 seconds into the game and clanging iron on their next man advantage. But it wasn’t until 18:59, after working the puck down low and avoiding a mass of Black Bear bodies in front, that Northeastern took the lead on Wade MacLeod’s fifth goal of the season.
Midway through the second, Maine’s Will O’Neill was assessed a five-minor major and game misconduct for hitting from behind. When Liotti, en route to doubling his career goal production, scored just 11 seconds into the major, it looked like it would be a long night for the Black Bears.
Instead, they were able to kill off the rest of the major, helped by a Northeastern penalty that neutralized two minutes of it and they were still in striking range.
Less than a minute after the big kill, Maine’s Keif Orsini fired a shot from the right point and the rebound caromed to Brian Flynn inside the opposite faceoff circle. The freshman one-timed it into the open net to pull the Black Bears within a goal at 2-1.
Another hitting from behind major and game misconduct at 18:06 — this time on Northeastern — put Maine in the driver’s seat, especially since the Black Bears were only 23 seconds into another power play. With the lengthy five-on-three, they were able to work the puck low until defenseman Matt Duffy’s blast from the left point, aided by a screening Flynn, found the back of the net.
Despite the momentum early in the third, Maine couldn’t take the lead, setting the stage for Liotti’s overtime heroics.