ORONO, Maine — The Maine Black Bears negated a 2-0 deficit in the final 8:05 of the second period and pulled out a 3-2 win over rival New Hampshire in front of a nearly sold-out crowd at Alfond Arena Friday night.
Maine junior center Robby Dee scored the game-winning goal 44 seconds into the third period in his return to the Black Bears’ lineup after missing four games and a pair of exhibitions with a foot injury. A faceoff in the UNH zone was won back to Dee at the right point, where he fired a snap shot past UNH senior goaltender Brian Foster. It was Dee’s ninth goal of the season.
“Three weeks is a long time off the ice, especially mid-season,” Dee said. “I’m just happy that our team won tonight.” “We missed [Dee] in the lineup,” Maine junior center and captain Tanner House said. “He definitely added a spark for us.”
The Black Bears handed UNH their fourth Hockey East Conference loss, while improving to 13-9-3 [10-6-2 Hockey East]. UNH fell to 13-9-4 [12-4-3 HEA]. The teams will play again Saturday at 7 p.m.
Maine junior defenseman Jeff Dimmen scored the equalizer with 1:21 left before the second intermission, when he followed right wing Gustav Nyquist’s shot from the slot and buried the rebound. Nyquist contributed the primary assist on both second period goals.
“That was huge, coming into the third all evened up,” House said. “That was probably the turning point in the game.”
The Black Bears survived 32-seconds of a five-on-three power play with 2:24 left in the third period, and the ensuing five-on-four that lasted into the final minute.
“I think the guys did a good job to stay composed,” House said. “Fortunately, we were able to calm it down, and get pucks out when we needed to.”
Maine sophomore goaltender Scott Darling improved to 13-3-3 with a 28-save effort. The exclamation point came with a kick save on a short-handed try by UNH’s top offensive threat, senior right wing Bobby Butler, with less than five minutes remaining in the game.
“He’s grown so much from last year,” Maine coach Tim Whitehead said. “Just being able to re-capture that game. He was upset with himself on the first goal. He just fought back and found a way to make some huge stops.”
Maine went to its most effective asset — the power play — to get on the scoreboard midway through the second period. House one-timed a pass from behind the net by sophomore right wing Gustav Nyquist to beat Foster at the doorstep. House is tied for the team lead with seven power-play goals.
“I liked the fact that we certainly didn’t back down when we were down,” Whitehead said.
Maine leads the nation in power play scoring percentage, converting at nearly a 30 percent clip. The Black Bears went one-for-five with the extra skater Friday, while UNH was shut out in three chances.
Despite being outshot 11-7 in the opening period, the opportunistic Wildcats went into the locker room with a 1-0 lead on junior left wing Mike Sislo’s short-handed goal, five-minutes into the game. Less than a minute into Maine’s first power play, Sislo led a three-on-two breakout the opposite way, and his wrister from the right faceoff circle found twine over Darling’s glove.
Junior center Phil DeSimone gave UNH a 2-0 lead at even-strength, 4:15 into the second period. Crafty stick work gave DeSimone room in the slot to snap a wrister into the top-right corner.
“When we go up two, we should be able to hold it,” UNH defenseman Blake Kessel said. “We gave it up tonight.” Kessel assisted on both UNH goals.
UNH senior goalie Brian Foster weathered Maine’s attack in the early stages of the game and took the loss, despite making 31 saves. He fell to 12-9-4.
“I think we lost it,” said UNH coach Dick Umile. “In the third period, it was a new game. They won it off the faceoff. We had our chances at the end and we didn’t get it done. They won it in the third period; we gave it away in the second.”
UNH had won the previous five meetings between the teams played at Alfond Arena.