ORONO, Maine — The sixth-ranked University of Maine men’s hockey team failed to keep a two-goal lead heading into the third period against third-ranked University of New Hampshire, as the Black Bears crumbled down the stretch to lose to the Wildcats 4-3 in overtime.
Wildcat freshman center Jeff Silengo scored two goals on the night, including the game winner in the extra period.
“I’m very disappointed in the result, disappointed in our team,” Maine head coach Tim Whitehead said. “We had a chance to make it 4-1, we had them 3-1, we had chances to finish it off, and we didn’t get it done.”
“We’ve done this a couple times this season,” Wildcat head coach Dick Umile said. “They knew they could it and I told them to stay with it. I’m really pleased with the way the guys stayed with it. It was a great college hockey game—two good teams, great atmosphere.”
Alfond Arena was taking all it could handle, with a sold-out crowd of 5,445 on hand to watch the border war.
The first period began with UNH controlling the opening faceoff and the offensive play for the first three minutes. Twenty seconds into the contest, senior forward Mike Sislo got the first shot off, deflected by Black Bear freshman goalie Martin Ouellette.
The Black Bears recorded the first penalty four minutes into the game, when sophomore forward Joey Diamond got booked for charging. Diamond leads the Black Bears in penalty minutes this season.
The man-advantage proved costly for Maine, as Wildcat leading scorer, senior forward Phil Thompson scored the first goal of the game. Senior center Phil DeSimone and junior defender Blake Kessel assisted the goal.
It did not take long for the Black Bears to respond and inject some life into the packed Alfond Arena, as senior center Robby Dee scored his sixth goal of the season to tie things up. Dee gained possession of the puck in the neutral zone, weaved his way through the Wildcat defense and flicked the shot past junior goalie Matt DiGirolamo’s left shoulder.
The back-and-forth play continued for each squad, as Ouellette and DiGirolamo took turns keeping the score tied up. First Ouellette stopped freshman forward Nick Sorkin on a breakaway, then DiGirolamo barely slowed down a five-hole attempt by junior defender Ryan Hegarty. DiGirolamo followed that up by swiping junior forward Bobby Flynn’s shot out of the air.
The Black Bears got hit with another penalty with three minutes remaining in the period, but were able to fend off the potent UNH attack.
The second period saw the opposite of the first, with the Black Bears taking control early on. It took just over one minute for Maine to break the tie, as a shot by senior defender Josh Van Dyk was deflected by Nyquist directly to junior forward Brian Flynn’s stick, who slapped it in for the go-ahead goal.
“I just came off the bench and the puck came right out,” Flynn said. “I had some time and held onto it and ripped it.”
Four minutes passed until the Black Bears found the net again—this time the assistant captain Nyquist squeaked through on a breakaway before beating DiGirolamo over his right shoulder for the third Maine goal of the game.
Ouellette continued to shine on the big stage, diving across the crease to stop an open goal a quarter into the period.
The Black Bears penalty kill was put to the test seven minutes in, when freshman forward Mark Anthoine was sent off for a questionable hitting from behind penalty and a game misconduct, excusing him from the game and pitting the Black Bears a man down for five minutes.
UMaine was able to hold off the formidable Wildcat power play, keeping a two-goal cushion into the third period.
The Black Bears played more conservatively with their two-goal cushion in the third period, with Ouellette making it easier by deflecting Wildcat attempt after attempt.
Midway through the third period, the Wildcats came within one with Silengo’s first goal of the season.
UNH continued to apply the pressure throughout the period. The Black Bears were able to regain control of play when DeSimone entered the penalty box with a holding call. Another penalty with four minutes remaining on Sislo gave the Black Bears more time to kill, as the third period came towards a close.
The Wildcats went empty net with over a minute to go, and with 18 seconds remaining in regulation, tied things up as sophomore forward Dalton Speelman scored the third UNH goal of the game.
The extra stanza lasted just a minute and a half, as Silengo struck again, this time to win it, 4-3.
“I followed up the play, I saw John [Henrion] was going to the net,” Silengo said, “I just anticipated a shot by him and rebound came right to me.”
The two goals were the first two of his collegiate career, and just his second and third points.
“I didn’t know a goal would come today,” Silengo said. “It’s a great environment to play in and I’m just fortunate enough that I got some nice passes from my teammates and I was able to finish.”
“I told the team just wait for our opportunity, play good defense and wait for that turnover,” Umile said.
“It’s a tough loss. Losing when you’re up 3-1 going into the third at home is inexcusable,” Flynn said. “You have to move on. We have a game Sunday. We’ll see how we feel when we wake up but this is a tough one to let go.”