College Hockey:
Nieto’s last second goal in OT lifts Boston University over Maine

— The University of Maine Black Bears scored three unanswered goals in the third period to overcome a 4-1 deficit, but Boston University forward Matt Nieto scored the game-winner with three seconds to play in overtime to give the Terriers a 5-4 victory.  BU goaltender Sean Maguire saved 44 shots for the Terriers while Martin Ouellette saved 29 for Maine.

“It was an unbelievable game for the crowd and TV, absolutely fabulous,” said BU coach Jack Parker. “Both goalies played well, both teams look a lot better. Maine looks a lot better than they did earlier in the year; we look a lot better than we did last week. I thought after the first period last night, we had our team back. This win will really help us out.”

“We battled back; anytime they score and to go up three in the period, it shows so much about out team and our character,” said Maine forward Devin Shore. “Anything bad that could happen to a hockey team has happened to us this year, and we still stuck tight. We’re pretty proud of ourselves for coming back.”

The Black Bears, who scored three power-play goals the night before against the Terriers, capitalized on a power play at 17:10 when Jake Rutt passed the puck off to Joey Diamond, who took the initial shot. Ryan Lomberg was waiting for the puck off the rebound of Maguire’s pad, and fired it in to put the Black Bears up 1-0.

The Terriers scored the first of their three goals of the second period when they went on their own power play. Ahti Oksanen fired a slap shot from the right side, and forward Danny O’Regan picked up the rebound and tied the game at one 11:50 into the second period.

Five minutes later, Garrett Noonan passed to forward Cason Hohmann, and Hohmann used his speed to get around the Maine defense and in front of the net, then scooped the puck up and over Ouellette into the top of the net.

BU scored for the final time in the second period with 51 seconds to play when Matt Grezelcyk picked up a loose puck in the Maine defensive zone and ripped a slap shot past Ouellette unassisted, giving BU a 3-1 lead.

“That third goal is the one I should have had; it was a nice shot, but I have to make that save and I usually do,” Ouellette said. “But those goals are going to happen and I need to stay focused and stay in the game. I knew these guys would come back.”

Just over one minute into the third, O’Regan scored on a power play to put BU up 4-1.

On a four-on-four with 3:45 to play in the third period, the Maine comeback began. Diamond connected off a rebound from a shot by Ben Hutton to bring Maine to within two.

While short-handed, Maine scored when Shore, who had a no-call goal Friday night, hit in a pass from Conor Riley 8:35 into the third period.

“That felt really good,” Shore said. “I couldn’t sleep last night. The whole thing was just hanging over my head and I couldn’t let it go. To put that one in felt really good.”

With under a minute left, Whitehead pulled Ouellette. Only 40 seconds remained in the game when Shore and Rutt found a way to get the puck to forward Steven Swavely to tie it.

Maine generated a lot of chances in the overtime, but couldn’t score.

“I don’t know what the shots were in overtime but I felt like we were back on our heels a little bit; I don’t know how the puck bounced out of the zone,” Parker said.

With under a minute to play, Nemec attempted a pass, but the puck hit a stanchion and bounced sideways onto the ice.

“My assistant coach said we got a horrible bounce off the stanchion and it was going right to a Maine guy, but instead it bounced right over his stick to our guy and we went the other way,” Parker said.

Rodrigues took control of the puck, and with all the Black Bears still in the offensive zone, he had a wide open lane to the goal with Nieto. Rodrigues passed it off to Nieto on the two-on-none, and Nieto netted the game-winning goal with three seconds to play.

“Yeah, Rodrigues made a really good play, he moved it up,” Nieto said. “There was eight seconds and I was kind of scared we were going to run out of time, but Evan made a great play and I just had to tuck it in.

“It’s tough,” Whitehead said.  “We’re proud of the guys that they came back. It shows discipline, the perseverance, and they have shown it all year after the very tough start to the season. We’re proud of them. What can you say? The game is like life.  Sometimes it takes some weird turns, but you just have to get back up and keep fighting, and that’s what we’ll do.”

Maine falls to 8-16-6 on the year and is one point behind the University of Massachusetts for the last spot in the Hockey East playoffs. The Black Bears will have an opportunity to take that spot from the Minutemen as they head to Amherst, Mass., next weekend in a two-game series.

BU improves to 14-12-2 and will face off against the University of Massachusetts-Lowell next Saturday.

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