By Tim Healey/DFP Staff
ORONO, Maine — For the No. 13 Boston University men’s hockey team, five games without a victory was more than long enough.
The Terriers (14-12-2, 11-7-2 Hockey East) snapped their three-week winless streak with a 5-4 overtime win against the University of Maine at Alfond Arena Saturday night.
Assisted by sophomore forward Evan Rodrigues, junior forward Matt Nieto one-timed the game-winner into a wide open net with 3.8 seconds left on the clock to end a long back-and-forth battle that proved to be one of the Terriers’ better games in recent weeks.
“[Freshman forward Danny] O’Regan made a nice heads-up play, moved it up to Evan, and I looked up at the clock and there was eight seconds, so I was kind of scared we were gonna run out of time there,” Nieto said with a little laugh. “Evan made a great fake, the goalie went down, slide right over and I just had to tap it in.
“It was middle of the net. Nothing but net. The goalie was no where to be found.”
The win was another step in the right direction in the eyes of BU coach Jack Parker, even though the Terriers held a 4-1 lead after O’Regan’s second goal of the night a minute into the third period.
“Every weekend is so important. But more than anything else for us, we needed to feel good with some good play first,” Parker said. “With the exception of the second period last night, I thought we played very, very well most of the game [Saturday] and most of the game [Friday]. So I’m really pleased with kind of feeling like we have got our team back. And then I think that getting points is huge. We are back in the thick of it.”
Freshman goaltender Sean Maguire made a career-high 40 saves, including 17 in the first period. Parker absolved the netminder of blame for the third-period Black Bear (8-16-6, 4-11-6 Hockey East) comeback, and wasn’t horribly disappointed in the entire team’s play that frame.
After Terrier turnovers and penalties highlighted the first, Maine freshman Ryan Lomberg cleaned up a rebound for a 1-0 Maine lead at 17:10 — the Black Bears’ fourth power-play goal of the weekend.
In the second, though, BU looked like the Terriers of first semester. The team took just one penalty and even scored on a man-advantage of its own to tie things up at the 11:50 mark.
After freshman defenseman Ahti Oksanen’s shot from the point, O’Regan picked up a rebound on the left side and one-timed it by Maine goalie Martin Ouellette.
Sophomore forward Cason Hohmann gave BU the lead four minutes later when he took a long pass from senior captain Wade Megan and skated up the left wing before cutting to the middle and beating Ouellette stick-side and high.
To cap the Terriers’ strongest period in recent weeks, freshman defenseman Matt Grzelcyk scored an unassisted goal in the final minute.
It was the first time BU scored three goals in one period since Jan. 18 vs. Northeastern.
O’Regan and Oksanen connected again at the beginning of the second and again on the power play to make it 4-1. Junior forward Matt Nieto took a shot from the right circle and the rebound kicked out to Oksanen in the slot. Oksanen quickly sent it to the left, where O’Regan one-timed it from between the circle and crease.
Maine captain Joey Diamond found the back of the net at 3:59 in the third, and the Black Bears drew within one with a shorthanded goal at the 8:35 mark. Defenseman Conor Riley swatted at the puck from behind the BU goal and it bounced off Maguire’s leg. Forward Devin Shore swept in to finish it off and make it 4-3.
Officials reviewed the play, but didn’t find enough evidence to reverse the call.
“It was a good goal in my eyes. I didn’t think there was even a need to review it,” Maguire said. “It hit me in the back of the leg, and I didn’t see whoever it was in the backdoor, but he just stuffed it.”
The Black Bears tied it up with 39 seconds left in the third when Maine won a faceoff in its offensive zone and freshman Steven Swavely scored from the point.
That sent the teams to overtime for Rodrigues and Nieto’s heroics.
Having snapped the program’s longest winless streak since November 2007, and despite being 4-7-2 since Christmas, BU is, for now, tied with the University of New Hampshire for third in the Hockey East standings and is just two points behind first-place Merrimack College.
“It was great for our team to pull this off,” Nieto said. “We had to make a state after what happened at the Beanpot. We were pretty disappointed. But there’s still [seven] games left, and we’re going to fight and we’re going to try to go on a run here.”