ORONO – This was one to build on.

The University of Maine remains winless in Hockey East after losing 4-2 to No. 1 Boston College Friday night before a crowd of 4,733 at Alfond Arena, but the Black Bears hung tough in a game that remained in doubt until an empty-net goal in the waning seconds.

“We’re sick of losing,” said Maine captain Joey Diamond, whose wraparound bid for a tying goal with three minutes remaining was barely kicked out by BC goalie Parker Milner. “We’re not going to lose any games (because of) not giving a good effort. We thought we did that for majority of the game, but we didn’t get the outcome that we wanted.”

No, but the Black Bears (1-7 overall, 0-3 Hockey East) gave Boston College (5-1, 5-1) all it could handle in front of an appreciative home crowd still smarting from a lackluster weekend of lopsided losses (5-0 and 5-1) to St. Lawrence.

“I thought Maine played very, very well,” said BC Coach Jerry York, whose team won in Orono for the first time since January of 2009. “The puck bounces one way or another, and it’s Maine’s win and we have a long bus ride home.”

It was tied headed into the third, but the final four penalties all went against Maine, including one for too many men on the ice when the Black Bears pulled goalie Martin Ouellette for an extra skater with just over a minute remaining.

Johnny Gaudreau scored the game-winner on a power play five minutes into the third, after Ouellette had made two tough saves. He finished with 19, and allowed only one even-strength goal.

“I thought Marty played unbelievable,” Diamond said. “He stood on his head (Friday night). He was the reason it was 2-2 heading into the third.”

After twice scoring bounce-back goals within a minute of BC tallies, the Black Bears couldn’t conjure up a third. They were forced to kill off two more penalties, including 37 seconds of a 5-on-3 Eagles advantage.

Steven Whitney’s empty-net goal with 11 seconds left settled it, after Milner (28 saves) had denied both Diamond and Jake Rutt on wraparound attempts.

“It was a battle,” Milner said. “I saw (Diamond) get the puck and I knew he’d try to get it on net pretty quick. I couldn’t get my whole body over there, so I kind of flailed my leg out and got a little lucky there.”

A scoreless but inspiring first period had the crowd on its feet and roaring several times.

“The fans were fabulous,” said Maine Coach Tim Whitehead. “We’d obviously had a tough start (to the season), so to see their support really meant a lot to the team.”

Sophomores Connor Leen and Stu Higgins nearly connected on a short-handed goal during Andrew Cerretani’s boarding penalty. An impressive sliding save by Ouellette, making his second start of the season, led to a breakaway for Cerretani as he left the box.

About the only disappointing aspect of the opening period for Maine was its continued difficulties with a power play that wasn’t able to set up in its first of three opportunities.

Even so, it was scoreless entering the second, and had become apparent that this was a different Maine team than the version that had stumbled out of the gate.

The Eagles took a 1-0 lead on a power-play slap shot by Kevin Hayes early in the second. Maine answered 50 seconds later when the all-freshmen third line of Will Merchant, Devin Shore and Ryan Lomberg came through with a play that originated with Shore in the right corner and Merchant drifting toward the left post. A quick pass and a one-timed shot found open net for Merchant’s first college goal.

“I made eye contact with Will,” Shore said. “I was going to pass it to him in the slot, but I saw him heading through the back door, so I just waited an extra second and he made a great play to finish it off.”

The final four minutes of the period saw another goal-and-response. First came a screened shot from inside the blue line by BC’s Isaac MacLeod for a 2-1 lead. Leen answered 27 seconds later.

Diamond had passed to freshman Steven Swavely, and Swavely’s centering attempt was poked into Milner by BC teammate Bill Arnold. The puck bounced off Milner, off the oncoming Leen, and into the net for a score that, after video confirmation, knotted the game at 2-all heading into the third.

 

Staff Writer Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or at:

gjordan@pressherald.com

Twitter: GlennJordanPPH