ORONO – It wasn’t a victory, but the Maine Black Bears left the ice to raucous cheers from a crowd of 3,795 at Alfond Arena Friday night.
Senior Joey Diamond scored a pair of goals — one short-handed and another on a power play — in the final eight minutes of regulation and junior goalie Martin Ouellette snuffed a breakaway with 1 second left in overtime to give the Black Bears a surprising 2-2 tie with Providence.
“A lot of people probably thought that game was over when they scored that second one (to give Providence a 2-0 lead early in the third),” said Ouellette, who finished with 31 saves. “But we kept working hard.”
The tie was worth a point to Maine (7-14-5 overall, 3-9-5 HE) and pulled the Black Bears into a tie for ninth with Northeastern in Hockey East, only one point behind Vermont for the eighth and final playoff berth.
It also extended Maine’s unbeaten streak to three games, a stretch that started with last weekend’s sweep of defending national champion Boston College in Chestnut Hill, Mass.
Providence (10-10-5, 8-6-4) nearly won it in the final seconds of overtime, when Brandon Tanev sent freshman Noel Acciari on a breakaway.
“I thought I had him,” Acciari said of Ouellette, who made a blocker save just before the final horn. “He played great.”
As did Providence freshman goalie Jon Gillies, a South Portland native, who finished with 28 saves — five of them in overtime.
“It’s a frustrating tie, but in the end we came out of here with a point,” said Gillies, whose father Bruce played at Alfond in the early ’80s while a goalie for UNH. “It’s fun to play in this type of environment. Everyone’s yelling at you. You know it happens to every goalie, so you just laugh it off. But (the Maine fans) were making some pretty funny comments.”
Providence had built a 2-0 lead with a first-period goal by freshman Mark Jankowski, a first-round draft pick of the Calgary Flames, and a third-period goal by junior forward Derek Army, who played at Scarborough High when his father, Tim, coached the AHL Portland Pirates.
The second period was notable for the loss of Maine senior center Kyle Beattie, who sustained what Coach Tim Whitehead called a serious concussion and multiple stitches in his chin after being driven into the boards near the penalty boxes. No penalty was called.
The turning point came with Providence on a power play with a 2-0 lead and less than eight minutes left. Diamond stole the puck in front of the visiting bench and skated in alone on Gillies, flipping a backhanded shot between pad and glove for the senior’s second short-handed goal of the season.
“I kind of just read the play and poked the pass and was able to go on the breakaway and score,” Diamond said.
Less than five minutes later, Diamond screened Gillies on a power play, tipping a shot from the right circle by Devin Shore into the left corner to deadlock the score.
Andrew Cerratani picked up his first assist of the season on the play.
“We wanted to get the puck into (Shore’s) hands,” Diamond said. “He was able to get a shot through and it went in off my pants or knee. Nice play by him. He showed a lot of poise.”
The Black Bears remain winless at Alfond in 11 tries (0-7-4) with only five home games remaining in the regular season.
“I still can’t believe we don’t have a win here,” Diamond said. “That’s just the game of hockey. I’m sure we’re going to get a couple wins here.”
The Black Bears return to action Sunday at Alfond against UMass-Lowell. They split two games in Lowell in November.
NOTES: Diamond’s final goal ended a 1-for-36 stretch of power-plays for Maine, which hadn’t converted with a man advantage since the second Mercyhurst game on Jan. 5.
Providence Coach Nate Leaman, like Whitehead, is a former graduate assistant at Maine who actually arrived in Orono to pursue academics rather than hockey. While earning a master’s in biology he wound up coaching at Old Town High before becoming a volunteer assistant to Shawn Walsh in 1999.
“It’s always great to come back,” Leaman said. “I always think of Shawn when I come in here.”
Gillies, who played at North Yarmouth Academy for a year, is one of three former Maine high school players on the Providence roster. Army played at Scarborough High and junior defenseman Kevin Hart, out four weeks with an injury sustained Jan. 12 against UMass, is a Cumberland native who played at Greely.
Staff Writer Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or at: