ORONO – Maybe the University of Maine hockey team’s collective ego got a little too inflated after an offensive onslaught.

Maybe the Black Bears simply underestimated their opponent, which won only seven games last season.

Nearly grounded by a nonconference opponent, the Black Bears ultimately salvaged a 3-3 tie with Connecticut on Saturday at Alfond Arena.

“We knew we were, supposedly, supposed to be the favorites,” Maine left wing Spencer Abbott said. “We knew we couldn’t take them lightly. They played very well and you can’t take any team lightly, because if we do, we’re going to get beat. Kudos to them, because they played great.”

Abbott’s goal gave Maine a 3-2 lead at 2:07 of the third, but Sean Ambrosie’s goal with 6:56 left in the third — on UConn’s second shot of the period — sent the game to overtime.

“I was impressed with a lot of parts of their game, to be quite honest with you,” Maine Coach Tim Whitehead said. “We had our chances to separate ourselves.”

The Black Bears were nearly stifled a night after cruising to an 8-2 win over UMass-Lowell in their Hockey East opener. The Huskies are an Atlantic Hockey Association team that struggled last season.

“It’s a big win for us and for Atlantic Hockey, coming in and tying a team like that,” said Huskies goalie Garrett Bartus, who finished with 40 saves. “We’re pretty happy about that.”

UConn (0-0-1) killed off eight Maine power plays, including a pair of five-on-three chances, and the Black Bears (1-0-1) were unable to score in the first despite putting 12 shots on Bartus.

Furthermore, the Black Bears hit the post six times in the game, including twice on a power play midway through the first. Gustav Nyquist hit the crossbar with 10:37 left in the first, and 10 seconds later Brian Flynn’s shot from the left circle hit the right post.

“The biggest part that they played was blocking shots,” said Abbott, whose team attempted 25 first-period shots. “We probably attempted, who knows how many shots? But we attempted a lot of shots and they blocked plenty. The other ones missed the net, and there was no way we were going to score shooting right into them.

“You keep getting those chances and you can’t bury them, it starts to get you down.”

Less than a minute into the second and 15 seconds into a goaltender interference penalty against Abbott, Tanner House tied the game when he buried a rebound off Nyquist’s breakaway attempt.

A little more than a minute later, Flynn gave Maine a 2-1 lead, picking up a loose puck next to Bartus’ right pad.

“We couldn’t find a way to get that next goal,” Whitehead said. “Had we gone up by two, that third goal, it would have been very tough for them to climb back in.”

 

Staff Writer Rachel Lenzi can be contacted at 791-6415 or at: [email protected]