AMHERST, Mass. – In the final game of the regular season, the University of Maine men’s hockey team still had something to play for Saturday: the chance to extend a four-week winning streak and carry momentum into the postseason. Massachusetts, meanwhile, played for the chance to play again.

The Minutemen salvaged a 4-4 tie, staving off their elimination and ending the Black Bears’ winning streak.

Massachusetts teetered on the edge of elimination late in the game. The Minutemen entered the third period trailing 3-1, but scored three goals to take a 4-3 lead with 2:04 left before Maine center Robby Dee forced overtime with 1:45 left.

“They’re playing for their lives there,” Dee said of Massachusetts’ third period. “They had to get a point there to make the playoffs, and all the credit to them. They took it to us and found a way to score three goals and almost beat us.”

Dee’s goal salvaged a point for the No. 14 Black Bears, who will face Merrimack, the fourth-place team in Hockey East, in a quarterfinal series that will begin Friday at Lawler Arena in North Andover, Mass.

Massachusetts earned the eighth and final playoff berth and will face No. 1 Boston College.

“It was an emotional rollercoaster throughout the game,” UMass goalie Paul Dainton said.

Could Dee sense the desperation from the Minutemen?

“From them, yeah, you could really sense that,” Dee said. “They’re fighting for their season there and we just kind of sat back (in the third) and we weren’t playing like we should have been, like in the first when we were taking it to them, showing no mercy.”

While the Black Bears (17-10-7, 14-8-5 Hockey East) stretched their unbeaten streak to seven games, they lamented the fact that with a potential win on the line, they were unable to protect an ample lead in the third period.

Despite outshooting Massachusetts 15-12 in the third, the Black Bears were unable to create many quality chances on Dainton (32 saves) and allowed the Minutemen (6-21-6, 5-16-6) to attack goalie Dan Sullivan.

“We kind of knew it was coming from the drop of the puck,” Maine left wing Brian Flynn said of the start of the third. “We knew Providence was up a few goals and (UMass) needed to start scoring some goals.”

Maine took a 1-0 lead at 3:32 of the first when Gustav Nyquist punched a rebound past Dainton, then took a 2-0 lead less than seven minutes later on Flynn’s goal.

Will O’Neill gave Maine a 3-0 lead with 3:07 left in the first as the Black Bears outshot the Minutemen, 12-7.

But 2:45 into the second, Rocco Carzo cut Maine’s lead to 3-1 when he picked up the puck in the neutral zone and skated down the right wing, beating a pair of defensemen and Sullivan (26 saves) on a backhand shot.

Massachusetts forward Mike Pereira tied the game at 3-3 at 6:02, 18 seconds after Danny Hobbs’ first goal of the season. With 2:04 left in regulation, Adam Phillips gave UMass its first lead, but 19 seconds later, Dee redirected Josh Van Dyk’s pass from the left side to tie the game.

After the four-goal third, Maine and Massachusetts each put just one shot on goal in overtime.

“They just came out a lot hungrier than we did,” Flynn said. “They were in a position where they needed a tie or a win and going into the third, they just came out and left it all out there, and we just didn’t match their intensity.”

Staff Writer Rachel Lenzi can be reached at 791-6415 or at:

[email protected]

 


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