ORONO — Providence College, the defending NCAA men’s hockey champion, had a season-high 51 shots on goal Friday.

Maine, a team struggling to find traction in Hockey East, mustered a season-low 19 shots.

But if you think the result was predictable, then you should have been among the 3,688 fans at Alfond Arena, because the Black Bears put up a terrific fight before seeing it go for naught.

Friars forward Nick Saracino dipped between the circles and fired a wrist shot past Maine goaltender Matt Morris 2:13 into overtime for a 1-0 victory.

Morris lost despite a career-high 50 saves as he kept his gritty team in the game. Maine (7-16-6, 4-9-2 Hockey East) put only 19 shots on Providence goaltender Nick Ellis, who earned his third shutout of the season.

It was the ninth overtime game this season for Maine, which has only one overtime victory.

“There were tons of hits and blocked shots and battles for the puck. That was a great game in that respect,” Black Bears Coach Red Gendron said. “I would have liked to have seen us generate a little bit more offense. But the battle level for both teams was exceptional.”

Maine, which is winless in its last 11 meetings with Providence, got its best chance to score in the third period when center Cam Brown broke in alone on Ellis. Brown moved the puck to his backhand but couldn’t lift it over the goaltender, who slid across the crease to foil his attempt.

“The way they play, it’s hard to create offense. The free space is behind them; they play right up in your faces,” Gendron said of the sixth-ranked Friars (18-5-4, 9-3-3).

“Offensively, you need to get the puck by them and then go outwork them to get it back.”

Maine was most effective in the third period after being outshot 31-9 through the first 40 minutes. But Ellis was up to every challenge, handing the Black Bears an eighth shutout and snapping their two-game winning streak.

Morris, making his third consecutive start after helping Maine sweep Massachusetts last weekend, drew Gendron’s praise.

“I thought he was really seeing the puck. There were a few pucks where there were temporary screens and everything else and he was just locked in,” Gendron said of his junior goaltender. “I thought he played superbly.”

The challenge for Gendron is to keep his young team from becoming demoralized by Friday’s result and not being able to compete as hard with the more experienced Friars in a rematch at 7 p.m. Saturday. The Black Bears have been prone this winter to getting blown out in the second games of a weekend series.

“They’re a hard team. They have a lot of veterans from last year’s squad, which, not for nothing, won a national championship,” Gendron said.

“There’s certain things you have to do to beat them and you have to do them for the entire game.

“I’m not worried about anything negative. We’ve been through too much. … We put it to bed. (Saturday), we’re going to talk about the things that we have to do better to win the game, not our screw-ups from (Friday’s) game. All it’s done is tell us that we’re OK.”

They were Friday, for 62 minutes and 12 seconds. And then it was sudden death for the Black Bears again.


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