ORONO — The young Maine men’s hockey team needed clutch performances from a pair of upperclassmen to win its season opener in thrilling fashion Friday night.

After the Black Bears allowed the tying goal late in regulation, senior winger Nolan Vesey cruised down the left wing on a 2-on-1 and ripped a shot over the shoulder of Connecticut goalie Adam Huska to give Maine a 4-3 victory 28 seconds into overtime.

“Their defenseman took the pass away and Nolan made the right decision to shoot,” Coach Red Gendron said. “But more importantly, he wired one off the post and in.”

Maine never would have made it to overtime Friday night if junior goalie Rob McGovern had not stood tall, especially in the third period as the Black Bears clung to a 3-2 lead.

McGovern stuffed Huskies winger Corey Ronan on a breakaway after Ronan picked off a careless cross-rink pass in the neutral zone. Moments later, McGovern stretched his right leg to deny center Benjamin Freeman, who had danced through the Black Bears defense. McGovern stopped Freeman, in all alone once again, later in the period.

“He played extremely well,” Gendron said of McGovern. “We started turning the puck over or getting caught out of position, giving up breakaways and odd-man rushes and things like that because we lacked a little bit of poise. McGovern did his job. He stopped the puck.”

The Huskies finally got one past him, with a 16 seconds left. The Black Bears got called for too many men on the ice with 1:57 remaining and the Huskies yanked their goalie for an extra attacker. After McGovern rejected an initial attempt, center Jeff Wight emerged from a scrum in the slot to slam the rebound into the open net.

The Black Bears, who dressed 11 freshmen and sophomores among their 18 skaters, came up with a quick answer, though, just as they had done all game long.

Maine struck first in the opening period when center Tim Doherty glided down the left wing on a 2-on-1, then snapped a shot past the blocker of Huska.

The Black Bears killed a pair of overlapping penalties midway through the first period, with McGovern kicking out a pair of point-blank shots. But they remained trapped in their zone until Huskies winger Kasperi Ojantakanen, uncovered at the bottom of the left circle, buried a one-timer to tie it, nine seconds after the second penalty ended.

Four minutes later, defenseman Rob Michel wristed a shot from the point that somehow made its way through a cluster of bodies and into the net for a Maine power-play goal.

Freeman scored for the Huskies just over a minute into the second period to tie it, 2-2.

Maine reclaimed the lead when winger Peter Housakos whacked a puck past Huska. On the next shift, Connecticut appeared to score another tying goal but the referee waved it off because of contact with the goalie, then confirmed the call with a video review.

McGovern stopped 13 shots in the third period and 35 overall. The last one the Huskies took made it 3-3. But Vesey sent the Alfond Arena crowd home with his OT winner.

“(McGovern) played like someone who has played a lot of games here … and Nolan Vesey played like a senior,” Gendron said. “Those things were huge for us.”

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