ORONO – The University of Maine men’s hockey team was looking to end a four-game losing streak and a five-game winless skein when it hosted the University of Vermont Catamounts Sunday afternoon at Alfond Arena.
The Black Bears didn’t pick up a victory but they got the next best thing: a dramatic come-from-behind 5-5 overtime tie in which they erased four two-goal deficits and scored the tying goal with 59 seconds remaining.
Senior Rob Bellamy’s first goal of the season, coming with goalie Ben Bishop on the bench in favor of the extra attacker, snapped Maine’s four-game losing streak as Maine is now 4-6-2 overall, 2-4-2 in Hockey East. Vermont is 3-5-2 and 3-2-2, respectively.
Maine’s six-game winless streak (0-4-2) is its longest since the 1985-86 season when it went nine games (0-8-1) without a victory.
“Even though we didn’t win, this was a huge point for us,” said Bellamy, who replaced Bishop as the extra attacker and maneuvered his way through five Catamounts to the low slot and converted a pass from Andrew Sweetland, who was behind the net.
“[Sweetland] has unbelievable vision and skill. I got myself into good position, he got the puck to me and I shot it as quickly as I could,” said Bellamy. “I think it went over [Vermont goalie Joe Fallon’s] pad and under his blocker.”
Sweetland said, “I had a couple of seconds behind the net. I looked out and passed it. It went through [a Vermont player’s] skates.”
Vermont coach Kevin Sneddon said his Catamounts gave Sweetland “too much time. And then we left somebody [Bellamy] alone in front of the net, which is the most dangerous area on the ice.
“We didn’t pay the price defensively,” added Sneddon. “We lost a point today but Maine did a great job coming back.”
“You can’t have breakdowns like we did,” said Vermont senior center and captain Dean Strong.
“I can’t say enough about the guys for the way they came back today,” said Bishop, who was extremely shaky while allowing five goals over the game’s first 23:25.
But he settled down the rest of the way and kept the Catamounts off the scoreboard.
Bishop finished with 17 saves including three Grade-A (high-percentage) stops. Fallon finished with 27 including 10 Grade-As.
Maine coach Tim Whitehead said, “The big thing is I loved the way we didn’t quit. We kept falling behind by two goals but we kept fighting back. We definitely took a step forward today. The guys played hard.”
Maine’s Keenan Hopson cut the lead to 5-4 when he converted a breakaway 6:19 into the third period.
Hopson poked the puck free from UVM defenseman Mark Lutz just beyond the blue line, broke in alone and beat Fallon over his stick-side shoulder.
“[Lutz] had his head down so I gambled,” said Hopson.
Vermont did a thorough job protecting the lead until Sweetland found Bellamy.
Corey Carlson scored on the power play to open the scoring 1:50 into the game as his wrister from the left circle cleanly beat Bishop.
Kevan Miller extended the lead just 1:36 later when he jammed home a Brian Roloff feed off a two-on-one.
Maine’s Jeff Dimmen got one back at the 5:28 mark with a wrister from the middle of the slot but Dan Lawson re-established the two-goal margin 2:14 later when his seemingly harmless wrister from the left point deflected in off Bishop’s glove.
Bret Tyler’s power-play goal made it 3-2 at the 10:37 mark of the first period as his power play wrister from the high slot sailed over Fallon’s glove.
In the second period, Colin Vock and Peter Lenes (power play) sandwiched a shorthanded goal by Maine’s Chris Hahn. All three goals came in the first 3:25 of the period.
Vock and Lenes both beat Bishop with wristers from the right circle that found the far corner over Bishop’s blocker.
Lenes’ wrister came just 30 seconds after Hahn finished off a two-on-one with Bellamy by directing the puck inside the near post from the edge of the crease.
“I never saw it,” said Bishop about the Lenes goal.
Whitehead and Sneddon were surprised that the teams combined for 10 goals.
“You had two of the best goalies in the country and two traditionally strong defensive teams. But it was more exciting for the fans,” said Whitehead.
“This wasn’t what I expected when you have two of the league’s best goalies. Neither one was on top of his game today,” said Sneddon.
Hopson, Carlson and Lenes had two assists apiece to go with their goals while Bellamy, Dimmen and Vock had one each. Billy Ryan had two assists for Maine.
BLACK BEARS 5, CATAMOUNTS 5 (OT)
Vermont (3-5-2) 3 2 0 0 – 5
Maine (4-5-2) 2 1 2 0 – 5
First period – 1. Vermont, Carlson 4 (Strong, Lanes), 1:50 (pp); 2. Vermont, Miller 2 (Roloff), 3:26; 3. Maine, Dimmen 2 (Hopson, Ryan), 5:28; 4. Vermont, Lawson 2 (unassisted), 7:42; 5. Maine, Tyler 4 (Ryan, Dimmen), 10:37 (pp). Penalties: Maine, Banwell, roughing, 1:04; Vermont, too many men on ice, 8:36; Vermont, Cullity, delaying the game, 9:54; Maine, Duffy, charging, 11:18; Maine, Marshall, boarding, 16:06, Vermont, Lanes, holding, 19:38; Vermont, Lawson, contact to the head, 19:54.
Second period – 6. Vermont, Vock 2 (Carlson, Lanes), 2:15; 7. Maine, Hahn 4 (Bellamy), 2:55 (sh); 8. Vermont, Lanes 4 (Vock, Carlson), 3:25 (pp). Penalties: Maine, Clark, hitting from behind 2:44; Vermont, Leonard, hooking, 4:14; Maine, Tyler, hooking, 11:32; Vermont, Roloff, slashing, 17:32.
Third period – 9. Maine, Hopson 3 (unassisted), 6:19; 10. Maine, Bellamy 1 (Sweetland, Hopson) 19:01 (ex). Penalties: none.
Overtime – none. Penalties: none.
Shots on goal: Vermont 9-6-5-2-22; Maine 10-10-9-3-32
Goaltenders: Vermont, Fallon (32 shots-27 saves); Maine, Bishop (22-17)
Power-play opportunities: Vermont 2 of 5; Maine 1 of 5
High-percentage scoring chances: Vermont 2-5-1-1-9; Maine 7-6-8-1-22