Living up to a great rivalry's frenzied past, the University of Maine defeated the University of New Hampshire, 5-4 in overtime, in front of a crowd of 38,456 at Boston's Fenway Park Friday in the nightcap of the 2012 Sun Life Frozen Fenway.
Maine captain Brian Flynn (Lynnfield, Mass.) drew final blood in the seesaw battle, willing in a Spencer Abbott (Hamilton, Ontario) shot via tip-in at 1:29 of overtime. It was the seventh victory in eight games for the Black Bears, and seventh loss in eight games for the Wildcats, who nevertheless put on a great show for the full house.
The scoring got started early when UNH freshman Grayson Downing (Abbottsford, B.C.) set up the first goal at 1:05 by curling in from the neutral zone and firing a high velocity backhander from just inside the right dot. Maine goaltender Dan Sullivan (York, Pa.) required a quick reflex to make the initial save, but the rebound slid straight out to a charging John Henrion (Holden, Mass.), who buried it glove side for an immediate 1-0 lead.
Maine answered quickly, however, as Black Bear sophomore Mark Anthoine (Lewiston, Maine) notched a no-doubter of his own, converting a confident backhand pass from linemate Kyle Beattie (Avondale, Ariz.) into heavy traffic in the slot to make it 1-1 at the 4:10 mark.
The offensive then quieted down until midway through the contest when a frenzied two minutes resulted from back-to-back penalties to UNH, creating a 56-second two-man advantage for Maine. But it was UNH that struck, as Wildcat Kevin Goumas (Long Beach, N.Y.) picked Flynn's pocket as he came out of his own zone, and broke in untouched for a rare 3-on-5 shorthanded goal.
Seemingly undaunted, the potent Maine power play unit went on to capitalize on the limited remaining advantage time, scoring twice in rapid succession. Just 17 seconds after the Goumas shocker, Maine's Joey Diamond (Long Beach, N.Y.) recorded the equalizer by redirecting a perfect slap pass from Abbott positioned at the right point. Less than a minute later, and still holding a one-man advantage, Beattie created an opportunity with a great battle in the corner that got the puck onto the stick of linemate Adam Shemansky (Robbinsville, N.J.) Shemansky found an open Anthoine, who trickled his second of the night past UNH rookie stopper Casey DeSmith (Rochester, N.H.)
The third period opened up with more from Maine as Spencer sent a brilliant spinning backhand pass to Diamond streaking through the slot. Just 13 seconds into the final frame, it was 4-2 Maine.
But this time it was UNH's turn to respond, and the Wildcats did with authority, first on a gutsy clearing pass by freshman defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk (Middletown, N.J.) that he managed to complete in the face of a huge forecheck hit. His pass found Stevie Moses (Leominster, Mass.), who raced into the offensive zone before making a designed backhand drop pass to Goumas, who roofed it high on the right side. The goal came at the 3:00 even mark and brought the Wildcats back to within one.
Less than two minutes later, Henrion became the fourth player on the night to notch his second goal of the game, when a heavy Downing wrist shot deflected off of him and into the net. Center Jeff Silengo (Madison, Conn.) set up the play by intercepting a high Maine clearing attempt and getting the puck back into the prime scoring area.
UNH fired 13 shots on net in the third period after recording just 10 total over the first 40 minutes. Sullivan finished with 20 saves to lift his record to 9-4-2, while Smith made 28 saves in the loss, just his second career start. Spencer's three assists were among the brightest highlights of the night, but Diamond was the overall offensive leader with two goals and one helper.
This was the 111th meeting between the two border rivals with Maine now holding a 57-45-5 advantage. New Hampshire had won four straight in the series prior to tonight.
Fourteen previous matchups have gone to overtime with Maine now holding an impressive 8-2-5 advantage.
Fenway Park is the 13th venue in which the two teams have met, and the third in the city of Boston.
Maine is one of the hottest Hockey East teams winning four straight and seven of its last eight. The Black Bears have bounced back from a four-game losing streak in league games to go 3-1-1 in their last five conference games.
Maine senior forward Brian Flynn has now skated in 131 consecutive contests and has not yet missed a game in his four seasons.
Maine is a perfect 4-0-0 this season on neutral ice.
Maine Post-Game Quotes (PDF Format)
New Hampshire Post-Game Quotes (PDF Format)
Tim Whitehead's Thoughts After Frozen Fenway (YouTube)
Maine Player Post Game Frozen Fenway Reaction (YouTube)
UNH Post Game Frozen Fenway Press Conference (YouTube)
Freezing at Fenway - A Look at Setting up the Rink (YouTube)