ORONO, Maine – UConn freshman Spencer Naas (Minnetonka, Minn.) scored the game-winning goal with 20.3 seconds to play in overtime to deliver the Huskies a 2-1 Hockey East road win over the Maine Black Bears at Alfond Arena. Sophomore Rob Nichols (Dallas, Texas) matched his career-high for the third time this season with 41 saves to earn the win.
Naas picked up-his team-leading 11th goal of the season and his fourth game-winning goal on the year. It was the program’s first-ever win over Maine in four trips to Orono, Maine. UConn also picked-up their first overtime win on the season (1-5-1) as they pick-up the two Hockey East points in the standings and improve to 5-6-2 in the league with the win.
Nichols made 12 saves in each of the first three periods and turned away five more in the overtime on his way to 41 stops. He posted 41 saves in a 2-1 overtime loss at Merrimack and a 3-3 tie at Notre Dame earlier this season.
A scoreless first period had Maine with a slim 12-11 edge on shots after the first 20 minutes of action. Both teams had power play chances as the Huskies went 0-for-1 and Maine 0-for-2 with the extra skater. The Huskies earned their second power play of the night with 2.9 seconds left in the first as Nolan Vesey was called for interference.
UConn opened the second on the power play but came up empty with their best chance coming thanks to Shawn Pauly (Bellingham, Wash.), who flew in from the left wing and charged hard to the left post but was denied by Morris.
For the third-straight game, the Huskies struck first and took a 1-0 lead. Junior Patrick Kirtland (Rocky Hill, Conn.) dug the puck out from behind the net and got it on net. Morris made the initial save but couldn’t find the loose puck rebound in the ensuing scrum in front to cover up. The puck got deflected over to senior Cody Sharib (Needham, Mass.) near the left post who punched it in for the game’s first goal and his fifth on the season.
The Black Bears put the offensive pressure on and found the tying goal at 13:55 in the third. Maine won a face-off in the UConn zone and drew the puck back to right winger Steven Swavely who blasted a shot on goal from the point. Nichols made the initial stop but the rebound found Devin Shore waiting in the left circle who buried a wrist shot top shelf to tie the game at 1-1.
It looked as if the game could go to a 1-1 draw but the Huskies took advantage of a loose puck turnover in the neutral zone. David Drake (Naperville, Ill.) chipped the puck up to Corey Ronan (Franklin, Mass.) who carried in with Naas. Ronan fed it Naas on the left wing and he snapped off a wrist shot that Morris looked like he stopped but the puck trickled through and just found its way over the goal line for the winner with 20.3 seconds left.
The Huskies and Black Bears will take the ice again on Sunday afternoon from the XL Center in Hartford. The puck will drop at 2:05 pm.
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