SOUTH BEND, Ind. — The chorus of loud boos Friday night had to sound like sweet music to the University of Maine.
When yet another save in the final seconds of a night full of spectacular stops by Martin Ouellette finished off a 2-1 victory over 18th-ranked Notre Dame, the Maine goaltender was mobbed by his teammates. More than 5,000 Fighting Irish fans at Compton Family Ice Arena jeered.
“It felt great,“ Ouellete said. “It always feels great to win on the road. The atmosphere was great tonight but it’s good to come out with the two points.”
It was Maine’s first road win of the season.
For more than 58 minutes, Ouellette had the perfect game. He stopped every shot sent his way in the first Hockey East game between the two schools and Maine’s first hockey trip ever to South Bend. Then came the final, crazy 1 minute and 23 seconds.
“He played superbly,” Maine Coach Red Gendron said. “It was a gritty game by our whole team in a hostile environment and it’s not going to be any easier (Saturday).”
It took a strong defensive effort by Maine (13-9-3, 7-4-2 Hockey East) and a disallowed goal to seal the win.
Notre Dame’s Jeff Costello scored with 1:23 left, trimming Maine’s lead to 2-1, and looked to have scored again in the midst of a battle in front of the net with 26 seconds showing on the clock.
But the goal was waved off by referee John Gravallese after a lengthy video review showed the physical contact that resulted in Ouellette and the puck sliding into the net.
“I actually had (the puck) between my pads,” Ouellette said. “I think three guys tried to shove me in the net.”
After the goal was called off, Ouellette and the Black Bears held off the Irish as the waning seconds ticked off.
Brice O’Connor scored the game-winner with 6:39 left to play, but until that point it was a 1-0 duel featuring great goaltending by Ouellette and Notre Dame’s Steven Summerhays.
The Black Bears wasted little time in their South Bend debut. Connor Leen put Maine up 1-0 after just 59 seconds, with an assist going to Josh Henke.
The Black Bears threatened to widen the lead later in the opening period as they swarmed around the Notre Dame net and turned Summerhays into a target.
During a three-minute span, the Bears had eight shots that either just missed the net or Summerhays stopped. For those three minutes, the puck never left Notre Dame’s end.
NOTES: The teams will meet again Saturday night at Compton Family Ice Arena. It will have an 8:05 p.m. faceoff time and will be televised over the NBC Sports Network. Compton Family Ice Arena was built in 2011 and is a long football’s throw from Notre Dame Stadium, sharing a parking lot. It seats about 5,000 and is named after former NHL San Jose Sharks owner Kevin Compton and Gayla Compton, who provided the lead financial gift for the construction of the arena.