ORONO —The University of Maine Black Bears, fresh from a sweep at Boston University last week, faced lightly-regarded University of Alabama-Huntsville Friday, and barely escaped.

Down 3-0 after two periods, Maine tied the game in regulation, and won it 4-3 on Stu Higgins’ rebound goal, 59 seconds into overtime, before 3,987 at Alfond Arena.
Spencer Abbott assisted on the score. He earlier tied the game with 46 seconds left in the game, with the Maine goalie pulled.

Maine outshot UAH 38-11, but sophomore goalie Clarke Saunders backboned a trapping defense.
Maine, ranked 15th in the national polls, improved to 15-8-3. The hard-luck Chargers dropped to 2-25-1.

“That’s definitely a better team than most people think,” Higgins said.

The warning signs about UAH came last week with the Chargers lost two one-goal games at top-ranked Minnesota-Duluth.

Maine pounced in the first period, with the help of five power plays, and out-shot the Chargers 15-3, but trailed 1-0.

“The guys were frustrated after the first period,” Abbott said. “They’re goalie stood tall.”

On one of UAH’s few possessions in the Maine zone, Kyle Lysaght took a centering pass in the slot and beat goalie Dan Sullivan at 11:29.

Maine’s fifth power play continued in the second period. The Black Bear hit a pipe, but not the back of the net.

Anxiety elevated in the Alfond when the Chargers scored twice within three minutes in the second period, Mac Roy at 13:14, and Justin Cseter at 16:09.

A stunned crowd watch the Black Bears skate off the ice, down 3-0.

“The second period was all them,” Maine coach Tim Whitehead said. “In the third period we were able to re-group. Then it was a matter of whether we got enough bounces.”

Maine began the third period on the power play. Matt Mangene deflected in Abbott’s slap shot at 2:07, closing Maine to 3-1.

Maine needed to get players in front of Saunders and the Black Bears did that 9:34. After a bunch of shots, freshman Andrew Cerretani of Pelham, N.H. stuffed the rebound, closing to 3-2 at 9:34.

It was Cerretani’s first collegiate score.

With Sullivan pulled, Maine attacked. Matt Mangene sent in a shot. It hit Abbott. He turned and lifted the puck over Saunders, tying the game.

In overtime, Abbott passed from behind the net to Higgins – who was persistent.

“I shot, the goalie stopped it,” Higgins said. “I shot (again) with my backhand. Somebody blocked it. Then it popped back to me. The goalie was out of position, and it finally went in.”

The two teams play again tonight at 7.

NOTES: The Black Bears played without top-liner Joey Diamond, who had not recovered from the sore hip he suffered last weekend …  Mangene moved up to the top line and freshman defenseman Jacob Rutt made his first appearance as a forward, playing left wing on the second line … While the Black Bears played a non-conference game, UMass-Lowell beat Vermont 3-1 Friday to move into a tie for third place with Maine, at 24 points.

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