BURLINGTON, Vt. — The Maine men’s hockey team’s season ended Sunday with a slap shot and a madcap dash onto the ice by a group of relieved Vermont players.

Jonathan Turk’s goal 16:05 into overtime broke a tie and broke the Black Bears’ hearts, handing the Catamounts a 3-2 victory in Game 3 of their Hockey East playoff series before an announced crowd of 2,622 at Gutterson Fieldhouse.

“I was heartbroken. We battled them all game, all series, I thought. And we thought it could have been our series,” said Maine junior defenseman Ben Hutton, who was instrumental in a third-period charge that pushed his team back into the game. “They made a nice play at the end.”

Turk’s shot from the slot beat Maine goaltender Sean Romeo high, set off a Catamount celebration and left the Black Bears slumped over, their season suddenly finished. It came when Maine, the No. 10 seed, couldn’t clear its zone and Anthony Petruzze gathered a loose puck behind the net to feed Turk, who was skating in from the blue line.

Seventh-seeded Vermont (20-13-4) advances to face Boston College next weekend in the quarterfinals. Maine’s season ends at 14-22-3, with six of those losses at the hands of the Catamounts.

But Sunday’s was the toughest. Maine overcame a 2-0 lead with a dominant third period in which it got goals from Hutton and Devin Shore and outshot Vermont 12-5, with another nine shots blocked by a stubborn Catamount defense.

“We just came after them. We didn’t want the season to end,” Maine Coach Red Gendron said. “It comes down to who’s going to keep battling, who’s going to keep working, who’s going to make a play at the right time.”

Maine outshot Vermont 39-30 but was unable to capitalize on any of its seven power plays.

“If we would have buried a couple of chances that we had on the power play, it would have been a different story at the end,” Hutton said.

The most damaging were the first two in the first period, when Maine sent seven shots at Vermont goaltender Mike Santaguida to no avail. The Catamounts countered with a power-play goal from Brady Shaw just six seconds into their first man advantage.

Kevin Irwin scored an even-strength goal in the second period to shove Maine to the brink of elimination, as the Black Bears looked exhausted.

The third period saw a different team emerge. Hutton scored on a cross-ice feed from Dan Renouf at 2:05.

Shore tied the score at 15:19 when he whirled in the right circle and snapped a shot past Santaguida.

“Steve Swavely forced a turnover and the puck was bobbling, so then I just kind of spun around to get square to the net and just took a whack at it,” said Shore, the team’s junior captain who may have played his last game for the Black Bears, pending a pro career as a draft pick of the Dallas Stars. “I think it looked better than the shot was. The puck was on its side. It was a bit of an knuckle puck.”

Maine carried that momentum into the early stages of overtime, but Santaguida could not be dented.

Turk became the hero and the Black Bears were left to ponder an unsatisfactory season that culminated with three hard-fought games.

“If we had played that way every weekend all season long, we would have been pretty good,” Gendron said.

Said Shore: “It stings. … It was so close to us being on the other end of this.”

Mark Emmert can be contacted at 791-6424 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: MarkEmmertPPH

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