HARTFORD – Maine head coach Red Gendron sat down for his postgame press conference, leaned back in his chair and let out a deep sigh.
"It was a hard-fought game," Gendron said. "Both teams played hard. That's my opening statement."
Gendron's Black Bears were on the wrong side of a rapid comeback, as UConn used two goals in 34 seconds halfway through the second period to erase a two-goal deficit in a 2-2 tie with Maine Sunday at the XL Center.
The Huskies (8-12-6, 5-6-3 Hockey East) are now alone in eighth place in the conference, one point behind Northeastern. UConn and Maine entered the weekend tied with Merrimack for eighth place in Hockey East.
With the Huskies taking three out of four points this weekend and Merrimack splitting with UMass Lowell, Maine (10-16-2, 5-8-1) falls into 10th by itself.
UConn dominated the neutral zone in the first period, and that resulted in several chances to score. The Huskies had the better looks and spent most of the period in the Maine end, but they could not get the puck past goaltender Sean Romeo.
Cam Brown gave the Black Bears the lead with 47 seconds to play in the first period. A scrum in front of the net had Rob Nichols scrambling to find the puck, but it managed to squeak out to Brown, who was alone near the right post. He fired a quick shot into the open net to give the Black Bears the advantage.
"That's hockey," head coach Mike Cavanaugh said. "You know, I say it all the time, in golf, you hit two lousy shots and you chip it in for birdie sometimes. Other times, you hit the stick and it goes 25 feet by and you bogey. That's hockey. The most important thing is that you keep playing well. That's what I tried to tell our guys at the 10-minute mark in the second period."
Cavanaugh needed to tell his guys halfway through the second because Maine was able to come out and double its advantage eight minutes in. Jake Rutt silenced the XL Center crowd that erupted after Nichols made a one-on-one stop against Blaine Byron. Nichols dove out to meet Byron's effort, and the puck ricochetted off him into Rutt's path. Two UConn skaters were in the vicinity but could not get to the puck fast enough.
Four minutes later, UConn's offense woke up. Tyson netted the first goal at the 12:16 mark of the second period, finishing a wonderful pass from behind the net by Joona Kunnas.
The goal was the first of the season for UConn's captain and the ninth in 113 career games for the senior center.
Trevor Gerling grabbed the equalizer 34 seconds later. Gerling notched his eighth goal of the season with a hard wrist shot as he was skating away from the net.
The two teams exchanged chances in a back-and-forth third period that looked to be heading for a stalemate with under a minute to play.
"I loved our third period," Cavanaugh said. "I thought, especially early on, we had chance after chance."
That is when Devin Shore effectively silenced the 5,211 fans at the XL Center. Shore pushed the puck past Nichols to give Maine a 3-2 lead with 21 seconds to play. His celebration was cut short, however, as the goal was waved off after review.
Both teams registered one shot on goal in overtime, both easily saved by Romeo and Nichols.
Nichols had another big game for the Huskies, making 30 saves. His ability to keep Maine out on several key chances led to high praise from a baffled Gendron.
"They've got a really, really good goalie," Gendron said. "There's no question about that. It almost goes without saying."