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UConn men’s hockey defeats Maine in overtime, 3-2

The Huskies scored the game-winner with 21.2 left in overtime.

Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

Harrison Rees buried a rebound with 21.2 left in overtime to lift UConn men’s hockey past the Maine Black Bears, 3-2. The Huskies earned a sweep and took five of six points in Hockey East play back to Storrs with the overtime victory.

With 30 seconds left, Hudson Schandor won a face-off in the Huskies’ zone and they quickly took it up the ice. Schandor gave it to Marc Gatcomb on the blue line, who ripped a shot on net. Maine goaltender Victor Ostman made the stop but dropped the puck, where Rees picked it up, skated around him and put it into the open goal for the victory.

“I thought it was fitting. We were up here two years ago in the same exact situation. We won on Friday night and (on Saturday) we’re in overtime and Harrison Rees turned the puck over and they came down and scored to win the game,” head coach Mike Cavanaugh said. “Before the overtime I said, ‘Hey, remember where we were a couple years ago. We got to play on our toes.’ Wouldn’t you know Harry gets a winner, so I thought that was fitting tonight.”

UConn out-shot the hosts 44-25 but couldn’t find the game-winner in regulation thanks to a stellar performance by Maine goaltender Victor Ostman, who made 41 saves on the night — including multiple breakaway stops in the third period and overtime.

For a second straight game, UConn started slow but found a rhythm with its first power play in the latter half of the opening period. While the Huskies didn’t score, they held the puck well and created a few dangerous opportunities. Even after the advantage ran out, UConn continued to pin Maine in its own zone and pepper the net with shots.

It didn’t take long for the Huskies to go back on the power play. Nick Capone drew a second penalty and this time, UConn wouldn’t be denied. After notching two goals and a pair of assists on Friday night, Ryan Tverberg kept his hot streak alive.

The sophomore received the puck near the blue line, faked a slap shot and then fired a shot five-hole to give the Huskies a 1-0 lead just as the power play expired — a score which held into the first intermission.

Once the second period began, all hell broke loose. Maine tied the game 87 seconds in before UConn — as it has done over the last few games — responded quickly. Just over two minutes later, Rees had his shot deflected by a Maine player into the back of the net to put the Huskies ahead.

The puck had barely been on the ice after the ensuing face-off when the Black Bears answered back. Just 33 seconds after Rees’ goal, Donovan Houle took the puck on the back post, crossed towards the front of net and back-handed a shot past Hanson for the score.

After the furious stretch of scoring, the goals quickly dried up. Vladislav Firstov nearly caught Maine on a breakaway in the final seconds of the period but got caught by a defender and never got a shot off. With 40 minutes gone, the score remained tied at 2-2.

In the third period, the two teams went up and down the ice in a flurry of non-stop action, though neither side could find the back of the net despite creating grade-A opportunities. UConn out-shot Maine 12-5 in the final period but Ostman stood on his head to deny the visitors.

The game seemed destined to be decided by penalty shots before UConn won a face-off in its own zone and went all the way up the ice in a little over 10 seconds to score the winner. With the victory, the Huskies improve to 6-3-0 (4-1-0 Hockey East) — their best start ever through nine games under Cavanaugh — while Maine falls to 0-7-1 (0-4-0 Hockey East).

Next, UConn will play Boston College at home on Friday followed by a trip to Providence on Saturday.