Maine hockey blows lead, ties Vermont

Black Bears blow 2-0 third-period lead

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ORONO — If ever a tie felt like a loss, it was Friday night. The University of Maine broke through for a two-goal lead in the third period against Vermont, only to allow two late power-play goals as the Black Bears and Catamounts skated to a 2-2 tie before 3,365 at Alfond Arena.

Peter Housakos and Canon Pieper scored for the Black Bears, but Ross Colton answered with two slap shots off faceoffs, at 13:26 and 18:17.

A back-and-forth overtime did not settle matters, and Maine is now 5-7-1 overall, 3-4-1 in Hockey East.

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The Catamounts are 4-9-2, 1-5-2.

“We’re all frustrated with the outcome,” Maine Coach Red Gendron said. “But anybody who’s in the building knows that the University of Maine Black Bears played pretty well … outside of the result, that’s a pretty fine effort.”

The Catamounts feature the worst offense in Hockey East, and Maine outshot them 43-24. But Vermont sophomore goalie Stefanos Lakkas was the No. 1 star with 41 saves. He made some stellar stops and many routine ones because he positions himself so well.

“He makes it look easy because he tracks pucks very well. He did make some big ones,” Vermont Coach Kevin Sneddon said.

Freshman Jeremy Swayman continued his bid to be Maine’s No. 1 goalie. Swayman, a Boston Bruins draft pick, made 22 saves in his third straight start.

“It was a goaltenders’ battle,” Sneddon said. “Swayman played very well. We didn’t test him as much as we were tested, but he made some big saves.”

Maine created numerous chances in the first two periods, outshooting Vermont 28-14.

“We know their goalie is good. You’re not going to beat him straight up,” Housakos said. “We had to get in his eyes and tip pucks.”

Gendron said if Lekkas “was not as good as he was tonight, we don’t have to worry about the end of the game.”

All the goals came in the third period. Maine took the lead at 5:26 when Cedric Lacroix sent a pass to the far post and Housakos swatted it in.

“I saw an opportunity to break to the net and I got lucky,” Housakos said.

With the teams skating 4-on-4, Pieper took a pass from Tim Doherty, left a defender helpless with a nifty move, then skated into the high slot and sent a shot past Lekkas’ blocker for a 2-0 lead at 9:11.

“I was either going to pass it up to the D, or cut back,” Pieper said. “I cut back.”

But the Black Bears’ progress has been slowed by inconsistency and a lack of discipline. They could not stay out of the penalty box, which helped the Catamounts, especially Colton. Seven of his 10 goals have come on the power play.

“That’s what he does. He’s a shooter,” Gendron said. “We lost a couple of faceoffs and that’s what he can do.”

The two teams play again at 5 p.m. Saturday.

Tonight, we got unlucky,” Housakos said. “Just a matter of coming back (Saturday) with the same game, fine tuning our penalty kill and our discipline.”

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