PORTLAND – If Saturday night was to be a festive finale for the University of Maine hockey team prior to its Christmas break, than Jordan Wakefield proved to be its Scrooge.

The Mercyhurst goaltender stopped 45 of 46 Maine shots to help the Lakers earn a 1-1 tie with the Black Bears in front of 6,626 at the Cumberland County Civic Center.

“I thought he was fabulous,” said Maine coach Tim Whitehead of Wakefield’s performance. “He played a tremendous game. We had shots from a lot of different areas. We tried them up top. We tried them down low. We had rebound opportunities.”

Similar to last year’s outing in Portland, in which Maine rallied to beat Brown 2-1, the Black Bears got off to a slow start. Mercyhurst played with more intensity. Though Maine had its share of scoring opportunities, Wakefield helped preserve the early lead.

The Black Bears (10-3-2) picked up the pace later in the game and created constant pressure over the final 10 minutes of regulation and into overtime but couldn’t put a second goal behind him.

“There’s no question that the team that wins the first period generally wins the game, or at least ties it,” said Whitehead. “This is a great example of that. They did a fabulous job throughout the game, but I thought they gained confidence in the first period. We didn’t put the clamp down. Had we played like we did in the second and third period and overtime in the first period, mentally, I’m not sure they would have had the confidence to do what they did.”

On paper it looked like a mismatch. Maine is ranked third in the nation in both the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine poll and the USCHO.com poll. Mercyhurst, out of Atlantic Hockey, has just four wins and had lost three of its last four games.

“We didn’t take them lightly but we didn’t come out as strong as we wanted to,” said Maine captain Michel Leveille. “We definitely wanted to come out strong. Then we had a slow first period. They got the first goal and they got the momentum. That’s not the way we want to come out, especially in a place like Portland.”

Maine has hosted a game in Portland 24 times since 1984 and are 15-6-3 overall in those games.

Maine tied the game with a late power-play goal in the second period. Brent Shepheard won the draw to Teddy Purcell, who sent the puck to Mike Lundin at the point. Lundin’s wrister sailed through a crowd before being tipped by Billy Ryan for the equalizer just four seconds after the penalty call.

“I was thinking maybe the floodgates would open and we’d start putting more in,” said Lundin.

Maine nearly scored the go-ahead goal with 9:40 left when Shepheard’s backhander in front hit the left post. The Black Bears outshot the Lakers 18-6 in the third period and 3-1 in overtime.

“Their team defense was unbelievable,” said Lundin. “We had puck in there, and they’d block us out and not give us opportunities for rebounds, and their goalie obviously shut us down.”.

Mercyhurst, from Erie, Pa., struck first at 3:43 into the game. Off a face-off, the Lakers got a shot on Ben Bishop, who finished with 18 saves. He made the kick save, but Ben Cottreau fired back the rebound.

Maine had plenty of chances in the second period. The Black Bears outshot Mercyhurst 12-6 and had four power plays. Mercyhurst continued to outhustle and outwork the Black Bears while its defense kept Maine at bay.

“Perhaps our guys took them lightly,” said Whitehead. “I don’t know. I don’t think our guys did. Right now, we’ve got to break down the tape and see where we can improve and turn our focus to the second half.”

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.