LOWELL — Derek Arnold banged in a rebound at 1:50 of overtime to lift UMass-Lowell over Maine, 2-1, in the second and deciding game of their best-of-three Hockey East quarterfinal series Friday night before 5,399 fans at Tsongas Center.
Scott Wilson and Christian Folin broke into the Maine zone, and when goalie Martin Ouellette stopped Folin’s shot, net-crasher Michael Fallon knocked the rebound to the ice with his glove, then spun and tapped the puck to Arnold, who cleaned up.
UMass-Lowell (24-10-2), the regular-season champion, moves on to the semifinals at TD Garden for the first time in four years, while the eighth-seeded Black Bears (11-19-8) go home.
It was a tough night for Maine.
Captain Joey Diamond, who served five minutes for charging River Hawks goalie Connor Hellebuyck in the first and two minutes for roughing in the second, earned another five minutes and a game disqualification for kicking UMass-Lowell defenseman Joe Houk late in the second period.
The indefatigable Black Bears killed them all and went into the third period with a 1-0 lead.
Maine’s Martin Ouellette nearly stole the game, making 35 saves, including 18 in the second period.
“It was a very mentally taxing game,’’ said UMass-Lowell coach Norm Bazin. “Certainly it was a difficult game to play. They had some adjustments we had to deal with and we didn’t make them as smoothly and as efficiently as I would have liked.
“Their goaltender was outstanding, and I was starting to wonder if it was going to be our night
Fallon tied the game for UMass-Lowell at 4:00 of the third period, jamming the puck past Ouellette at the right post after Wilson’s wraparound attempt was stopped.
Wilson, UMass-Lowell’s slippery sophomore, was on the doorstep for a quick shot as time ran out in regulation, but Ouellette reached for a save, then stretched out his glove to cover the puck and send the game to OT.
Maine, which began the season 2-11-2 but put together a 9-6-6 run after Christmas to earn a playoff spot, was left looking back with pride at their improvement, but dismay at their quarterfinal departure.
“We’re proud of our guys, how they battled and fought against a really good team,’’ said Maine coach Tim Whitehead. “More importantly than tonight was how far we’ve come this year. We don’t even resemble the team we were at the start of the year.’’
Maine was holding a one-goal lead late in the second period when Diamond and Houk got tangled deep in the UMass-Lowell zone, with both players landing on the ice. Diamond struggled to get free, then picked up his skate and stepped on Houk’s leg. The UMass-Lowell defenseman recoiled in pain as Diamond earned his DQ at 18:04.
Diamond started the quarterfinal series as Maine’s all-time penalty leader (439 minutes). He took three minors in the first game Thursday, a 4-2 UMass-Lowell win.
But it was Maine who scored on the power play Friday, as Devin Shore beat Hellebuyck (18 saves) with a wrist shot from the left point at 7:51 of the second period, the visitors scoring first for the second straight game. Ryan Lomberg won a faceoff at the left dot to set it up.
“When you’re playing good teams like Maine, you have to persevere,’’ said Bazin.
“I’m pleased and excited that we were able to end it tonight.’’