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Black Bears Never Left Hibernation Saturday Night Against Boston College. What can they do now to save the season?

February 20, 2018

This is a movie we've seen all too many times during this University of Maine hockey season. 

 

Big rival comes into Alfond Arena. Sellout crowd. Chance to make more inroads in the Hockey East standings. 

 

But the Black Bears followed the same old script and laid an egg at home, losing 5-0 to a Boston College team that isn't your older brother's BC.

 

BC came in to Orono playing its third game in six days. The Eagles didn't win a single game outside Hockey East play and would not make the NCAA tournament if the season ended today. Maine was celebrating it's Senior Night. The game had been sold out for a week. 

 

And yet the only drama in this game was who was going to take home some cold hard cash in the 50/50 raffle.

 

There's no excuse for Maine's performance on Saturday. None. They did not get any traffic to the front of the net, and were constantly firing pucks into Joseph Woll's belly. The Bears didn't bury their opportunities. The Eagles did. Red Gendron, the favorite for Hockey East Coach of the Year, was outcoached. Again.

 

Now that the pitiful effort against BC is behind us, let's look ahead.

If the season ended right now, Maine would travel to Boston University for a Hockey East quarterfinal series. The Black Bears are ranked fifth and the top five teams bypass the first round. 

 

Maine, which does have a tiebreaker with BU, can finish no lower than 7th. That means Maine would host a first-round playoff series.

 

But the way the Black Bears have played at home over the second half of the season (2-2-2 to be exact) maybe Maine is better off trying to get the No. 5 seed and traveling to Agganis Arena, where Maine won 3-0 in January. 

 

Mathematically, UConn and UMass Lowell could still pass Maine. The Bears have two at BC next weekend, UConn a single game with UMass and UMass Lowell a home and home with rival Merrimack.

 

Merrimack is in the cellar but can escape it by sweeping the River Hawks. That's where an intriguing catch-22 comes in. If Maine should slip to 6th, New Hampshire could be Maine's first-round opponent.

 

I know I wouldn't want to see Danny Tirone between the Alfond pipes in a playoff series, the way he often morphs into Tuukka Rask against Maine and the Bears could only muster one win in three games against a bad Wildcats team. 

 

But, I don't see Merrimack sweeping UMass Lowell. Norm Bazin is too good a coach to let that happen.

 

Then there's UConn, whom the Bears don't own a tiebreaker with. Should UMass defeat the Huskies and Maine earn at least one point at Conte Forum, Maine would finish ahead of UConn.

 

BU, meanwhile, hosts a Vermont team that is playing better in the second half of the year, but that's a series on paper that BU should sweep. 

 

In the end, Maine can't rely on other teams for help. They've played extremely well on the road this season. As ugly as Saturday's loss was, they need to put it behind them and take down BC on its ice.

 

Two other teams rooting for Maine next weekend will be Providence and Northeastern, arguably the two best in Hockey East. Should Maine sweep BC and Northeastern take care of UNH and Providence defeat UMass, both of those teams will pass BC.

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