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UMaine hockey: An opportunity knocks but they didn't answer.

Every season has that one moment where fans and players alike ponder the what if's and what could have been's.

It's not impossible to believe that University of Maine hockey fans could look back on last weekend's series with UConn with that same mentality.

The Black Bears entered the weekend undefeated at Alfond Arena, but laid an absolute egg in a 3-2 loss on Friday night that could've been worse had it not been for netminder Jeremy Swayman.

Maine was outplayed and outcoached in every aspect, falling behind 2-0 in the first period as the Huskies never trailed. The Bears did fight back to tie it only to see Falmouth native Ben Freeman put UConn up to stay in the third period.

In desperate need of two points on Saturday, the Bears escaped with a 1-0 overtime victory in which Swayman was again stellar and Mitchell Fossier's goal late in overtime gave Maine a much needed two points.

When all was said and done, Maine is now fifth in Hockey East and 14th in the PairWise rankings. Had the Bears taken care of business Friday, they'd be tied for the top spot in the league.

Games in hand are also a disadvantage for Red Gendron's club. The four teams ahead of Maine - UMass, Boston College, UMass Lowell and Boston University - all have games in hand on the Black Bears. Maine has just four games to play. Northeastern, which is just a point behind Maine, has two games in hand on the Black Bears.

Maine's next opponent - Vermont - is 3-21-5 and is winless in Hockey East play. If the Black Bears don't sweep the dreadful Catamounts, they don't deserve a home Hockey East playoff series. It's as simple as that.

We all expect the Black Bears to take care of business next weekend against Vermont, but we had that same thought going into Week 17 of the NFL season, and the Patriots subsequently made Ryan Fitzpatrick look like Dan Marino, and you know the rest.

It's not unrealistic to think Maine can win three of its last four and somehow be among those top four teams. The Black Bears simply need to handle their business.

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