Bears must capitalize at home

Posted Feb. 16, 2010, at 10:36 p.m.

Last week at this time, the University of Maine men’s hockey team was enjoying the afterglow of a two-game sweep of archrival New Hampshire.

Now, they are licking their wounds after the defending national champion Boston University Terriers, desperate for wins to get in the NCAA tourney, swept them convincingly.

Welcome to Hockey East, circa 2009-1010.

It is Parity Central.

Boston College is the only team ranked in the top 12 in the USCHO poll.

The Eagles are the highest-ranked team in the Pairwise Rankings that mimic the NCAA Tournament selection criteria as they are tied for fourth. New Hampshire and Vermont are tied for ninth, UMass is 15th, Maine 17th, BU tied for 18th and UMass Lowell 25th.

New Hampshire leads the conference standings with 29 points, but just nine points separate second-place BC from ninth-place Merrimack.

BC has 26 points, Maine 24, BU and UMass tied with 22, Northeastern 21, UML 20, Vermont 19 and Merrimack 17.

The Black Bears control their own destiny.

Four of their final six games are at Alfond Arena where they have won their last six games.

Maine will sandwich visits from UMass Lowell and UMass around a pair of games at Merrimack.

UMass Lowell and UMass are enigmatic but dangerous.

The River Hawks will come to Alfond Arena just 3-6 in their last nine games but five of the losses were by one goal, including a heart-breaking 2-1 loss at Boston College Saturday in which the game-winner came with just 14 seconds left.

UMass has lost five of its last six after winning four in a row.

UMass Lowell and UMass haven’t found Alfond Arena much to their liking. The River Hawks were winless in 15 (0-14-1) at Alfond until winning 3-2 last season. UMass is 0-6-1 in its last seven visits to Orono.

However, UMass Lowell and UMass have talent and are certainly capable of winning in Orono.

Merrimack is 10-2 at its cozy Lawler Arena, but the Bears may be catching a break.

After playing a home-and-home set with UMass this weekend, the Warriors have a midweek game against BC before hosting Maine twice.

If Maine wins four of its last six, it will probably finish in the top four and host a Hockey East quarterfinal series.

Maine has to play better team defense. The Black Bears are 0-10-2 when they surrender more than three goals. They gave up 12 goals in the two losses at BU.

The Maine players felt they were outworked by BU, but I thought it was more a case of the Terriers simply capitalizing on their superior talent. They have six players who were selected in the top three rounds of the NHL draft. Maine has one.

The Bears must put that series behind them and not let it snowball. Use it as a learning experience….

Speaking of hockey, the third Fill the Alfond game in Orono last Thursday night between Bangor and Brewer High School was a rousing success.

There was an exceptional turnout in excess of 2,000, the crowd was energetic and it made for a memorable evening for the players.

“It was pretty awesome,” said Brewer junior right wing Lucas Lamond, whose team won 10-4.

“It was a great atmosphere. I’m glad I was able to participate in it,” said Bangor senior defenseman Nick George.

It should be an annual affair.

Not only will players circle it on their calendars, it will also serve as motivation for young hockey players hoping to play for Bangor or Brewer some day.

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