May 25, 2018
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BU, Maine eye NCAA tourney as series looms

By Larry Mahoney, BDN Staff

The University of Maine Black Bears and Boston University Terriers have NCAA Tournament aspirations.

But both are on the outside looking in when it comes to the PairWise Rankings that emulate the NCAA Tournament selection process.

They will receive an opportunity to move up the rankings this weekend when they face off in a two-game set at Alfond Arena in Orono.

Maine is 17th in the PairWise Rankings and BU is tied for 18th with Colorado College. The five conference tournament champions and 11 at-large teams will earn the 16 NCAA tourney bids.

"These are two real good skating teams who are vying for home ice playoff spots in Hockey East and who need to stash wins away in order to get selected to the national tournament without having to win the Hockey East tournament," said BU coach Jack Parker.

"This is the biggest weekend of the season so far," said Maine junior left wing Brian Flynn.

Maine sophomore left wing Kyle Beattie said it will be a playoff atmosphere.

"Every game is huge. We have to treat every game as if it's the biggest game of the year because it is." 

Maine has been excellent at home, going 8-1-1. The only blemishes were the 4-3 overtime loss to New Hampshire in which the Wildcats forced the overtime by scoring with 18 seconds left in regulation and the 3-3 tie with UConn.

But the Terriers are a respectable 4-4-1 on the road and are 5-1-1 in their last seven visits to Alfond Arena.

"We've played pretty well on the road this year and we've played fairly well in Orono," said Parker.

"Alfond Arena is a great building to play in," added Parker. "The crowd has great enthusiasm. The ice surface is fast. We always practice at Walter Brown Arena to get used to the smaller rink. There's so much more energy at Alfond Arena (compared to other rinks)."

Parker who was referring to his former home rink. BU plays at the beautiful, state-of-the-art Agganis Arena, which is five feet wider than Alfond (90 compared to 85).

"Another great thing about Alfond is the puck gets to the front of the net pretty quickly," said Parker, who is in his 38th season at his alma mater.

"Our crowd really helps us out," said Maine senior center Robby Dee. "They can be an intimidating factor for teams coming in. They're pretty loud and they're right on top of everyone."

Maine coach Tim Whitehead said, "It's a good home ice advantage, but it doesn't guarantee us anything. BU always plays well up here. It's going to be a great challenge for us. They're a very talented team and they're very well-coached. They're one of the top teams in the league."

Whitehead said both teams are good in transition.

"Both teams have been doing well on the special teams and that will be a good battle as well," he added.

"It's going to be a throwback to the old Maine-BU series," predicted Parker. "It's a great rivalry. The game earlier (2-2 tie) this year was one of the best games we've had in our building all year."

It was one of three sellouts (6,150) with the other two being against archrival Boston College.

One of the intriguing aspects will be BU and its eight come-from-behind wins — BU tied Maine on a goal by first round draft choice and freshman Charlie Coyle with 1:21 left — against a Maine team that has allowed six goals in the final 5:07 of regulation. Maine is 1-2-3 in those six games.

"We've got to try to extend our leads," said Dee.

"We can't change how we play," said Flynn. "Obviously, we've got to cheat a little more on the defensive side. But we can't get tight."

Senior defenseman and assistant captain Jeff Dimmen added, "We've got to keep the pedal to the floor and take it to (the opponents). We can't sit back. We've got to get the puck in deep and put pressure on them."

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