Maine will need help to gain home-ice berth for Hockey East quarterfinals

Posted Feb. 28, 2012, at 5:47 p.m.

The University of Maine’s men’s hockey team will be rooting for the University of Massachusetts and Providence College this weekend.

Maine is in a battle with Merrimack College and UMass Lowell for the two remaining home-ice berths for the Hockey East quarterfinals.

Merrimack will play a home-and-home series with Merrimack while Providence will face UMass Lowell in a home-and-home set.

League leader Boston College and second-place Boston University have already clinched home-ice berths for the best-of-three quarterfinal series.

Maine can finish anywhere from third to fifth.

Maine is currently in fourth place with 30 points, one point behind third-place UMass Lowell and one ahead of Merrimack.

Maine has just one game remaining, a 4 p.m. Saturday game against archrival New Hampshire.

Maine would lose tie-breakers to UMass Lowell and Merrimack, so it has to finish with more points.

UMass Lowell went 2-1 against the Black Bears and Merrimack went 2-0-1 against them.

The Black Bears could go into the New Hampshire game knowing a win would give them a home-ice slot if UMass beats Merrimack in Amherst, Mass., on Friday night.

Merrimack has won the last six meetings including a 4-3 decision in Amherst on Feb. 4 when Jeff Velleca scored with two seconds left in regulation.

Maine would earn home ice without having to beat New Hampshire if UMass sweeps Merrimack.

UMass will have plenty of incentive since the Minutemen are tied with Northeastern for the eighth and final playoff spot.

Northeastern has a home-and-home series with Boston University.

To pass UMass Lowell, Maine would have to beat New Hampshire and have Providence sweep the River Hawks.

UMass Lowell is 3-1-2 in its last six meetings with the Friars.

New Hampshire is in a battle with Providence for sixth place, holding a one-point lead over the Friars.

Maine finished fifth a year ago and was swept in the quarterfinals by Merrimack 5-4 and 6-2.

“We know, for sure, there is going to be an exciting finish,” said Maine coach Tim Whitehead. “We’re just going to focus on ourselves. It will be Seniors Night, and any time you play an arch rival, it’s a tough challenge. It will be a close, hard-fought hockey game.”

Whitehead likes the 4 p.m. start, which represents a change from the original 7 p.m. starting time to accommodate a telecast by the New England Sports Network.

“There’s no school [in session] here so the earlier time can help us attract more families,” said Whitehead.

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