ORONO, Maine — After a frustrating weekend series against Boston University that saw the University of Maine men’s hockey team wind up with just one point, the Black Bears have to set their sights on the University of Massachusetts.
The Minutemen’s Mullins Center ice surface is 10 feet wider than the one at Alfond Arena.
Maine trails UMass by one point in the battle for the eighth and final Hockey East playoff slot. Northeastern is just one point behind Maine.
Vermont is four points ahead of UMass.
Maine hosts Northeastern for two games March 1-2, but two losses this weekend could all but end Maine’s postseason hopes.
The Bears would have been in much better position, but they had a potential game-winning goal disallowed last Friday night in the 3-3 tie. And a bad bounce off a stanchion on Saturday night launched a 2-on-0 rush that enabled Boston University to beat Maine 5-4 with 3.8 seconds left in overtime.
Maine had rallied from a 4-1 third-period deficit.
“It’s just one more thing we’ve had to deal with this season between the injuries, illnesses, concussions,” said Maine senior defenseman and tri-captain Mike Cornell.
“We’ve had our fair share of adversity. It’s disappointing when you get one point instead of two, three or four.
“But you can’t dwell on it. That’s not going to help us this weekend. We’ve done a great job not making excuses. It’s just one of those things you have to deal with,” said Cornell.
He added that every other team has to ensure its share of adversity, so now it’s just a matter of winning hockey games and making the playoffs.
“We outplayed BU the majority of the weekend so maybe we can use it as a good thing … take that negative energy and turn it into a positive and take it out on UMass,” said sophomore center Stu Higgins.
“We just need to focus on the things we did well last weekend and take the positives out of it,” said junior goalie Martin Ouellette. “We played really well.”
Higgins could have his hands full because UMass’ top three scorers (Branden Gracel, Michael Pereira, Conor Sheary) are on the same line and Higgins is the team’s checking-line center.
“Sheary has a ton of speed and that’s a very good line. But if I’m playing against him, I’ve been playing against guys like that all year,” said Higgins.