As it turned out, the University of Maine men’s hockey team needed only a tie in one of its last three games, all against Boston College, to sew up fifth place and earn a first-round bye in the Hockey East playoffs.
But the league regular-season champion Eagles completed a sweep of the three-game set spanning the last two weekends on Saturday night as they beat the Black Bears 2-1 at Conte Forum in Chestnut Hill, Mass.
UMaine wound up tied with Connecticut for fifth place, but the Huskies won the second tie-breaker, collecting more league wins (11-10). The first tiebreaker is head-to-head, but the two teams split their two regular-season games.
So UConn gets next weekend off before visiting No. 4 Boston University for a best-of-three quarterfinal series the following weekend.
The sixth-seeded Black Bears (16-14-4 overall, 10-11-3 Hockey East) host last-place New Hampshire (10-18-6, 5-14-5 HE) in a best-of-three first-round series beginning Friday night at 7:30.
If UMaine beats UNH, it will visit No. 3 Providence in the quarterfinals.
UMaine is 1-5 in its last six games and UNH has gone 0-5-1 in its last six, including four straight losses.
UNH is 1-13-5 since Dec. 6. However, two of those ties came Jan. 19 and 20 in Orono.
Davis Cotton’s first-period goal and Christopher Brown’s power-play goal in the second period staked BC to a 2-0 lead but Rob Michel’s power-play goal with 1:14 left in the middle period cut the lead in half.
The Black Bears outshot BC 11-7 in the third period but Joe Woll stopped all 11 shots as BC finished the regular season at 18-13-3 (18-6 HE).
“We played real hard but we came up one short,” said UMaine coach Red Gendron. “It was a better performance than Friday night (6-3 loss). “We went toe-to-toe with the best team in the league.
“We just need to get a little sharper in every area of our game,” added the fifth-year UMaine coach.
Cotton opened the scoring with his ninth goal of the season as he chased down a puck behind the net, made a move like he was going to circle the net and come out to the right of UMaine freshman goalie Jeremy Swayman, but instead came out to Swayman’s left and lifted the puck over his shoulder into the short side.
Brown made it 2-0 just 5:16 into the second period he swatted the puck out of the air behind Swayman after Aapeli Rasanen’s shot deflected in front and popped in the air.
UMaine’s Eduards Tralmaks was awarded a penalty shot later in the period but Woll made the save.
However, Michel scored when he was set up in the high slot by Mitch Fossier after Fossier had skated onto a Brady Keeper drop pass. Michel wristed the puck past Woll.
Woll made 24 saves for the Eagles and Swayman made 28 for the Black Bears.