Maine Preview

Massachusetts Minutemen 16 -16-0, (Hockey East 11 -14-0 9th)
#17 Maine Black Bears 16 -13-3, (Hockey East 12- 10 -2 3rd)  

Official Maine Hockey Site

So it all comes down to this.  UMass could’ve been playing this weekend to secure home ice or perhaps for seeding the NCAA tournament.  But unfortunately due to the disaster that was February they are now fighting for their playoff lives.  They’re now forced to take at least two points, but likely more, from a very good Maine team in Orono.  Granted the program has had success at Alfond at various times in the past decade, but it’s still quite an obstacle they’ve placed in front of themselves.

Maine does have something to play for this weekend.  Dropping both games may drop them out of home ice and I’m sure they’d love to stick with the 3rd seed they’re currently holding onto.  Plus, they are just on the outside looking in of an at-large berth to the NCAA tournament, currently 17th in the pairwise.  The Black Bears have stumbled a bit as of late, losing four of their last 6, but they have been stellar in the home confines of Alfond Arena with a season record of 10-3-1. 

Of course Maine has been all about offense this year, first in the league with 3.78 goals per game and the top power play at 28.9%.  A good deal of that scoring is coming from sophomore Gustav Nyquist, the NCAA’s leading scorer with 54 points.  There were reports that Nyquist did not practice earlier this week, but as I write this I haven’t heard anything beyond that.  Sophomore Brian Flynn is tied with Nyquist for the team lead in goals with 17.  Tanner House has also been a spark on offense with 31 points in 28 games.

Amazingly those three guys along with defenseman Ryan Hegarty are the only Black Bear players with a positive +/- rating this year.  Defenseman Jeff Dimmen is even but everyone else on the team is a negative.  So obviously, if you shut down that top line, there’s a good chance you’ll win.  Will O’Neil has also done a decent job on the blueline, but overall this is one of the worst defensive corps in the league.  In net Scott Darling has gotten the majority of the starts, but his numbers aren’t that good at 3.10 goals against and a .895 save percentage.  Backup freshman Shawn Sirman has played a bit as of late but his numbers are a staggering 4.66 goals against and a .851 save percentage.  Coach Tim Whitehead was quoted earlier in the week as saying he won’t decide who’ll be in net until gameday.  Who knows, maybe UMass will get to see old friend Dave Wilson one last time.

It’s been a trying week for the Minutemen.  They lost a heartbreaker to BC last Friday.  On Saturday a number of the players were involved in a noise complaint involving the Amherst PD.  And then their coach ripped the team (save for Brett Watson and Justin Braun) on his weekly radio show.  Sounds like a great way to prepare to overcome the odds and find a way into the Hockey East playoffs in the far reaches of the great white north right?  Well, Xs and Os no longer matter.  I can write all about how this team needs to build off of the good effort seen last week.  I can bring up again the need for the type of execution not seen since before Christmas.  But it’s too late for all that.  It’s time for these guys to be a team.  That’s the only thing that will help UMass find a way into the playoffs.  Live together, die alone.


Dick Baker says the team shouldn’t expect any help into the playoffs nor do they deserve any.

The Collegian previews the weekend series as well as the Hockey East playoff situation as a whole.

Toot says it’s time to put up or shut up in the Gazette preview.


Alex Berry has been sent down to the Reading Royals of the ECHL.  Is there really that much difference between the Maple Leafs ECHL, AHL, and NHL teams?


Colin Shea, Mike Pereira, and Conor Sheary will all be playing in the Spring Beantown Classic in Marlboro this month.