The Wildcats own Hockey East's regular-season
trophy, but they really don't care to see it. New Hampshire
captured the crown Saturday night, but it was after a 7-1
loss at Providence – its most lopsided defeat of the
season and its worst performance since the 9-2 nightmare
against Boston University in last year's conference semifinal.
UNH senior Josh Ciocco and
the Wildcats weren't in the mood to celebrate the
Hockey East title.
UNH clinched its sixth league title (third
outright) by way of BU's loss to Vermont the same night.
While it serves as the symbol of a tremendous season, the
accomplishment has still not served as a consolation to
that gut check in Providence.
"It was actually pretty negative,"
Josh Ciocco said about Saturday's bus ride back to Durham.
"I don't think many people were focused on the fact
that we won Hockey East. I don't even think that we have
even celebrated that yet to be perfectly honest. Coach has
the trophy in his room right now, and I don't think any
of us have even seen it yet. I really don't think it matters
too much to us."
"I haven't seen it yet," Trevor
Smith said. "I don't think anybody has seen it but
the coaching staff. I think we'll bring it out [Thursday]
for the team photo, but that's not the biggest of our worries
right now. Our worries are the first round of the playoffs,
beating BC and getting into the national picture."
The prospects remain high that UNH could see
Providence during the quarterfinals of the Hockey East playoffs.
The Friars enter the last weekend of regular-season play
in eighth place – two points ahead of Lowell for the
final playoff spot.
PC closes out with a home-and-home against
Merrimack, and Lowell plays two at Vermont. Northeastern
is locked in for a seven-seed, six points ahead of the Friars.
PC owns the tiebreaker with Lowell by winning the season
series, so it only needs to earn two points to clinch a
When the schedule is complete and the seeds
sort themselves out, Ciocco hopes Providence remains in
"At this point after we lost that game,
on the way back, I was thinking about how there isn't a
team I'd rather play in the first round than [Providence]
right now," Ciocco said. "I'm actually pretty
excited about it now.
"My hope is that they don't think that
this is the team they're going to face in the first round
because it's not a mistake that we won Hockey East. We don't
plan on playing like that the rest of the season."
"Like that," as Ciocco put it, was
easy to explain. They didn't show up, and they took it on
the chin as a result.
"I just think, mentally, we didn't show
up to play the second night there," he said. "It's
a tough rink to play in, but I don't think we showed up
physically ready to win one-on-one battles. They came out
and took the body to us pretty good. For whatever reason,
we weren't ready to mentally engage like that. That was
The Wildcats can get back at it this weekend
during their home-and-home with Boston College. They aren't
planning on holding back to rest up for the playoffs, even
with the league title already in hand. There is too much
to prove – to themselves, especially. Plus, it doesn't
take a whole lot to get up for the Eagles.
"It's BC," Ciocco said. "I
don't think we need a ton of incentive. Anytime we play
Maine, BU, BC, there's a ton of energy going into that week.
I don't think there needs to be any ongoing incentive for
us other than we're playing Boston College."
The Eagles are playing for something, too.
With one point against UNH, BC will clinch the second seed
by virtue of winning the head-to-head tiebreaker with BU
(the Beanpot doesn't count in league tiebreakers).
So, while the Wildcats haven't thought much
about their shiny new hardware, they have been able to keep
their focus on hockey. This isn't always easy to do for
teams that clinch early. It's by no means a luxury, but
they should be better prepared for the playoffs because
of this mindset.
Plus, teams don't win regular-season trophies
on one night of work. Sure, they'd probably have some extra
jump if they won the league after beating Providence, but
this is a reward that spans six months and 27 games.
"Whether we did it on our own or BU didn't
get the point to stay in the race, the bottom line is that
at the end of the weekend these guys accomplished winning
the regular season," UNH coach Richard Umile said.
"It's a little bittersweet because we really didn't
celebrate it on Saturday night, but it takes nothing away
from what they accomplished."
SEEN AND HEARD IN HOCKEY EAST
Just like old times: It seems
as though whenever there is a lot on the line late in the
season for UMass, the Minutemen are forced to go through
the Black Bears. That's again the case this weekend.
UMass and Maine enter the final weekend of
regular-season play deadlocked in fourth place in the league
standings, which carries home-ice advantage in the Hockey
East quarterfinals. As the schedule has it, they play each
other twice in Amherst. Vermont, sitting a point back and
hosting UMass Lowell twice, could slide through the backdoor,
In the 2003 playoffs, the Minutemen traveled
to Orono as the fifth seed and swept the Black Bears to
earn their first trip to the Hockey East semifinals in program
history. Then, in 2004, Maine topped UMass 2-1 in a triple-overtime
championship odyssey. The game, which lasted 109:27, was
the longest in the tournament's history.
"It seems like we always see them down
the stretch," UMass senior Mark Matheson said. "We
know what to expect, and I think we'll be ready."
"I look back to my freshman year, and
it was the same situation when we went up there," UMass
senior Matt Anderson said. "It's been a pretty good
history and a good rivalry between us so far. We're really
looking forward to it."
"The past years are showing up again,"
Maine senior Michel Léveillé said. "The
triple-overtime was quite a game. It was a tough series
[the year] before that. In this league, everything is so
tight. Every team is so good. Hockey East has always been
a strong league from top to bottom, and that's what makes
it so exciting down the stretch. It's always so tight, and
you always know you have to fight for a spot down the end."
Now, they're at it again. Each team holds
its destiny in its own hands. If the Minutemen prevail,
they'll host a playoff series for just the second time in
"We have home ice against them, so it's
going to be nice," Matheson said. "I feel like
we're the better team, especially in our rink. It's going
to be a challenge."
"Obviously, we're really excited,"
Anderson said. "We could get home-ice advantage here.
We're on the bubble. If we can keep our intensity level
up and get some guys healthy, I think it's going to be a
great weekend. I look forward to the opportunity and challenge."
The two teams have taken different paths to
get to this stage. The Minutemen have put together their
most consistent season since becoming a Division I program
Maine, however, has been all over the place
this season. The Black Bears started the season with seven
straight wins and were 8-0-1 before losing three in a row
to league competition. They got hot again to close out 2006
but have gone 7-7-0 since Jan. 12.
After recalling how hot the Black Bears were
early this season, Léveillé said he was surprised
they put themselves in a position to be fighting for home
"The weird thing is we did get a good start, but when
it came time to start Hockey East, that's where our slump
started," he said. "That's why we're in such a
battle in Hockey East. Right off the bat, we started with
three losses in a row in Hockey East so that's why we're
fighting for a spot for home ice.
"It's been an unusual year as far as
a Maine type of team. As long as I've been here, we've had
some ups and downs, but never had so many downs in a year,
which has been kind of weird."
The Minutemen set themselves up for such an
important series by sweeping their home-and-home with a
tough Northeastern squad last weekend. On Sunday, with backup
Dan Meyers in net because of an ankle injury to Jon Quick,
UMass rallied from a 3-2 deficit for the 5-3 win.
"[Maine] wasn't on my mind until five
minutes ago," Anderson said following Sunday's affair.
"We knew we had to take care of business [Sunday] and
Friday also. We know that you've got to win games to be
in contention. We set ourselves up pretty well, and we look
forward to the challenge."
Over the last three years, just one Hockey
East team has won a quarterfinal playoff series on the road.
It has happened just four times since 1999. Each team clearly
has its eyes on the prize.
"We love playing at home," Léveillé
said. "You always want the fans on your side like a
seventh player on the ice. Home ice is always critical in
every sport. You want to be playing in front of your fans,
sleeping in your bed and being in a comfortable environment.
It's an advantage for every team at home."
"They're a great team, historically one
of the top teams in all of college hockey," UMass coach
Don Cahoon said. "It's just going to be a real exciting
weekend out at the Mullins Center knowing so much is in
the balance. Playoffs start a week early for us."
Great Weekend Getaway
at UMass (Fri.-Sat.)
The UNH-BC home-and-home might be a little more high
profile than this one, but there is a whole lot more
on the line in Amherst. Depending on Vermont's weekend
against Lowell, the Minutemen and Black Bears could
end up playing two weekends in a row. Think UMass
won't have somewhat of an advantage by forcing Maine
to make two, 12-hour round trips over the course of
While You’re There: The UMass
men's lacrosse team plays its home opener against
Yale Saturday at 1 p.m. Last season, the Minutemen
made their first ever trip the national championship.
If lacrosse isn't your thing, Rafters and the Hangar
are two great places to spend an afternoon. The only
two sports bars near campus have some solid food and
a great atmosphere. If you're looking to get something
spicy – like some of the best buffalo wings
you'll ever have – go to the Hangar, also known
as Wings. Rafters is a little more spacious and is
a much better place to kick back and relax for a couple
hours. If you don't like your first choice, don't
worry, they're located next to each other on University
The Friars threw their hat into the
ring last weekend by giving UNH all it could handle
Friday night in Durham before waxing the Wildcats
in Providence on Saturday. A team with too much talent
to enter the final week of the regular season in eighth
place, Providence needed a weekend like that
to get it going before the playoffs. The Friars should
be a tough out should they find themselves playing
Merrimack finished in last place
in the Hockey East standings for the third year in
FRIES AT THE BOTTOM OF THE BAG
• This weekend's series between UMass
and Maine could turn into a battle between the backup goalies.
Ben Bishop suffered a groin injury and hip flexor in Maine's
series with UNH during the first weekend of February.
But, he suffered a different groin injury
Saturday against Merrimack which, according to Maine coach
Tim Whitehead, will keep him out of action this weekend.
"As of right now, it's unlikely that
he'll be in this weekend," Whitehead said on Wednesday
Jon Quick sat out Sunday's contest with Northeastern
after injuring his ankle during Friday night's action. Freshman
Dan Meyers started his first career Hockey East game and
stopped 21 of 22 shots to earn the win. Quick is being called
"day-to-day" and is expected to play this weekend.
"I think Jon is going to be fine in a
few days time, but it just didn't make sense to put him
out there in harm's way," UMass coach Don Cahoon said
after Sunday's game.
• Friar Jon Rheault had three goals
and four assists in the weekend split with UNH to earn Hockey
East Player of the Week.
• UMass defenseman Mike Kostka was the
king of the empty net over the weekend, scoring an empty-netter
to secure wins over the Huskies on Friday night and then
again on Sunday afternoon. Kostka has a career-high three
goals this season after scoring one his freshman year and
two as a sophomore.
• Providence goalie Chris Mannix won
his first ever start Saturday, allowing the high-flying
Wildcats to one goal on 22 shots.
• Cory Schneider notched his 13th career
shutout last Thursday against UMass Lowell, tying him with
Scott Clemmensen for the program record. BC has won 20 games
five years in a row. Saturday's win over Lowell marked the
101st victory for the senior class.
• Jacob Micflikier will serve a one-game
suspension in Friday night's home finale against Boston
College. Micflikier was called for spearing at 9:27 of the
third period in Saturday's loss to the Friars, and earned
a 10-minute game disqualification, which carries the automatic
• Maine has won 20 games eight straight
seasons. The senior class picked up its 102nd win by sweeping
Merrimack last weekend. Michel Léveillé scored
his 50th career goal on Friday night.
• UMass set a school record by winning
its 13th Hockey East game Sunday against Northeastern. The
Minutemen have 16 wins overall this season, second all-time
behind the 2003-04 team's 19 victories.
• After not scoring on the power play
in 14 consecutive games, Providence scored four power-play
goals against UNH this weekend. The seven-goal outburst
was PC's highest total since Dec. 21, 2005, a 7-1 win over
Colgate in the first round of the Providence Holiday Tournament.
• Saturday's 3-2 decision served as
Vermont's first road victory over Boston University since
Oct. 24, 1998, an 8-6 win at Walter Brown Arena.
• Hockey East announced its partnership
with Eident Sports Marketing on Tuesday. They agreed to
a multiyear agreement, and Eident will be responsible for
exclusively managing and marketing Hockey East's sponsorship
• Hockey East and B2 Networks announced
Wednesday that every playoff game not aired on NESN (which
will carry one Friday night quarterfinal game, both semifinal
matchups and the championship) will be broadcasted live
over streaming video. It will cost $6 per game of $30 for
the playoff package.
• Here are the Hockey East tiebreakers
should they be necessary to determine playoff seedings:
1.) Head-to-head results. 2.) Number of wins in conference
play. 3.) Best record against the first-place team, second-place
team, third-place team, etc. 4.) Coin flip. Also, if more
than two teams finish in a tie, the same criteria will be
applied to reduce the number of teams tied, and the process
will commence again.
A variety of sources were utilized in
the compilation of this report. Jeff Howe can be reached