Hockey East Friday Night Recap: BC, Lowell remain in first-place knot; Maine drops NU to brink of elimination

John Quackenbos

With road victories, Boston College and Providence each maintained their stake atop the Hockey East standings following Friday's games. At the bottom end, Maine earned a key two points from Northeastern and UMass salvaged one in a draw at UNH.

After Friday's games, here's a look at the updated league standings and playoff picture:

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Boston College 3, Providence 2

Senior Pat Mullane, freshman Michael Matheson, and senior Steven Whitney all found the back of the net in the second period for all the offense the No. 4 Eagles would need in a 3-2 win over the host and No. 20-ranked Providence College Friars on Friday at Schneider Arena. After a scoreless opening stanza, BC scored twice on an early five-minute power play to take a lead in support of Parker Milner (24 saves) it would never fully relinquish. PC sophomore Ross Mauermann scored a shorthanded goal at 4:29 of the second period, before adding an assist to Nick Saracino at 3:54 of the final stanza. Mauermann established a new career-high with his 11th goal of the season and has now scored in at least two consecutive games three times this season. For the Eagles, Matheson matched a three-assist performance from Jan. 4, 2013 against Yale with a goal and two helpers in the middle frame. Freshman Jon Gillies made 16 second-period saves and 31 for the game, but the Maine native's efforts were not enough in his ninth-career defeat. NESN will televise the season finale between the two sides on Saturday at 4 p.m. from Kelley Rink.

UMass Lowell 4, Merrimack 0

After over 45 minutes of scoreless hockey, the No. 12 River Hawks broke out the offense in support of a 31-save shutout effort from Connor Hellebuyck and beat down the visiting and No. 17-ranked Warriors to a 4-0 tune at Tsongas Center, evening a pivotal season series between the two Merrimack Valley rivals and hotly contested league competitors. Freshman Adam Chapie broke the ice for Lowell with the eventual winner at 5:50 of the third period, while junior Derek Arnold scored the next two goals, including the first of two empty-netters at 17:21. Fourth-year Colin Wright added the finale with 1:27 remaining - his first goal of the season. The win was Hellebuyck's 12th straight as he improved to 12-1-0 and also posted his second clean sheet in three games. With the victory, UML secured its first back-to-back 20-win seasons since current head coach Norm Bazin was a player (1992-93 and 1993-94). The teams travel back to Lawler Arena on Sunday for the series finale and the Warriors hope for the same results as they had in a 1-0 win on Feb. 1.

Boston University 3, Vermont 1

Junior Matt Nieto scored a natural hat trick with a goal in each period and freshman Sean Maguire was outstanding in a new career-best 49-save performance as the No. 19 Terriers opened a weekend set at Agganis Arena with a 3-1 win over the Catamounts. With the win, the Terriers earned their second in a row at home after beating Merrimack on Tuesday and also extended a 7-0-1 stretch in the all-time series with UVM, dating back three years. Nieto has scored each of BU's last five goals, capping off the first Terrier three-goal game since Brandon Yip on March 6, 2009 at Providence and the first in natural fashion since Jason Lawrence on Jan. 27, 2009 at UMass. After senior Chris McCarthy scored UVM's lone goal at 18:27 of the first, the Long Beach, California native scored the equalizer just 1:08 later and added his 13th and 14th of the year less than five minutes into the final two stanzas. Entering the night, the last nine meetings between the teams at Agganis were decided by a goal or ended in a tie, but Nieto (playing in front of his visiting parents) changed that. Before last season, BU had not earned a season sweep of UVM since the pair were part of the ECAC in 1977-78, but the Terriers look to make it two in a row on Saturday.

Northeastern 3, Maine 1

Huskies senior Vinny Saponari scored the game's first goal, but the host Black Bears scored three unanswered for junior Martin Ouellette (19 saves) for a huge victory on Friday night at Alfond Arena in the race for the league's final playoff spot. The Powder Springs, Ga. native broke through with the opener just 1:20 into the middle period for his second consecutive goal for NU, but missing the back of the net on a late five-minute major penalty (on Maine sophomore Jake Rutt) that carried into the final stanza killed all the momentum. From there, senior Kyle Beattie equalized at 6:30 of the third and the Black Bears continued with successive tallies from rookie Ben Hutton and junior Mark Anthoine in the second half of the stanza en route to their sixth win of the calendar year. With an assist on Anthoine's empty-net strike with an even minute remaining, senior Joey Diamond - Hockey East's fourth-highest active point scorer - amassed his 100th-career point. Senior Chris Rawlings made 31 saves in his 12th loss of the year for the Huskies, which look to even the season set in its Saturday night finale.

New Hampshire 2, Massachusetts 2 (OT)

The final 1:05 of Friday night's series opener at the Whittemore Center were a frenzy as the No. 5 Wildcats and Minutemen skated to an entertaining 2-2 draw. UMass senior Eddie Olczyk shocked the Durham crowd with his third goal of the year at the 18:55 mark of the final period to give the visitors a 2-1 lead, but UNH senior John Henrion found the back of the net for his tenth with just four seconds remaining to salvage a point in its sixth tie of the season. Sophomore and North Andover, Massachusetts native Steve Mastalerz totaled 32 saves for the Minutemen in the stalemate, while UNH counterpart Casey DeSmith stopped did three better for the Wildcats, including an extremely busy 15-stop second stanza. The late onslaught followed UMass junior Michael Pereira's icebreaker at 12:19 for the Minutemen and 'Cat sophomore Matt Willows' initial squaring score at 10:44 of the second. Despite the draw, UMass still holds the season tiebreaker by virtue of a 2-1 overtime win at Mullins Center on Nov. 2, 2012 that saw senior defender Darren Rowe score the winning goal.

Joshua Kummins covers Hockey East for SB Nation. Follow him on Twitter @JoshuaKummins.

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