Maine hosts Providence with chance to lock up bye, home ice

Maine senior Jon Swavely prepares for a face-off against BU's Mike Moran at Frozen Fenway. - Matt Dewkett (mrd-photos.com)

Five Maine seniors will be playing their final regular season home games at the Alfond Arena this weekend.

Orono, Maine -- The University of Maine hockey team hosts Providence College starting Friday night at Alfond Arena with a chance to obtain a bye in the first round and home ice in the quarterfinals of the Hockey East Tournament.

The Black Bears took just one of four points on the road at Northeastern last weekend, a disappointing result considering the continued trend of being unable to hold on to games late in regulation.

Maine could finish as high as second and as low as seventh while Providence could move up to second, but also could fall as far as eighth.

The weekend marks the second time South Portland, Maine native Jon Gillies returns to his home state as a collegiate. The Calgary Flames prospect stopped 28 of 30 shots in a 2-2 tie in the only matchup between the schools in Orono last season.

Providence had been skidding, at 0-4-1 over its past five games, entering last weekend, but the Friars got back on track with a weekend sweep of Massachusetts. Nate Leaman's program has made it to the TD Garden for the Hockey East semifinals in each of his first two seasons at the helm.

The weekend series also marks the final regular season home games for five Maine seniors. Mark Anthoine is the highest scoring of the Black Bears seniors and had a sensational season as a sophomore, registering 12 goals, including 11 on the power play, as Maine made its first trip to the NCAA Tournament since 2007.

Senior goaltender Martin Ouellette is deservedly the most heralded of the five. The Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender came to Maine as a young freshman out of Kimball Union Academy and will leave as a polished, athletic goaltender with the capability to move on to the professional ranks.

Blue liner Brice O'Connor, penalty kill guru Jon Swavely and backup goaltender Dan Sullivan are the other three Maine seniors.

Puck drop is scheduled for 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday with no television coverage. Visit www.goblackbears.com for audio and streaming coverage or www.friars.com for the Providence audio.

Jeff Cox covers college, junior and high school hockey, NCAA recruiting and NHL Draft prospects. Follow him on twitter @JeffCoxSBNation.

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