Providence surges into Hockey East playoffs on four game winning streak

Providence senior captain Steven Shamanski, center, has been a defensive leader for the Friars all season. - Matt Dewkett (mrd-photos.com)

Providence and Maine meet in a rematch of the final regular season weekend.

Providence College headed to Maine for the last two games of the Hockey East regular season needing a big weekend, and some help from other teams to secure home ice in the Hockey East quarterfinals.

Nate Leaman's team got both. The Friars swept Maine, 4-2 and 3-2, at Alfond Arena, just the second and third home losses all season for the Black Bears.

New Hampshire split with Merrimack and Northeastern inexplicably was swept by Boston University, giving Leaman's Friars the third seed for the Hockey East playoffs.

The positive result was a surprising culmination in a season that has seen plenty ups and downs and bumps in the road for the Friars.

"Our league is so tight from two down to eight that every point matters. We were able to get some points in our last four games and leapfrog some teams," said Leaman. "Everything is so close. We're just happy to get the bye and to get the weekend off," added the third year head coach of the Friars after his team's final regular season game.

Last Saturday, Maine defeated Merrimack, 2-1, in a single elimination first round game to set up a rematch of the regular season finale.

It was only a few weeks ago that Providence was in the doldrums and certainly on the outside looking in for a home ice spot in the quarterfinals.

"Obviously we hit that slump. We talked a lot about how the only way to get out of something like that is to work hard and not feel sorry for ourselves," said Leaman.

Leaman knows that there is still plenty of hockey to be played and despite a good start and finish to the regular season, the team's NCAA hopes are still hanging very much in the balance.

"There's a lot of hockey left. We have to keep growing and improving. We grew a lot [the Maine weekend]. I'm happy about that. We showed a lot of mental toughness. It takes a lot of mental toughness to win [in Orono]. It's some confidence for us," said Leaman.

Providence will look to use that regained confidence to find a similar result this weekend at home as it did two weekends ago in Orono. The Friars can be assured of facing a hungry Black Bears squad that is anxious to prove it can win a playoff series on the road.

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