ORONO — The long-term goals are still in reach for the University of Maine hockey team. Make the Hockey East playoffs. Earn home ice for the league quarterfinals. Secure an NCAA tournament bid.

But with six games left in the regular season, the short-term objective is more critical.

The Black Bears, ranked No. 15 in both national polls, open a two-game series tonight at Alfond Arena against UMass-Lowell.

”We’re just focusing on Lowell right now,” said Maine assistant captain Jeff Dimmen, whose team is in third place in Hockey East. ”We need some huge, huge points in Hockey East and (tonight’s game) is the most important game of the season right now for us.”

Maine looks to regroup a week after being swept by No. 19 Boston University at Agganis Arena.

”We didn’t come out with enough intensity and we didn’t play as hard as (BU) did,” Dimmen said. ”We really realized how we have to play coming up this weekend: with more intensity, more grit and just battling real hard out there.”

In the two losses at BU, the Black Bears gave up 12 goals — the most they have given up in a Hockey East weekend series this season — and allowed 65 shots on goalies Scott Darling and Shawn Sirman.

”After getting your butts kicked two games in a row, it’s pretty tough,” junior center Robby Dee said. ”Everyone was kind of down, but we need to come into this weekend with our heads high. We’ve got six games left here until the playoffs and we’ve got to be ready to play.”

Maine Coach Tim Whitehead gave the Black Bears Sunday and Monday off, except for a video session on Monday, hoping the extra rest would allow players time to heal and to prepare for the final six games.

”At this point in the season, sometimes less is more,” Whitehead said. ”We needed to take a step back and rest up. But Tuesday we had a hard practice, and the guys came in refocused.”

An extra day off, the Black Bears believe, was beneficial.

”We regrouped, came in ready to work hard and had a good day of practice,” Dimmen said.

The NCAA tournament is still a goal, as is earning home ice in the league quarterfinals.

The Black Bears (14-11-3, 11-8-2) are in third place with 24 points. Several teams are clustered just behind them: BU (22 points), UMass (22), Northeastern (21) and Lowell (20).

”I think we have to be careful not to look too far ahead,” Whitehead said. ”They’re realistic goals, but they’re not going to be easy.”

 

NOTES: Sophomore defenseman Ryan Hegarty, 19, was charged with possession of alcohol by a minor early Sunday by Orono Police. He was ordered to pay a $200 fine for the charge, a civil violation. The charge is a three-point violation of the school’s student-athlete code of conduct. Whitehead said Hegarty’s scholarship has been reduced and he is required to perform nine hours of community service. Hegarty will dress for this weekend’s series against Lowell, Whitehead said.

 

Staff Writer Rachel Lenzi can be reached at 791-6415 or at:

[email protected]