BOSTON — Whatever hope there was for the University of Maine men’s hockey team to make the NCAA tournament ended Saturday night with a 7-6 loss in overtime to fourth-ranked Boston College in the Hockey East championship game.

When the NCAA tournament brackets were unveiled Sunday morning, they confirmed what the Black Bears already knew — that they did not make the 16-team field as an at-large selection.

“We’re all pretty disappointed that we didn’t make it, but nobody expected us to do what we did this year,” Maine defenseman Jeff Dimmen said. We came together through adversity this year. To accomplish something nobody thought we could, that was great. We really came together in the end, and that’s a testament to the team.”

Maine finished 18th in the PairWise Rankings, a system that mimics the mathematical formula used by the selection committee to determine the tournament field. Because of automatic bids earned by two lower-ranked teams — Alabama-Huntsville and RIT — for winning their conference championships, only the top 14 teams in the PairWise Rankings were in the running for at-large bids.

That meant the Black Bears needed to win Hockey East’s automatic bid, and they nearly pulled it off.

“We really felt that if we were able to get by BC, we’d have as good of a shot as anybody to win the national tournament,” Maine Coach Tim Whitehead said after Saturday’s loss. “So that’s a frustrating situation for us.

“Not every team can advance.”

Maine was knocked out of contention for an at-large bid by a slide late in the season. The Black Bears went 2-6 in their final eight regular-season games, then lost the first game of their Hockey East quarterfinal series against UMass-Lowell.

“There’s a few of those games we’d definitely like to have back,” Maine left wing Brian Flynn said. “That final weekend at home against (Massachusetts) and that first weekend (against) Lowell in the playoffs.

“It didn’t seem possible for it to happen, the way we were playing at home. If we could have one of those wins back … it would help, and it shows how tight it was.”

 

THREE TEAMS from Hockey East — Boston College, New Hampshire and Vermont — made it into the NCAA tournament, which begins Friday.

Boston College (25-10-3) earned the league’s automatic bid and a No. 1 seed in the Northeast Regional. The Eagles will face Alaska (18-11-9) at 1:30 p.m. Saturday in Worcester, Mass.

New Hampshire (17-13-7) is the No. 3 seed in the East Regional at Albany, N.Y., and will face Cornell (21-8-4) at 6:30 p.m. Friday. Vermont (17-14-7), which received the final at-large berth despite finishing eighth in Hockey East, was sent to the West Regional and will face top-seeded Wisconsin (25-10-4) at 8 p.m. Friday in St. Paul, Minn.

“UNH definitely deserved to go,” Flynn said. “They won the league (during the regular season). They kind of did it all year, even though they got bounced out in the first round (of the Hockey East playoffs).

“I know there’s only a couple points that separated (third) from eighth in the league, and Vermont beat some very strong nonconference teams.”

Despite not qualifying for the NCAAs, the Black Bears believe their playoff run has helped bring the program back to prominence.

“It’s huge for the program,” Dimmen said. “It’s been a couple of tough years and I think we got Maine hockey back on the map. We were one bounce away from winning the Hockey East championship and making the tournament.”

 

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

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