ORONO — The Maine men’s hockey team waited too long to start pressuring Providence on Saturday, falling short in a 3-2 loss at Alfond Arena in the regular-season finale.
The Black Bears were winless in their final two weekends, costing themselves a chance to host a Hockey East quarterfinal series. Maine dropped to sixth place in the final standings and will have to play a preliminary round game next weekend at home against Merrimack.
Providence (19-9-6, 11-7-2 Hockey East) took a 1-0 lead just 1:49 into the game when Shane Luke lifted the puck over Martin Ouellette’s glove at close range.
Maine (15-13-4, 9-8-3) tied it at 12:18 when Connor Leen fed Ryan Lomberg, whose one-timer from the slot hit the back of the net.
The Black Bears got sloppy on the power play minutes later. Noel Acciari broke in on a two-on-one with Brandon Tanev. Maine’s Jake Rutt hooked Acciari to the ice, but Tanev pounced on the loose puck and blasted it into the net for a 2-1 lead. To make matters worse for Maine, Rutt was penalized on the play to negate the remaining 1:46 of its man advantage.
A second-period sequence may have told the whole story for Maine this weekend. The Black Bears had a 2-minute five-on-three advantage and kept the puck in the offensive zone the entire time, firing five shots at South Portland native Jon Gillies. But they failed to score.
The Friars went on the power play shortly thereafter, and Anthony Florentino floated a shot from the right point that nestled high into the back of the net for a 3-1 lead at 11:10. Maine Coach Red Gendron immediately removed Ouellette, who had played every meaningful minute this season, and replaced him with senior Dan Sullivan,
Maine dominated the third period, starting with a Steven Swavely wrist shot from the slot that got past Gillies at 3:39. But Maine couldn’t get the equalizer.