ORONO – The University of Maine hockey team is in on a three-game winning streak, coming off a two-game sweep at last-place Vermont.

Tonight presents a challenge for the Black Bears — a top-tier opponent.

Boston University (9-5-1, 7-4-1 Hockey East) plays Maine (6-6-2, 5-5-1) at 7:30 p.m. in Alfond Arena. It’s the first meeting this season between the two rivals.

BU, ranked No. 11 in the USCHO poll, is one of the top four teams in Hockey East. Maine is winless against the other three (0-2 vs. UMass-Lowell and 0-1 vs. Merrimack and Boston College).

Maine Coach Tim Whitehead called BU “very dangerous. Even when they aren’t playing their best, they can still beat you.”

The Terriers have been up and down at times, losing to Holy Cross 5-4, and later beating Boston College 5-0. BU has won six of its last seven, including a 2-1 decision Thursday at New Hampshire.

Although Maine has yet to beat a top team, Whitehead said he has seen progress the past three games.

“The big thing is that we’re getting consistent goaltending,” Whitehead said of Dan Sullivan (3.01 goals-against average). “And the power play continues to improve.”

In their last 22 power plays, Maine has scored 11 times. That could come in handy tonight against the second-most penalized team in the league.

The Black Bears will again rely on their top line of Spencer Abbott — the leading scorer in Hockey East with 23 points — Bryan Flynn and Joey Diamond.

Whitehead is pleased with how the Black Bears have put together the winning streak — bouncing back after Clarkson tied them; beating Vermont despite trailing after two periods; then holding off Vermont’s charge in the first period of the second game (12 shots) to take a 2-0 lead.

“We fought through some tough stretches,” Whitehead said. “All good signs.”

TV NOTE: The game is being televised on the CBS Sports Network, which is available on some providers (Channel 467 on some Time Warner packages in Portland, for example).

Staff Writer Kevin Thomas can be contacted at 791-6411 or at:

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Twitter: KevinThomasPPH