Two weekends remain in the college hockey regular season. The University of Maine will play three games, including a two-game series at Northeastern tonight and Saturday.

Maine holds a tenuous grip on fourth place in Hockey East — a good spot to be because the top four teams have home ice for the opening round of the playoffs.

But can Maine hold on? Good question. And we have more: 

Question 1. When it comes to getting home ice for the Hockey East quarterfinals, can Maine control its destiny?

Answer: No. Maine could win its remaining three games, total 34 points and still be fifth. If Merrimack wins its remaining four games, including a sweep of UMass-Lowell this weekend, there could be a three-way tie between Maine, Merrimack and UMass-Lowell. The Black Bears lose the tiebreaker with both teams because they lost the season series against both (1-2 vs. UMass-Lowell, 0-2-1 vs. Merrimack). Maine would be fifth. 

Question 2: Is home ice that crucial in the playoffs?

Answer: Usually. In league games Maine is 7-4 at home, 6-4-2 on the road (and one win at Fenway Park). In the playoffs, the advantage can be magnified, especially in rinks where Maine doesn’t play well.

The worst scenario is a fifth-place finish behind Merrimack. That would send Maine to Merrimack, where it is 2-7-1 over the last four seasons, including a two-game Warriors sweep of Maine in last year’s playoff. 

Question 3: What is the best possible scenario for Maine?

Answer: The Black Bears could finish first but the top teams would have to collapse — and both Boston College and Boston University have two games left against last-place Vermont.

Third place is feasible, but Merrimack has to lose or tie one game, and UMass-Lowell must earn only three points out of its remaining four games. 

Question 4: If Northeastern is 7-12-4 in the league, why are the Huskies a threat to Maine this weekend?

Answer: For the same reason Massachusetts was a threat last week. As UMass Coach Toot Cahoon put it, “We are fighting for our lives.” UMass and Northeastern are tied for eighth. One of those teams will likely not make the playoffs. Northeastern will hardly be laying down this weekend. 

Question 5: What teams should Maine root for?

Answer: Providence, which has two games apiece with Boston College and UMass-Lowell; and Massachusetts, which finishes the season with two games against Merrimack. 

Question 6: Where does Maine stand in terms of the NCAA playoffs?

Answer: Maine (18-10-3) is tied for eighth in the Pairwise rankings, the system that copies the formula used by the selection committee for the 16-team NCAA tournament.

If tournament invitations were handed out now, Maine would be in. But there are still three games and a Hockey East tournament to be played. Too many stumbles toward the finish will make for an unhappy ending.

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

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Twitter: KevinThomasPPH