PROVIDENCE, R.I. — The postgame rituals are the same whenever the Maine hockey team plays Providence lately.

The Black Bears shake hands, then shake their heads.

“They’ve just kind of had our number the last two years. They’ve just kind of got the bounces and things have gone their way,” Maine forward Blaine Byron said after his team suffered a sixth straight loss to the Friars, 5-2 Saturday before an announced crowd of 2,895 at Schneider Arena.

“They just play so well defensively. They were blocking shots, they’re getting sticks on pucks and when they’re doing that it’s hard to get good, quality scoring chances. We just couldn’t get inside of them and they were making us play outside all night.”

Maine, which also lost 5-2 here Friday, lost a chance to host a Hockey East playoff series next weekend by being swept. The Black Bears (13-20-3, 8-12-2 Hockey East) dropped to 10th in the league and will travel to Vermont for a best-of-three series beginning Friday.

Providence (21-11-2, 13-8-1) got the second seed and will get a first-round bye before hosting a quarterfinal series March 13-15.

The Friars did so by punishing Maine with bruising checks and a 44-19 advantage in shots on goal. The Black Bears committed nine penalties, six by defensemen, and grew weary from playing short-handed so often.

“We did a pretty good job killing penalties, but you end up cooking people, especially your ‘D.’ And it makes it even worse when your defensemen are the ones taking the penalties,” Maine Coach Red Gendron said.

Providence scored on only one of its eight power-play chances, but it was the goal that shifted momentum in its favor for good.

The Friars built a 3-0 lead in the second period before Maine responded with a power-play goal by defenseman Dan Renouf. It became 3-2 at 11:50 of the period when Cam Brown fed a pass to Byron for a short-handed breakaway goal.

“I was pressuring the defenseman and I kind of saw him turn and shoot, and as soon as I saw it was on Brownie’s stick, I took off to try to make a scoring chance, and he got it to me. He made a nice play,” Byron said.

Maine ended up killing a five-on-three power play for 37 seconds, but couldn’t hang on throughout the subsequent five-on-four.

Nick Saracino banged a rebound past Black Bear goaltender Sean Romeo to restore Providence’s two-goal lead.

“I just think we came in here and we got outworked. We had a great opportunity and we didn’t take advantage of it. Home ice would have been huge in the playoffs,” Renouf said.

Mark Emmert can be contacted at 791-6424 or:

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