ORONO — For the first time in nine years, there will be a Hockey East quarterfinal series at Alfond Arena.

Mitchell Fossier scored the lone goal of the game midway through the third period Friday night, and Jeremy Swayman made it stand up with 48 saves as the 15th-ranked University of Maine men’s hockey team blanked No. 18 Providence, 1-0, in the regular-season finale for both teams.

The Black Bears’ win, coupled with Connecticut’s loss to UMass Lowell, ensured Maine will finish fourth in Hockey East and host a best-of-three quarterfinal series next weekend.

It will be the first time Maine (18-11-5, 12-9-3 Hockey East) has hosted a quarterfinal series since 2011. The Black Bears will play either Boston University or Connecticut, pending the outcome of Saturday’s BU-Northeastern game.

“We didn’t play particularly well, but we stuck with it,” Maine Coach Red Gendron said. “That’s been a trademark of this team.”

Providence (16-12-6, 10-11-3) will finish either seventh or eighth and will travel to either Boston College or UMass next weekend.

Swayman, a 2017 draft pick of the Boston Bruins, posted his third shutout of the season, all in the last five games. It was his fourth game with at least 40 saves this season, and his most saves since he made 52 in a season-opening loss at Providence on Oct. 5.

“Swayman’s the best goalie in NCAA hockey,” Maine defenseman J.D. Greenway said. “I’ve not, in my career, seen a better goalie in college hockey. That kid’s got a real bright future in front of him.”

Greenway had a hand in the Maine goal.

With the teams skating four aside midway through the third period, Greenway drove to the net on Tim Doherty’s chance from the high slot. When goalie Michael Lackey (23 saves) turned that bid away, Greenway tracked the play into the left corner, separated a Providence defenseman from the puck and left it for Doherty, who sent a pass to Fossier in the high slot.

Fossier’s shot through a screen beat Lackey at 9:21 for his 10th goal of the season.

“In 4-on-4 hockey, things can get a lot more open,” Fossier said. “If you get puck focused in 4-on-4, someone’s bound to be open. I think they got lost for a second … so I found a second to get free and Tim found me with it.”

Swayman then went to work making sure the lead stood up, making perhaps his most important save only 40 seconds after Maine had taken the lead as turned away Greg Printz’s breakaway.

That save came after Swayman made 10 saves in the first 2:24 of the final period, and after he made a pair of saves on a Providence 2-on-0 with less than six seconds remaining in the second period.

“This is going to be one I’m going to remember for a long time,” Swayman said. “It feels good to finish (the second) period off on a high note like that. I think that was important for us, momentum-wise going into the third period.”

“He was amazing,” Gendron said. “He’s playing the best hockey of his career when it matters the most.”

Maine was outplayed at times, as its forwards had trouble establishing the forecheck for long stretches. Defensively, the Black Bears conceded far too many quality opportunities.

All that aside, Fossier and Doherty hooked up for the winning goal and Swayman looked every bit like the NHL draftee he is. It added up to a best-of-three series next weekend at Alfond.

“Good teams find a way to win games,” Fossier said. “With Swayman, we’re good to go. He’s the best player in college hockey, that’s my take.”


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.