Since starting the season very slowly -- and given that the Bruins are defending Stanley Cup champs and had been playing very well until a month ago -- the University of Maine Black Bear hockey team has been flying under my radar. Now the Black Bears, the #4 team in Hockey East and #10 in the country, are about to face #3 BU in the second round of the Hockey East playoffs, a game they may need to win to assure a berth in the 16 team national championship field. The 22-13-3 Black Bears are in good shape but if a few low-ranked teams win their conference tourneys to get a berth, then Maine could get left out in the cold. They could make things much easier by beating BU tonight and the winner of BC/Providence on Saturday night to win the Hockey East championship for the first time since 2004 and claiming an automatic bid.
Maine goalie Dan Sullivan has been arguably the biggest reason for Maine's turnaround but they do also have arguably the best line in the country in Spencer Abbott, Mike Flynn and Joey Diamond, though four players does not a winner make. It has been a team effort and it will have to continue to be for Maine to get its first NCAA tourney bid since 2007 and make a strong showing once they get there.
In other Maine hockey news, UMaine's Spencer Abbott has been named a Hobey Baker finalist (college hockey's version of the Heisman), as has Biddeford, Maine's Brian Dumoulin, who plays for Boston College. Abbott was also named Hockey East Player of the Year, the first Maine player to garner this award since Chris Imes in 1995. Abbott, were he to win, would be the third Hobey Baker winner for Maine, following Scott Pellerin in '92 and Paul Kariya in '93.
With my weird schedule working Sunday through Thursday from 10-7 with a 60 plus mile commute, Friday night is the only night for my sweetie and I to go out. So I won't get to see the game tonight but hopefully the Black Bears will win and I can catch them tomorrow night in the final.