UMass hockey heads into final weekend, but playoff matchup uncertain
AMHERST — The University of Massachusetts hockey team will complete its regular season this weekend with two games against Providence — Friday in Rhode Island, Saturday at the Mullins Center (both games at 7 p.m.) — but the Minutemen will have to wait another week to learn their Hockey East Tournament fate.
Because of the league’s uneven number of teams, not every team can play a league game every night. UMass happens to be the one left out on the final weekend so the Minutemen can’t actually clinch any particular seed in the conference tournament this weekend.
All 11 conference teams participate in the tournament under the new format this year. The top five teams earn byes into the quarterfinals. The remaining teams will play single-elimination games at the site of the higher seed on March 7 or 8. The sixth-place team hosts the 11th-place team, No. 7 plays No. 10 and No. 8 hosts No. 9.
With 11 points, UMass (8-19-4, 4-11-3 HE) is currently ninth in Hockey East. With help from other results, the highest the Minutemen could finish is seventh. Notre Dame and Vermont are currently tied for seventh with 14 points each.
The Irish host Boston University (nine points) twice this weekend and are at Hockey-East-leading Boston College on March. 1. Vermont plays at Merrimack (last, six points) twice this weekend and hosts UMass-Lowell (second, 22 points) next weekend.
Tenth-place Boston University is only two points behind UMass and has four games remaining. In addition to the two games in South Bend, BU has a home and home with Northeastern (fourth, 19 points) next weekend.
With four games left, even last place Merrimack could catch UMass if it has a hot streak. After its two games with the Catamounts, the Warriors host New Hampshire (tied for third, 20 points) for two games next weekend.
Providence (15-9-6, 7-7-2, 16 points Hockey East) has plenty to play for this weekend as the Friars are still very much in striking distance of a first-round bye, currently in sixth. PC enters the series on a five-game winless streak (0-4-1).
Junior Ross Mauermann leads the Friars in scoring as his 33 points (18 goals, 15 assists) puts him in a tie for sixth place in Hockey East, while his 18 goals are tied for third.
Sophomore Jon Gillies, a Calgary draft pick, has been the Friars’ workhorse in goal. He’s 12-7-5 with a 2.25 goals against average and a 92.6 save percentage.
SENIOR NIGHT — Nine UMass seniors will be honored before their final home game Saturday night.
Michael Pereira (52 goals, 53 assists) and Conor Sheary (38 goals, 64 assists) both leave as two of the program’s 12 members of the 100-career point club. Pereira is seventh all-time on UMass’ career scoring list, while Sheary is tied for ninth.
Joel Hanley, who enters the game with 74 career points (17 goals, 58 assists) is fourth on the program’s career scoring list among defensemen.
Anthony Raiola, Colin Shea, Adam Phillips, Patrick Kiley, Peter DeAngelo and Branden Gracel will also be honored.