Hockey East Weekly: 2/29/12

BOSTON — With just two days left in the Hockey East regular season, much is still up for grabs in the playoff race before the Quarterfinals begin next weekend. Six of eight sports have been clinched for the opening round, but two more teams are still looking to lock up home-ice advantage in the best-of-three series.

No. 12 Merrimack, which faces Massachusetts twice this weekend, captured three crucial league points in a home-and-home series against cross-Valley rival UMass-Lowell. The Warriors snapped a four-game winless streak, putting themselves just one point back of Maine for the fourth and final home-ice spot.

The River Hawks look to clinch their home-ice position as they face Providence in a pair this weekend.

Senior Jeff Velleca tied a career-high with two goals and four points as the Warriors earned the Friday victory at Lawler Arena, 5-2. The senior line of Ryan Flanigan, Jesse Todd, and Velleca led the way with three goals, while sophomore Chad Ruhwedel and senior Matt Ferriera scored for the River Hawks.

Sophomore Josh Holmstrom scored a power-play goal with three minutes left in regulation, lifting UML to a come-from-behind 2-2 draw on Saturday. Mike Collins scored a pair of power-play goals for the Warriors, while senior Joe Cannata totaled 26 saves in the tie.

Despite boasting the league’s Player of the Week in junior Joey Diamond, No. 11 Maine took just two points in a two-game series at Northeastern’s Matthews Arena. The Long Island native scored two goals and two assists in Saturday’s 7-1 win.

Junior Justin Daniels had a goal and two assists led the Huskies in Friday’s 4-2 upset, while classmate Chris Rawlings made 29 saves in his 12th victory. Vinny Saponari scored NU’s lone goal in the loss, while rolling through all three goaltenders.

Northeastern is back in action for a pair of games this weekend against archrival Boston University. In order to earn a playoff berth, the Huskies must beat UMass outright with more points in the league standings.

The teams are tied for eighth place heading into the weekend, but the Minutemen own the tiebreaker in all possible scenarios.

UMass and rival UNH split their two-game set at Mullins Center — always an exciting battle. Conference co-Rookies of the Week Steve Mastalerz and Trevor van Reimsdyk each had solid performances on the weekend.

Mastalerz stopped 26 of 28 shots in a 4-2 Minuteman win on Saturday, while sophomore Joel Hanley scored the game-winner to lift UMass to its second win in three games.

Rookie Casey DeSmith stopped a career-high 48 shots, while van Reimsdyk scored a new career-best two goals in Friday’s 4-2 win. Sophomore Kevin Goumas finished with a goal and two assists for UNH, while Conor Sheary scored a goal and an assist to lead the Mass Attack.

With Friday’s win, the Wildcats clinched a playoff berth for an astounding 24th year in a row and will look to capture just their third Hockey East title in school history.

No. 4 Boston University and the nation’s new No. 1 Boston College were the only squads to sweep their series last weekend, doing so quite convincingly in almost every game.

The Eagles did not receive much of a contest in either contest against Providence as junior Parker Milner stopped all 54 shots he faced in a pair of shutouts. That impressive performance earned him the Defensive Player of the Week award for the second week in a row.

Senior captain Tommy Cross netted a power-play goal 2:30 into the game and the teams played scoreless hockey for the next 44:46 before junior Pat Mullane made it a 2-0 lead as part of Friday’s 3-0 win at Schneider Arena. Six players tallied multiple-point performances in Saturday’s 7-0 blowout, including two goals and an assist from sophomore Bill Arnold.

With one win this weekend against UMass-Lowell, the Friars can clinch a Hockey East playoff berth for the first time since 2008. Senior Alex Beaudry is a mere ten saves away from becoming the first-ever Friar goaltender to reach the elusive 3,000-save mark in his career.

Eight of the last 12 games between the Terriers and Vermont (which hosted this past weekend’s series at Gutterson Fieldhouse) have been decided by a goal or less and Saturday’s finale proved no different.

Junior Wade Megan scored with 1:25 left and rookie Alexx Privitera potted the overtime winner at 3:02 in Saturday’s 3-2 win. Sophomore Connor Brickley and junior Sebastien Stalberg scored in the first period for UVM, but it was not enough to break a three-game losing streak.

Senior Grant Rollheiser made 18 saves and junior Sean Escobedo scored his first two goals of the year as part of a 5-0 win on Friday. BU added two scored in the third period to earn its fourth shutout and 19th overall win this season.

UVM plays for pride as it closes the regular season with a pair at BC’s Kelley Rink this weekend. Both games will be televised on CBS Sports Network.

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