On the outside looking in, the UMass hockey team can only focus on what they have to do and hope they get some help in order to qualify for the Hockey East tournament.
The Minutemen open the final weekend of the regular season one point behind eighth-place Maine and three points behind seventh-place Vermont and enter the front end of a home-and-home series on the road at Merrimack College tonight.
Both teams come into the weekend sputtering. Since a resounding 5-1 win over Boston University on Feb. 1, the Minutemen have earned just three points in their last eight games. Merrimack is winless in its last five games since an overtime victory over Boston College on Feb. 15.
Merrimack currently holds the league's sixth spot, however, with second place through sixth being separated by a mere four points, the Warriors are still technically in the conversation for home ice in the first round of the conference tournament.
In the Minutemen's favor is the fact that Merrimack assistant captain Kyle Bigos, one of the Warriors' top defensemen and all-around toughest players, will take a seat on his senior night to serve a one-game suspension handed down by Hockey East after he earned his third game misconduct penalty of the season when he hit a UMass-Lowell player in the head at the end of a 3-1 loss on March 3.
UMass is also looking for help from some of the top teams in the conference to push them into the playoffs. Maine takes on New Hampshire for two games, including a 4 p.m. season finale to be televised by NESN on March 9. While Maine is looking to secure a postseason berth, UNH has its eye on the regular season conference title and the first seed in the playoffs.
Meanwhile, Boston College travels to Burlington, Vt., to take on Vermont for two games. The Eagles beat Vermont 4-1 in their only meeting this season, but have their share of issues entering the weekend. In addition to injuries to key players such as Kevin Hayes, Steven Whitney and Patrick Wey, young forward Brendan Silk was dealt a one-game suspension for a hit to the head that did not draw a penalty in the Eagles' 5-1 loss to Providence College on March 2.
Yellow Jackets look to sting Tigers
The American International College hockey team starts its postseason run today at Rochester Institute of Technology. As the ninth seed, the Yellow Jackets take on an RIT team that is outside of the American Hockey Association's top-4 for the first time since joining the conference.
The series is best-of-three.
AIC is riding a terrific wave of success, losing just one of its last 11 games and has been getting the kind of breaks that make people start whispering words like destiny. The regular season finale, when the Jackets scored on an empty net with seconds left to go in overtime while killing off a penalty, is one such instance.
RIT beat AIC twice at the Olympia early this season, but coach Gary Wright said the Yellow Jackets have been a different team since the calendar turned over to 2013.
Live video, audio and stats will be available through www.aicyellowjackets.com.
Lloyd caps prestigious career with honor
Geneva Lloyd, the Amherst College women’s hockey team's leading scorer and top defenseman, earned her second consecutive NESCAC Player of the Year award. It marks the fourth straight season that the senior from Calgary, Alberta has been named to the NESCAC first team.
Lloyd has enjoyed a stellar career with the Jeffs. On Jan. 4, she became the seventh Amherst women's hockey player to score 100 points and since then augmented that total to 114 (43 goals, 71 assists), an impressive total for her 106-game career. Her 71 assists are also third all-time in Jeffs' history.
Sophomore Tori Salmon and junior Ashley Salerno joined her on the all-conference teams.
Amherst's NESCAC hopes ended with a 3-1 loss to Bowdoin in the semifinals on March 2.