The University of Massachusetts-Lowell River Hawks don’t have recent history on their side this weekend.

The seventh-ranked team in Hockey East visits the University of Maine, where the second-ranked Black Bears host a best-of-three quarterfinal.

The biggest hitch for the River Hawks is the fact that Lowell hasn’t won at the Alfond Arena since 2001, going 0-9-1 in its last 10 tries.

That’s not the history lesson Tim Whitehead will harp on as he preps his team for the River Hawks.

What he’ll focus on mostly is the fact that Lowell is one of the hotter teams in the league, finishing the regular season with wins over Boston College and Vermont. The fact that the final standings in Hockey East were so tight that the seedings came down to the very last night, also hints at the parity in Hockey East.

“You look at Lowell, and they’re the team in the seventh seed, and they’ve won four or their last five,” said Whitehead. “Lowell is playing great right now. We’re playing well too. I think it will be real exciting hockey.”

Maine swept Lowell last year and beat them three times in the regular season this year.

Two disappointing playoff losses can’t be too far gone in the Black Bears minds, however. Maine lost to Boston College, 2-1, in double overtime in the Hockey East semifinals last March and were blanked by Minnesota, 1-0 in the NCAA Tournament.

“That’s a good reminder of what a fine line it is,” said Whitehead.

Like Lowell, the Black Bears finished the regular season strong, going 10-1-2 in its last 13 games. That was after a 7-7 record in late January.

“We’ve had a good stretch run,” said Whitehead. “It’s always good going into the postseason playing well. It’s going to be a challenge and to me, that’s good.”

Whitehead says the turnaround over the last month was aided by the return of injured forward Michel Leveille and defenseman Bret Tyler.

“We got some guys back that were injured,” said Whitehead. “Most importantly, we stuck together through a hard stretch. The key was we won some games before they came back. That gave us some confidence in being able to play without them.”

Upon their return to action, the Black Bears have bolstered their defensive effort, ranking fourth-best in the nation.

Whitehead says that defense will be crucial against a River Hawk team that has some potent scorers in Bobby Robbins (12 goals, 17 assists), Danny O’Brien (14-13 and Mark Pandolfo (13-12). Elias Godoy leads the team with 20 assists.

“They’ve got some dominant offensive players,” said Whitehead. “That’s the key. We’ve got to squash their transition and play solid defense.”

Maine goaltending tandem of Matt Lundin (3 goals against, 21 saves) and Ben Bishop (4 goals against, 42 saves) are unbeaten against Lowell in six outings overall.

The River Hawks managed just four goals in three games against Maine this season while the Black Bears have displayed plenty of balance spreading out 19 goals. Leveille had three goals and three assists while Brent Shepheard had three goals and one assist. Josh Soares, Greg Moore and Tyler each had a pair of goals while Derek Damon had a goal and three assists.

“We’ve generated a lot of offense against them, but they’re not the same team,” said Whitehead. “We’re not the same team. Quite frankly, it’s a new season in the playoffs.”


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