DURHAM -- OF COURSE the battle for the Hockey East regular-season championship and playoff positioning was going to come down to the last period of the last night of the season.
What else did anyone expect from a wild season that had more than half the league's teams contending for the title on the final weekend? The regular season ended in frustrating fashion for the University of New Hampshire hockey team at about 6:30 p.m. on Saturday night with a 4-4 tie against Maine at the Whittemore Center.
Things got a whole lot worse a few hours later when results came in from around the league. UNH dropped to the No. 5 seed in the tournament and its immediate post-season task and road to a Hockey East tournament title all of a sudden got much tougher.
The Wildcats play at No. 4 Providence College in a best-of-three quarterfinal series, beginning on Friday night at 7. The second game is on Saturday at 4 p.m. and a third, if necessary, is on Sunday at 4:30 p.m.
"We need to refocus," said UNH coach Dick Umile late on Sunday afternoon. "I believe we'll be fine. We've got to come back and play well. We played well in parts of the games over the weekend, but we didn't put it all together."
The Wildcats finished 18-9-7 overall and Providence was 15-12-7. Both teams were 13-8-6 in the league. They finished in a tie for third with Boston University and with tiebreakers BU earned the No. 3 seed, Providence was fourth and UNH fifth.
UNH went into the weekend in second place in the league, shooting for a regular-season title and needing two points to lock up a top-four spot and home ice for the quarterfinals.
A 4-3 loss to Maine on Friday night and Saturday's 4-4 tie gave the Wildcats just one point in the standings and helped derail any thoughts of home ice.
"It turned around quickly," Umile said. "Obviously we're disappointed to be on the road. We would have liked to be at home. It is what it is. It's playoff hockey time and we've got to go through Providence to get to Boston Garden. That's our schedule and that's our challenge."
The better news is UNH remains in decent shape in the bigger picture of the PairWise rankings that mimic the system used by the NCAA to pick at-large teams for the 16-team division I tournament.
The Wildcats were in a four-way tie for fifth - with North Dakota, Denver and Boston College - in the PairWise as of late Sunday afternoon. If UNH qualifies for the NCAAs, it will play in the Northeast Regional as the host school on March 29 and 30 at Verizon Wireless Arena.
Umile isn't counting on anything in regard to the NCAAs.
"Too many crazy things have happened," he said.
Besides, the national tournament is a concern for down the road.
For now, the Wildcats must regroup after a lost weekend and try to pick up some post-season momentum against a team they had little success with in the regular season.
The Friars beat UNH in a pair of one-goal games, 6-5 on Jan. 19 in Durham and 1-0 on Feb. 13 in Providence. The teams played to a 3-3 tie on Feb. 10 in Durham.
Tim Schaller, a senior forward from Merrimack, had an assist on the only goal in the 1-0 contest. Stefan Demopoulos scored it with just 2:48 left in the game.
Freshman goalie Jon Gillies made 37 saves for the win in that one. Bruce Gillies, Jon's father, played goalie at UNH in the 1980s.
Gillies has had an outstanding year and has a .932 save percentage and 2.06 goals-against average.
Schaller is third on the team in scoring with seven goals and 14 assists for 21 points.
Providence, hosting a first-round series for the first time since 2003, announced that tickets to the game will be available by 10 a.m. this morning at www.Friars.com/tickets
THE SKIING TEAM matched its best result since 1994 when it finished eighth at the NCAA Championships that wrapped up on Saturday at Middlebury College.
Colorado won the championship, followed by Utah and defending champion Vermont. Denver was fourth and Dartmouth finished fifth.
Senior Anya Caldwell Bean of Wolfeboro led the Wildcats on the final day with a sixth-place finish in the freestyle cross country race for second-team All-American honors.
The men's alpine skiers turned in impressive finishes.
Senior Taylor Vest-Burton earned first-team All-American honors with a fifth place in slalom and was second-team All American with a sixth in giant slalom. Sophomore Coley Oliver finished second in giant slalom and junior Sam Coffey was third in slalom.
Freshman Randa Teschner was 10th in slalom for the women.
Senior Nordic skier Liz Guiney received the skiing Elite 89 Award for having the highest grade point average among competitors at the NCAAs. She has a 3.988 in genetics.
An Elite 89 award is given out at each of the 89 NCAA championships.
THE MEN'S BASKETBALL TEAM closed out the season at 9-20 overall with a 61-42 loss to Vermont in the America East quarterfinals on Saturday. UNH was the No. 7 seed and Vermont the No. 2.
SOPHOMORE Katie Mann and junior Jenni Roberts are headed to the NCAA Swimming Championships in Indianapolis from March 21 to 23.
Mann will compete in the 400 individual medley, 200 individual medley and 200 breaststroke. Roberts is in the 200 IM and 100 and 200 fly.
THE LACROSSE TEAM is 0-4 and looks for its first win at Navy on Wednesday. Three of the losses have been by a total of four firstname.lastname@example.org