The Takeaway: Hat trick from UNH’s Willows forces Game 3 for Friars and Wildcats

Posted by: Jill Saftel

PROVIDENCE, R.I. - A hat trick from sophomore forward Matt Willows boosted the University of New Hampshire 4-1 past Providence College to tie up the quarterfinal series at a game apiece and forced a Game 3 Sunday to determine who advances to the semifinal round.

Last night, the Wildcats saw shift after shift of good play and didn’t have a problem getting pucks on net, but the scoring didn’t come proportionally. That play paid off early Saturday when sophomore Matt Willows took the puck following a faceoff win in the PC zone. With some stick work in front of Jon Gillies, he went outside and beat the goaltender for the 1-0 lead at 15:19 in the first.

The Wildcat lead grew when Willows struck again, this time on an open net when Goumas sent the puck across to his linemate at 1:45 in the second period. Gillies was still facing Goumas by the time Willows took the slap shot. The two-goal lead was short lived for UNH, and once again it was freshman Nick Saracino who proved dangerous to the Wildcats, and with an assist from freshman defenseman John Gilmour, he beat Casey DeSmith to bring the Friars within one. The 2-1 score in favor of UNH held through the end of the second.

PC’s best chance to tie it up came when a Tim Schaller shot rang the underside of the crossbar, but rebounded down and out. But the third period scoring was all UNH. Jeff Silengo, who replaced Nick Sorkin on the third line, went five-hole and beat Gillies on one he’ll surely want back. Willows sealed both the game and a hat trick with an empty netter for the 4-1 UNH final, forcing a Game 3 to determine which team heads to the TD Garden for the Hockey East Championship.

What I saw

  • UNH found a way to get past Gillies tonight, and the difference is where they got their goals from. Scoring first certainly helped UNH out immensely, but breaking through the PC defense to get in close on Gillies gave them better scoring chances.  The defensive breakdowns weren’t unique to tonight’s game, but the difference for PC was Gillies being able to make those saves for them last night. The Friars gave the UNH offense chances alone at the front of their net, so they’ll need to look at that to keep the Wildcats at bay tomorrow. 
  • He didn’t score, but Tim Schaller had one good game for PC. Head coach Nate Leaman said Friday night he was disappointed from the play he saw out of some of his veterans, but was happier with some of the senior leadership he saw on the ice in Game 2, despite the loss. Schaller, a senior assistant captain on the top line, registered five of PC’s 39 shots and was strong on the forecheck. If Leaman said anything to his vets about their play, it showed. 

What I thought

  •  In a few ways, Saturday’s game was a reversal of Friday’s PC win. Friday, the Wildcats outshot the Friars and skated with their opponents for a full 60 minute effort. They were throwing shots on net and handling the puck well, it just didn’t show on the scoreboard. Tonight, PC suffered the same fate. In the second period, all of UNH’s shots came from within or behind the circles – the Friar defense doing a good job keeping them out of the slot. On the other hand, in the same period PC had 12 shots on target and 25 total shots attempted, and those shots came from all over the UNH zone including the slot and down by the net. In both games, there were multiple shots that easily could have been goals on both ends and changed the result, a testament to how evenly matched the Friars and Wildcats were. The difference tonight is that it was the Wildcats finishing those chances, not the Friars. 
  • UNH and PC both have standout lines that have fueled them during this series. For PC, it’s the young line of freshman Nick Saracino, sophomore Ross Mauermann, and sophomore Shane Luke. Saracino scored tonight, his sixth against UNH this season, and the line was moved from third to second in PC’s lineup. On the Wildcat side, the second line of freshman Dan Correale, junior Kevin Goumas, and sophomore Matt Willows has really stepped up. Willows obviously had a big night, rising to the occasion with a hat trick, and Goumas assisted each of his three goals. Correale also had a few standout plays both nights, creating breakaway chances that didn’t turn into goals thanks to Gillies in net. It’ll be interesting to see what these two lines produce in Game 3 with a trip to the Garden on the line. 

What They Said

  • “It feels real good, bringing it back to a third game. That was a heck of a hockey game, I thought both teams played well and we got some needed goals at good times in the game. Silengo’s goal, the third goal, was a huge goal for us … We scored at key times, and it’s all about scoring when you need to.” – UNH head coach Dick Umile
  • “I thought we played much better than we did last night. At the end of the day, their chances went in and ours didn’t. I like the way we played today, I thought both teams were a little tired with the short turnaround there, but I liked the way we played. We have to be a little bit better defensively, I thought we had a couple mental lapses defensively and they put it in our net.” – PC head coach Nate Leaman

What Else You Should Know

  • UNH and PC will face off tomorrow afternoon at 4:30 p.m. to determine the series winner. The game will be televised on NESN. 

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