PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Providence booked their second trip to the TD Garden for the Hockey East semifinals in as many years with a 3-2 win over the University of New Hampshire in the third game of the series. All of the scoring came in the first two periods, and goaltender Jon Gillies and the Friar defense held off the Wildcats in the third for the win.
Mark Jankowski got the early lead for PC with a beauty of a backwards pass to Schaller, who moved the puck across the crease back to Jankowski for the clear shot on net and the 1-0 advantage. The Wildcats answered late in the first at 17:07 when John Henrion tipped in a rebound after an original shot from Trevor van Riemsdyk.
UNH pulled ahead when Grayson Downing struck on the power play with an assist from van Riemsdyk at 10:31 in the second period for the 2-1 lead. But two goals late in the second period undid the Wildcat lead and sealed the victory for PC. First, Tim Schaller ripped one from the bottom of the circle at 16:29 to beat goaltender Casey DeSmith. Nick Saracino got the go-ahead goal at 17:13 when the puck was knocked around in front and he jammed in a rebound while DeSmith was on his back.
What I Saw
- New Hampshire’s second line of Dan Correale, Kevin Goumas, and Matt Willows challenged PC shift after shift. The line was responsible for most of UNH’s scoring Saturday night, and although they didn’t get on the scoresheet Sunday, when the Wildcats picked up the pace at the end of the first and through the second these three were a huge part of it.
- PC’s defense stepped it up from Saturday’s loss and did a much better job screening shots on front of Gillies. The Wildcat offense really stepped it up as the third period wound down out of desperation, but few of those shots actually reached Gillies. John Gilmour and Steven Shamanski were particularly effective, along with Myles Harvey. Gillies is obviously one of the best goaltenders, if not the best, in the league, but the defense has to help him out. That’s one of the areas they fell short Saturday night, but the three aspects of the Friars’ game worked together perfectly tonight.
What I Thought
- Sunday’s game really could have gone either way. One more call going UNH’s way or a single bounce definitely could have made a major impact – again, a testament to the caliber of these two teams. UNH’s effort was evident on the ice, and they were buzzing after their tying goal in the final moments of the first period. The Friars kept the Wildcats on their heels for most of the first period, and UNH responded really well after the goal and took control of both the puck and the momentum of the game for most of the second period, until a few late calls gave PC the boost they needed to pull ahead.
- PC’s Nick Saracino has just been deadly against UNH this season. He has 11 goals this season, and seven of them have come against the Wildcats. He turned it on this weekend, and it probably had something to do with his line being put back together with Shane Luke returning from injury. Luke’s play was beneficial to the Friars in a way that doesn’t always turn up on the box score, but he’s poised and chances are when there was a smart and calculated play on the ice this weekend, he was behind it. These two, with linemate Ross Mauermann, could prove to be challenging heading into the semifinals.
What They Said
- “Obviously it was a good series but I’m just disappointed. I thought our guys played hard today and I thought we got control of the game, and had control of the game with three minutes to got in the second period We got a couple penalties and the game turned around. They got two power play goals and that was the difference in the game.” – UNH head coach Dick Umile
- “I was really happy with our start to the game, the way they came out. You’ve got to give them a lot of credit, they bounced back and got the first goal at the end of the first period there. I thought that put us on our heels a little bit because I thought we were playing pretty well but they’ve got a very good team, they’ve got a top ten team in the nation, a top ten team in the pairwise. I thought it was a tough matchup, to get home ice in the playoffs and get a team of that caliber but that speaks to the level of play in this league.” – PC head coach Nate Leaman
- “It’ll be pretty fun. I don’t really have any words to describe my emotions toward it besides excited and I just can’t wait to play.” – PC goaltender Jon Gillies on playing at the Garden for the first time
What Else You Need to Know
- Providence will play Mass.-Lowell at 5 p.m. Friday night at the Garden in the semifinal round in what is basically a rematch of the regular season title game. BC and BU will face off in the late game at 8 p.m.
- In all three games this series, the team to score first won while the team with more shots on goal lost.
- UNH sits eighth in the pairwise after Sunday’s loss and will likely see more hockey this season with a spot in the NCAA tournament come the last weekend in March.