BOSTON – Two third period goals powered Massachusetts-Lowell past Providence College with a 2-1 win in the Hockey East semifinals. The River Hawks came back from a first period 1-0 deficit to cement a spot in the conference championship game Saturday night.
Freshman forward Kevin Rooney’s first career goal came at the right time for PC as the Friars took an early lead. It came on a rebound off Lowell freshman goaltender Connor Hellebuyck at 8:59 when Noel Acciari fed Rooney in front of the net. Despite outshooting the Friars 15-7 in the second period, the River Hawks couldn’t match Rooney’s goal until the start of the final period.
Just 34 seconds into the third, freshman forward A.J. White nabbed his second career goal, beating freshman goaltender Jon Gillies with a rebound, leaving the teams to battle out of the 1-1 tie through the final twenty minutes of regulation play.
It was Lowell who found the net first, when sophomore forward Scott Wilson took a beauty of a pass from senior forward Riley Wetmore and found the back of the net with a one-timer for the 2-1 lead with 7:30 left in regulation.
What I Saw
- Lowell put a ton of offensive pressure on the PC defense and of course, Gillies. They outshot the Friars 15-7 in the second period after an evenly matched 10 shots per team in the first, but came out of the period with nothing to show for it.. Riley Wetmore and Joseph Pendenza both had shots that could have been goals on most other Hockey East goalies. It wasn’t that the River Hawks weren’t creating Grade A chances, it was just nearly impossible to get anything past Gillies. They finally broke through in the third.
- The battle between two of the league’s best and youngest goaltenders didn’t disappoint. Gillies and Hellebucyk, both freshmen, made 33 and 32 saves respectively after standout seasons. Hellebucyk has a .944 save percentage with 1.49 GAA while Gillies is working with a .931 save percentage and 2.08 GAA. They both lived up to those numbers tonight. Gillies carried PC, but Hellebucyk’s performance isn’t to be overlooked with only a two-shot differential between the two teams.
What I Thought
- Gillies bailed his team out time after time. He was far and away the reason PC kept up with Lowell through the first 40 minutes. With a beauty of a save off a Wetmore shot in the second period, sticking out his right pad at the last second, he kept it 1-0 PC. That right pad got PC out of quite a few scary situations, and White only got one past Gillies with a rebound when the goaltender was sprawled out after already stopping an initial shot and rebound. Chances are Gillies didn’t get a good look at Wilson’s shot, and Wetmore’s pass from the left wing to Wilson in the slot was one for the highlight reel.
- The PC defense didn’t do a great job of screening shots in front of Gillies, and even with the stellar performance in net, that’s how Lowell eventually figured out a way to the back of the net. Credit to the River Hawks, who didn’t let Gillies’ 25 stops through the first two periods frustrate them to a point where it negatively affected their game. Most of Lowell’s sustained offensive pressure came in the third period, pushing the Friar defense, which wasn’t able to respond.
What They Said
- “I really like the way we responded, I thought we showed some good mental toughness. We had a good push back and some good chances there … I would probably say we generated a lot more offense in the third period than we did in the second. I thought we actually regrouped really well after the second, came out and played really good, but two of their chances went in and none of ours did … at the end of the day Scott Wilson makes a play, and it’s a heck of a play. ” – PC head coach Nate Leaman
- “It was a battle, it was certainly a very difficult game to play. I thought we got a little bit better as the game went along. They gave us all we could handle. They”re a very good hockey team. They’re well coached and it was a real battle getting sustained pressure and I thought we did that in the third. We managed to be in the offensive zone a little bit more, and good things happened because of it.” – Lowell head coach Norm Bazin
What Else You Need to Know
- Lowell will face the winner of tonight’s 8 p.m. Boston College vs. Boston University matchup Saturday night at 7 p.m. in the Hockey East championship. It is the River Hawks’ third Hockey East championship appearance, and they have never won. Their last appearance was in 2009 when BU came out on top.
- The loss ended the 2012-13 season for Providence. The team can’t get an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament, so the only way in for PC was through winning the Hockey East tournament.