PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Freshman Nick Saracino helped lift the Friars past the University of New Hampshire with two goals and an assist in PC’s 3-2 victory in Game 1 of their Hockey East quarterfinal series. A goal from fellow freshman, defenseman John Gilmour rounded out the PC scoring. New Hampshire’s goals came from Grayson Downing and Austin Block, who beat Jon Gillies backhand. The Wildcats had the momentum on their side early, and finished the game outshooting the Friars 37-25, but couldn’t overcome a surging PC third line coupled with Gillies in net.
UNH controlled the first period, with the 23-15 advantage on shots attempted, but the talent of Gillies in net counteracted any Wildcat chances and the teams were scoreless after the first twenty. It looked like UNH would take the 1-0 lead about halfway through the first period when a giveaway in UNH’s zone resulted with the puck on Grayson Downing’s stick. Downing rushed through the PC defense and shot inside the right circle, but the puck rang the inside of the post and bounced out. There was a steady back-and-forth pace to the game until the 12:30 mark of the first, when the Wildcats had some sustained pressure in the PC zone in peppered Gillies with shots, two of which came from Knodel. Shane Luke finally cleared it for the Friars with some smart play behind the net to end the onslaught of shots.
The momentum shifted in the second as the Friars came out flying and Saracino scored the game’s first goal at 2:06 with an assist from linemate Shane Luke. Just under five minutes into the period, Dan Correale beat the PC defense and had a breakaway chance on Gillies, who came up with the save. Gillies came up big again when Block stole the puck from Myles Harvey, who was attempting D-to-D pass in the PC zone. While Gillies kept UNH scoreless, Gilmour gave the Friars a 2-0 cushion with assits from Saracino and Luke at 13:27. But the Wildcats weren’t far off, and Downing scored a power play goal to pull UNH within one 23 seconds later at 13:50.
The final period became a lot more intense when Block’s beauty of a backhand shot got past Gillies, and it was a tied game at 2-2 with 18 minutes to play. Saracino’s second of the night gave PC some breathing room and was the final goal of the night.
What I Saw
- Eric Knodel was all over the ice for UNH. During UNH’s sustained period of offensive pressure on Gillies in the first period. Knodel had at least two of the shots. He was also responsible for clearing the puck a few times and had a hand in Downing’s power play goal with an assist. Watching him play Friday was a prime example of the entire team’s execution; attacking and grinding. It just wasn’t reflected in the results at the end of the night.
- It might sound like a broken record by this point in the season, but Jon Gillies was key for PC tonight. With the win, he’s now 16-10-6. Gillies made 35 saves Friday night, and a majority of them resulted from his acute awareness of the play around him, sticking out a pad at just the right second or stopping a UNH breakaway when the Wildcats broke through the defense in front of him, which was often.
What I Thought
- PC’s third line of Nick Saracino, Ross Mauermann, and Shane Luke was stellar tonight. Leaman said the third line’s chemistry is much better with Luke on it, and it showed. They were on the ice for all three of PC’s goals, and Saracino had a hand in each of them. Luke missed six games after a hit from Merrimack’s Kyle Bigos left him with a knee injury, and it’ll be interesting to see if the line continues to turn it on considering their success as of late. All three linemates are in PC’s top five scorers; Mauermann is first with 24 points, Luke is fourth with 18, and Saracino is fifth with 16.
- The UNH loss wasn’t any reflection of the way the Wildcats played. They outshot the Friars 37-25 overall and a whopping 15-4 in the first period. By all accounts, UNH owned the ice in the first twenty minutes in all three zones, and one look at the shot chart shows it. No aspect of the Wildcats’ game was particularly off, and it wasn’t as if there were lapses in the intensity of their play. If anything, the biggest obstacle UNH will have to overcome is Gillies, and not just because he’s 6’5″.
What They Said
- “I’m a little sad and disappointed in the outcome because I thought we played hard, we played well and we have nothing to show for it. It was a tough one to take because I thought the team battled pretty hard. I know in the second period we might’ve lost a little momentum, but definitely in the first period and the third period we played well and the team battled back, we had it 2-2. It was an unfortunate play on the winning goal; turn the puck over, the kid took a shot, pretty good screen in front, and that was the winning goal.” – UNH head coach Dick Umile
- “I thought we were pretty fortunate to get a win. I thought we fought ourselves all night. We had a lot of bad turnovers and a lot of real soft plays and we were on our heels a lot of the night because we kept turning the puck over and weren’t executing real well. Jonny Gillies played excellent and Nick Saracino really showed up and played a good game for us.” – PC head coach Nate Leaman
What Else You Should Know
- This is the first time Providence College has hosted a Hockey East quarterfinal series since 2003.
- UNH and PC will face off tomorrow night at 4 p.m. for Game 2, which will be televised on NESN and determine whether a Sunday Game 3 is necessary.