Providence, RI- The college hockey weekend began with a bang on Thursday night. Providence College and Massachusetts combined for a top-ten matchup and entertaining game in Amherst. UMass landed a season-defining victory in front of their largest crowd in years. On Saturday night, the teams reconvened at Schneider Arena in Providence to conclude the weekend. The series conclusion lived up to the opener and mirrored its pace and outcome.
The opening shifts showed UMass could handle the Friars’ physicality on a smaller sheet of ice and in hostile territory. They also drew a fortunate power play and pounced. Ryan Tait engaged UMass goalie Matt Murray in a net-front battle and was whistled for an interference minor. Providence Head Coach Nate Leaman contested after the game that Tait took a cross-check from Murray, but UMass was awarded a power play. And on the first shot of the game, Philip Lagunov broke free across the right blue line and sniped a shot over Hayden Hawkey 3:35 into the game.
PC resumed the offensive attack, winning the shot battle 9-6 for the opening frame. Late in the frame, PC appeared poised for a scoring threat. John Leonard took a holding minor and the Friars held the offensive momentum. But UMass cleared the puck to the Friars’ end and pursued the puck relentlessly. Hayden Hawkey stepped behind his net to control the loose puck and had his pocket picked by Brett Boeing. The senior from Barrington, IL, deposited a backhander into the empty net and posted UMass to a 2-0 lead at intermission.
Friartown came to life in the second period when their team repeated Thursday night’s pattern. They fell behind with two first period goals, then stormed back. Jack Dugan went first, cutting to the slot and wristing a shot through Matt Murray 5:56 into the game. Six minutes and change later, Greg Printz took his turn on the attack. The sophomore from Fairfax, VA, broke across the line as a power play expired and ripped a shot up and over Murray to tie the game. UMass took their chances on Hawkey at the other end but the game stayed tied into the second intermission.
Providence thoroughly dominated the third period, outshooting their guests 15-2 and out-attempting them 25-8 for the frame and 63-25 for the game. Fortunately for the UMass faithful who traveled to the Ocean State, Matt Murray stole the show and the game. He stopped all 15 Friar shots in the third and recorded 29 saves on 31 shots faced. All he needed was one break to secure the win. A pair of freshmen combined for the bounce UMass needed. Colin Felix took a pass from Brett Boeing and whipped the puck towards the net. Anthony Del Gaizo screened Hawkey in front and tipped the puck into twine with 1:49 left to play. Leaman pulled his goalie for a final rush, but UMass burned out the clock and secured a sweep of the 4th/3rd ranked team in the nation.
The win was UMass’s first point earned in Providence since January 5th, 2012 and first win in Schneider since January 30th, 2010. Brett Boeing recorded a goal and an assist for his third point this weekend and third multi-point game this season. Cale Makar was held off the scoring sheet for the second consecutive game. UMass is the only undefeated team in Hockey East play and in first place by three points over Northeastern.
Minutemen Head Coach Greg Carvel was happy with the game, yet insistent on needed improvement from his team.
“My first two years here, maybe more so last year, a lot of press conferences I was talking about how proud I was of my team’s effort but we didn’t find ways to win,” Carvel said. “This year, time and again we’re finding ways to win games that maybe we don’t deserve to win. Much like Thursday, I thought my team could play much better. But, give my team a lot of credit. They’re finding ways to win games and that’s quite a character builder. We’ll take these two points and scoot out of here.”
On Boeing’s performance, Carvel noted “He’s one of these kids that’s found his confidence. He’s forcing us to play him a lot and we play him in every, well most situations, not on the power play. Along with the special teams and the goaltending, we needed a few guys to mature and he was one of them. He’s been outstanding for us. He’s been a big factor in a lot of our big wins this year.” When asked about the Minutemen’s deserved place in the polls, Carvel shuddered at the possibility of a top ranking. “We’re a good team. We’re a Top-10 team, I think. Maybe better. But we snuck out of here with two points. So no, we’re not close to Number One.”
UMass improves to 8-1-0 and 5-0-0 in Hockey East play. They travel to Worcester, MA on Friday night for a non-conference matchup with the Holy Cross Crusaders. Puck drops at 7 pm at the Hart Recreation Center. They then return home on Sunday afternoon to face conference rival, New Hampshire. Puck drop against the Wildcats is scheduled for 2 pm at the Mullins Center.
Nate Leaman was bitterly disappointed after his team’ second consecutive 3-2 loss.
“It was a repeat of the game Thursday night,” Leaman said. “We spotted them two goals. We fought back. I was proud of the way we fought back. But at the end of the day, it comes down to one shot. We only gave up two in the third but one of them went in. We can’t spot them two goals early. The second one was atrocious.”
Hayden Hawkey allowed three goals on 13 shots faced.
Providence drops to 5-3-1 overall and 2-2-0 in Conference play. The Friars play a home-and-home with Merrimack and former top assistant Scott Borek next weekend. Puck drop at Lawler Rink on Friday night and at Schneider Arena on Saturday are both scheduled for 7 pm.