Hartford, CT — Providence College entered the last full week of College Hockey’s regular season with only a two-point lead over Boston University for the final home playoff spot in Hockey East’s Tournament. The Friars traveled to Hartford for their final road game of the regular season and flaunted quick-strike potential to sink the Connecticut Huskies.
UConn did get the hot start with Jonny Evans breaking out and threading a backhander through Hayden Hawkey only 1:42 into the night. PC regrouped quickly. Josh Wilkins took a poor outlet pass from UConn’s defense, drove, and rolled a backhander over Adam Huska’s shoulder for a tie game. Five minutes later, PC took another turnover and Kasper Bjorkqvist played a give and tap-in beautifully with Jack Dugan to give the Friars a 2-1 lead that they held into intermission.
The second period saw UConn knot the game after a Jay O’Brien holding the stick minor. Freshman and Columbus draft pick Kale Howarth capped the ensuing power play. The remainder of the frame was chippy and physical, and the game went into the 3rd tied 2-2.
Providence flexed their offensive muscle in the opening minutes of the third. Josh Wilkins started with a power play tally after a Wyatt Newpower holding minor. UConn had a power play of their own that Hayden Hawkey and fortunate bounces denied the Huskies their best scoring chance in the frame. Wilkins followed a killed power play with a wraparound for the hat trick, the first career hat trick for the junior from Raleigh, North Carolina. Brandon Duhaime capped the scoring with a wrister and his ninth goal of the season 9:59 into the frame. The remainder of the period was played quickly and with few pauses as Providence skated away with a 5-2 victory.
Mike Cavanaugh was deeply disappointed after the game.
“We didn’t have a lot of energy finishing the game,”Cavanaugh said. “It seems like right now, we just ride waves. Instead of staying consistent with our play, we’re riding waves of emotion. I think when we tied that game we felt great about ourselves and played really well. But when they scored, we got down and we weren’t blue to come out of it.”
UConn drops to 10-20-2 and 5-15-2 in Hockey East Play. Adam Huska recorded 27 saves on 32 shots faced. The Huskies conclude their season with a pair of home games. Vermont visits Hartford on March 1st and UMass closes the season on March 8th. Both games drop at 7:05 PM at the XL Center.
“Good road win by us,” thought Friar Head Coach Nate Leaman. “A lot of Hockey East games come down to the third period. The specialty teams in the third period I thought separated us.”
Providence improves to 20-9-5 and 13-7-2 in the conference. This is the sixth consecutive 20 win campaign for PC. The win bumps the Friars to second place in the Hockey East standings, four points behind UMass and one point ahead of both Northeastern and UMass Lowell.
PC returns to Friartown for the final two games of the regular season. Boston University visits Schneider on Thursday, February 28th, and Boston College concludes the season on March 7th. Puck drops for both games at 7 PM.