LOWELL, Mass. — Amidst a playoff-type atmosphere at Tsongas Arena, Providence scored last and held on to defeat UMass-Lowell 4-3 in front of 4,082 fans, securing home ice for the Hockey East playoffs.
Drew Omicioli paced the Providence attack with two goals, including the game-winner early in the third period as the teams traded goals all night.
Providence coach Paul Pooley summed up the night eloquently. “It was a war tonight, an absolute war.”
Providence (18-8-5, 12-6-3 HEA) moved into sole possession of second place in Hockey East, while Lowell’s (16-13-3, 9-10-3 HEA) home-ice dreams took a severe hit.
Providence got on the board 1:46 into the first period on its first shot on the game. Devin Rask led a 3-on-2 opportunity, held the puck and found an opening between Jimi St. John’s pads to give Providence the early advantage.
Lowell got the equalizer a little over 10 minutes later. Laurent Meunier won the draw directly to the stick of Kyle Kidney. His wrist shot beat Nolan Schaefer to his stick side and tied the game at one. It was Kidney’s 10th goal of the season and third against Providence.
But Providence regained the lead shorthanded. With Regan Kelly in the penalty box, Drew Omicioli stripped Lowell defenseman Daryl Green just outside the blue line and walked in alone. Omicioli deked St. John and slid the puck into the open net to give Providence back the lead.
“Drew is good for a couple of those this year. He made a nice play and a nice move, ” said Pooley.
Lowell drew even again early in the second period. This time it was Yorick Treille in the right place as he scooped up a rebound of a Ron Hainsey shot in front of the net and put the puck past Schaefer.
Again, the Friars rebounded. Providence again took the upper hand when J.J. Picnic fed Adam Lee in the slot for the 3-2 lead.
That lead, though, was short-lived as Lowell converted on the power play. Brad Rooney’s shot from the point snuck past Schaefer into the far corner of the net to tie the game at three.
Providence struck again in the first minute of the third period. Rask fed a streaking Omicioli, who tipped home the pass over St. John for his second goal of the night and ninth of the season.
“When we got the lead in the third, something clicked. The team took ownership and we have no penalties, no turnovers, and we won our faceoffs,” said Pooley. “We bent, but we didn’t break
Lowell had its best chance to tie the game with less than two minutes to go. Schaefer got caught behind the net, but Lowell couldn’t gain possession of the bouncing puck. Providence cleared the zone and Lowell couldn’t muster another quality scoring chance.
Schaefer was tested in the third period, but shut the door. He ended the night with 24 saves to earn his 12th victory of the season.
“We have our opportunities but we shoot ourselves in the foot with our turnovers,” said Lowell coach Tim Whitehead. “They are a good team and you can’t just keep giving them the lead. Eventually, they are going to hold the lead and they did.”
Meunier led Lowell by assisting on all three goals.
Both teams will head down to Providence Friday night to finish the home-and-home series. Game time is at 7 p.m.