DURHAM, N.H. — Providence hoped to build on its two-goals-down, come-from-behind tie in the third period Friday night when it travelled to the unfriendly confines of New Hampshire’s Whittemore Center on Saturday, where the Friars hadn’t won since the inaugural season of the Whit in 1995-96.
The Friars did that and plenty more, upsetting the third-ranked Wildcats, 4-3, behind fourth-line junior center Marc Suderman’s two goals.
“I remember a couple of years ago, we shot the puck into our own net,” said Providence coach Paul Pooley about his team’s past woes at UNH. “I’ve thought we’ve always played well in this building. Tonight, we trapped them, and we were able to finish them off … finally.”
Providence improved to 9-11-2 overall (5-7-1 HEA). New Hampshire suffered just its second loss in the last 13 games and second Hockey East loss to fall to 15-4-2 (7-2-2). The Wildcats had beaten Providence three straight times and nine out of the last 11 meetings coming into the game. Providence was 1-9-0 all-time at the Whittemore Center entering the contest.
“Obviously, it was nice to get out to a lead the way we did,” said Pooley. “I never felt uncomfortable, even in the third period. We knew they would make a run, but [junior goaltender] Nolan [Schaefer] stood in there for us, and overall I was very pleased with the team’s effort tonight.”
New Hampshire came out in much the same way that they did in their last game against Merrimack (a 10-1 UNH win). The Wildcats forced the play in the Friars end for most of the first period. However, unlike the game against the Warriors, UNH had a difficult time generating any solid scoring chances — mainly due to the strong forechecking of Providence.
The Friars, averaging almost 6-foot-1 per man, played a physical first 20 minutes and were in the Wildcats’ faces all period.
At the 4:47 mark of the first, Providence junior defenseman Shawn Weiman went off for holding. On the ensuing power play, New Hampshire could not muster a single shot against Schaefer (11 saves in the period).
“Obviously, we’re disappointed. It was not a good night,” said UNH head coach Dick Umile. “As good as we played in the third (period), we played that badly in the second and that’s what cost us the game.”
With the Friars busy trying to contain UNH’s high-octane offense most of the period, Providence was unable to generate many chances of their own. In fact, the Friars did not register a shot on goal for the first seven minutes of the game. However, when UNH sophmore left wing Pat Foley went off for tripping at 7:07, the Friars saw their chance.
With the play in the Wildcat end, sophmore defenseman Stephen Wood picked off the puck behind the UNH net, and found junior Devin Rask at the Wildcat blue line. Rask fired a bouncing puck which floated past New Hampshire goaltender Matt Carney for a 1-0 Providence lead. It was Rask’s seventh goal of the season.
The Wildcats had their best chance at the 11:38 mark. With Wood off for roughing, junior Lanny Gare’s wrister clanged off the top of the crossbar and dribbled harmlessly to the left of Shaefer. Freshman Sean Collins had a wide open net minutes later, but couldn’t bang the puck home.
The physical play got chippy at the end of the first period. Junior Josh Prudden went off for UNH at the 19:14 mark for hitting after the whistle, and a bench minor was issued against the Wildcats at the 20:00 mark, after New Hampshire coach Dick Umile argued with the officials after the period had ended. As a result, Providence began the second with a two-man advantage. The Wildcats weathered that storm, however, and the Friars failed to capitalize.
“Our problem tonight was finishing. We had some glorious opportunities in the second period, but it was letdown after letdown. You can’t play that way and expect to win,” said UNH junior winger Colin Hemingway. “Providence is chippy; they like to hold.”
Senior Captain Darren Haydar added, “They wanted us to play their style. … As Colin said, they play a more chippy, junior-hockey style of clutch and grab. They wanted us to play their style, and they were successful in that. We didn’t play our style tonight.”
However, Providence kept the pressure up, and it wasn’t long before they increased their lead, as senior Marc Suderman scored his first of the night (second of the season) with a wrist shot past Carny, at 3:41 to make it 2-0.
“We felt we had a great showing up in Maine [a 5-4 loss],” said Suderman. “We totally outplayed them. The way we played in that game gave us a great amount of confidence. Against BU [on Friday], we took an early lead, and ended up playing catch up. This time, we held on.
“There was no way that we were going to lose this game. No way.”
UNH called a timeout at the 8:46 mark, which seemed to get the Wildcats energized, and at 9:44 they finally got on the board. Regan Kelly went to the sin bin for hooking at 9:07. Junior right wing Jim Abbott fired in a slap shot to make it 2-1.
As with every UNH hockey game after the Wildcats score their first goal, the fans are “treated” to a large, raw fish being thrown out onto the ice. And like clockwork, the faithful of Zeta Chi Fraternity did not disappoint, hurling what looked to be large catfish onto the ice to the delight of the sellout crowd of 6,501 fans.
Before the aroma of the dead sea creature had left the building, however, the Friars responded, Just 27 seconds later, junior Doug Wright notched his third of the season. The Friars almost made it 4-1 at the 12:48 mark, but Carney robbed Goodwin’s shot from five feet out. The senior out of West Bridgewater, Mass., flashed out his glove and made a miraculous point-blank save.
The Friars made it 4-1 at 15:50. Marc Suderman scored his second of the evening on a two on one, finishing off the pass from sophmore John Luszcz. The period ended with New Hampshire holding a 24-18 advantage in shots on goal for the game.
“Our goal each game is to go out and win or tie our special teams battles. We did that against these guys tonight,” said Suderman.
The Wildcats came out determined in the third. Sophmore Nathan Martz, who was a game-time replacement for freshman Ed Caron, scored his first goal of the season at the 3:03 mark on a wrist shot that Shaefer never seemed to see, narrowing the deficit to 4-2 Providence. Then came the big scare for UNH.
On a Providence rush into the UNH end, a log jam of players piled into Carney. When the dust settled, everyone was back up on their skates — except Carney. The UNH goalie lay sprawled on the ice motionless for several seconds, as the atmosphere in the Whittemore Center turned from a raucus din to dead silence.
When Carney finally arose from the ice, the fans also rose in appreciation with a standing ovation. Carney suffered a concussion on the play, and is expected to miss one to two weeks.
Umile sent in Michael Ayers to take over for Carney, which seemed to spark the Wildcats even more. At the 7:10 mark, Prudden scored his eigth of the seaso to make it 4-3 game, as the crowd turned up the volume.
However, despite several quality UNH shots down the stretch (including David Busch’s point-blank wrister with 15 seconds left), Schaefer and the Friars held the Wildcats at bay.
“The thing I like about our hockey club is that I asked them after the third goal, ‘Do we need a timeout guys?’ They responded ‘no’. Then they went out and won it,” said Pooley.
UNH outshot the Friars 35-27 for the game.
“This was our best game of the year. Things are starting to click for us,” said Suderman.
Providence hosts Connecticut in a non-league matchup at Schneider Arena this coming Friday, Jan. 18th. New Hampshire plays a home-and-home series with Hockey East rival UMass-Amherst starting this Friday, when the Wildcats travel to the Mullins Center.