PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Lowell coach Blaise MacDonald, down one and on the power play with two minutes to play in the game, decided to pull his goaltender to create a six-on-four situation. The move proved to be a stroke of genius as Ed McGrane picked up a loose puck in the slot and beat Providence netminder Nolan Schaefer at 18:40, knotting the game at 3-3 to force an eventual tie.
“This is definitely a positive for us,” MacDonald said. “To go on the road and get any points in Hockey East is a big thing. For me, the way that we got the point was more like a win.”
“It was a good game: physical, entertaining, and with solid puck movement,” said Providence coach Paul Pooley. “But It’s disheartening to lose this game because we were playing so well in the third period. We were using our speed and making good decisions. We don’t give them anything all period and only come out with a point to show for it.”
Two of Hockey East’s most physical teams collided in this tilt, but penalties were few and far between. Lowell was only whistled three times for six minutes while Providence went two for four.
Most teams would consider only committing two penalties for four minutes to be a positive thing, but when those two penalties result in two power-play goals, any infractions can prove costly, especially ones in the final minutes of a game.
“We were outworking them at that point of the game,” said Pooley. “We took a bad penalty late and made a poor play, six-on-four, and that’s what can kill you. It’s frustrating for all of us, players and coaches; we all thought we should have won that game.”
McGrane has continued his quiet success in Hockey East play. The senior forward added an assist to his game-tying goal for a two-point night. When combined with a hat trick in his last game, it’s become clear that McGrane has stepped up to fill a void that the French Olympians have left.
“We’re obviously shorthanded, but those are the breaks,” said MacDonald, about the loss of Baptiste Amar, Yorick Treille and Laurent Meunier to the French Olympic team. “It’s hockey and that’s how it goes.
“McGrane’s play does not surprise me one bit. He does it every single day until five o’clock [in practice]. He doesn’t know how to work any other way than 100 percent and now that he’s conditioned he can get it done under the bright lights. He’s very unhearalded in Hockey East, but he’s quickly becoming a prime-time guy.”
Providence was the only team to hold a lead on the evening, but couldn’t put together an insurmountable run. Lowell found an answer for all the Providence tallies, showing a resilience that has marked the Riverhawks’ season thus far.
“I really liked the way we continued to come back,” said MacDonald. “We bent but we didn’t break even though, in my opinion, we gave them two goals at very inopportune times.”
Both goaltenders surrendered a couple of soft goals in traffic, but were able to play well enough to keep their teams in the game. Schaefer stopped 25 of 28 while Lowell standout Cam McCormick thwarted 27 of 30 Providence attempts.
On a bright note for the Friars, Devin Rask and Peter Fregoe each scored their 100th career points in tonight’s game.
“We had actually joked a bit about doing it on the same play,” said Rask. “Fregoe has been a huge spark for this team and when he turns it on he can take it to a whole new level. I’ve gotten a lot of help along the way from guys like Pete; it’s not like I’m Brian Gionta who can score 100 points in a season.
“Again, it’s obviously something that’s a nice honor, but, on the same token, it’s bittersweet without a win. We had two leads in the third.”
In a game with serious home-ice implications, both teams provided a playoff atmosphere, but ultimately proved that the third game of the series, which just happens to be the last game on the HEA schedule, may very well determine which team plays at home and which is a road warrior come playoff time. After a 4-3 Lowell victory in the early season and this tie, Providence will have to win in March to nullify a Riverhawk tiebreaker.