PROVIDENCE, R.I. — In Hockey East play, there is no such thing as an easy win or even an easy point. No. 11 Providence needed overtime and two come-from-behind efforts to keep its record unblemished, edging past Massachusetts-Lowell, 6-5, on Friday evening.
“It was a great win for us not only to be able to win a game in overtime, but also to be able to come back from adversity,” said Providence coach Paul Pooley. “Two years ago, it felt like we won all of the one-goal games and last year we lost them. This year, we realize how big a win like this can be for our confidence.”
Peter Fregoe netted the game winner for the Friars with just 48 seconds left in overtime, completing his second hat trick in just five games. He somehow managed the feat despite serving a 10-minute misconduct penalty late in second period into the third.
“Although I scored a hat trick, I’m definitely not proud of the penalty. It’s just something I want to get past and, obviously, this was a big way for myself and the team to try to get past what happened earlier,” said Fregoe. “The best thing about this team is that we don’t point fingers and we just keep working.”
Even though Fregoe is the nation’s leading scorer early on in the season, he maintains that he is the beneficiary of a hard-working team and very, very talented linemates.
“I have a tendency to pass first,” said a modest Fregoe. “I just try to make the best play available on the ice. I’m just working hard and the team is working hard. We are priding ourselves on that hard work and it has been paying off.”
Fregoe’s line, which includes co-captains Jon DiSalvatore and Devin Rask, accounted for five of the Friars’ six goals and a 5-8-13 line on the evening.
“Everything is just clicking for us,” said Rask. “We are at the right time in the right place and we’re fortunate enough to be getting some bounces.”
The Friars (5-0-0, 1-0-0 HEA) narrowly escaped a strong Lowell team that was, once again, led by its top line of Ed McGrane, Peter Hay and Stephen Slonina. The River Hawks (3-2-0, 0-1-0) used three power-play goals in the second period to charge from behind, knotting things at three heading into the last frame.
Providence regained the lead at 13:06 of the third period on a DiSalvatore power-play goal from Rask and Fregoe, but McGrane was able to work some heroics in the closing minutes of the third period to knot the game and force an overtime period.
“We could have sat back and thought that coming out of tonight with a point would be a positive thing,” said DiSalvatore. “But we wanted the win tonight. For us, it was a win or nothing else.
Although Providence’s hunger was promising, the amount of penalty minutes and penalty-kill situations remain a focal point early on in the season.
“We have to try everything to eliminate taking penalties,” said Rask. “We kept pressing in overtime, but all the whistles really took us off of our game in the second period. We need to do anything we can to stay out of those situations. Our defensemen just can’t keep killing penalty after penalty.”
“Right now, we are our own worst enemy,” said Pooley. “The number one key is discipline. If we are going to be about excellence, we really need to cut down on our penalty minutes.”
On the positive side, Nolan Schaefer stood tall in net for Providence, making 39 saves on 44 shots. Using post-to-post pad saves on several occasions to keep Lowell from winning the game in regulation. He earned the win to open Hockey East play, improving his record to 3-0.
Chris Davidson made 23 stops on 29 shots for the River Hawk, recording the loss to leave him at 3-2 on the year.
Lowell will look to get back on track against Boston College on Saturday, while Providence will prepare to take the show on the road, playing its first game outside of Schneider Arena next weekend at Massachusetts.