PROVIDENCE, R.I. — In a wide-open game that featured terrific goaltending for both teams, the Providence Friars and Merrimack Warriors skated to a 2-2 tie before 2,848 at Schneider Arena on Friday evening.
Rhode Island native and Merrimack senior captain Joe Exter backstopped the Warriors to the tie, impressing many in what might be his final homecoming contest. He saw plenty of rubber on the night and was equal to the task, making an astounding 47 saves on 49 shots.
“It’s always fun to face a lot of shots and I was seeing the puck well from the start of the game,” said Exter. “I love playing in Providence because all of my friends and family can come to the game. [Even without the personal ties] it’s a big game no matter what in this league, and we were able to take one of the four points up for grabs this weekend.”
“Exter’s a Rhode Island kid and he always plays well here; it was probably his last chance [at Providence] and he played outstanding,” said Providence coach Paul Pooley. “I think a game like tonight’s, an exciting game to watch, is a testament to the strength of our league.”
Unfortunately for Exter, the only mistakes that he made came back to haunt him and the Warriors. He surrendered a rebound that turned into the game-tying goal with just less than four minutes to play in the game. Peter Fregoe was able to stuff a loose puck down low between the stalwart goaltender’s pads on the power play at the 16:25 mark to knot the game at 2-2 and send it into overtime.
Fregoe’s 11th goal of the year marked the first time in three games that Providence’s top line tallied a point, after being stymied by Boston College and New Hampshire last weekend.
“Exter’s play was outstanding tonight. I thought he did a great job controlling his rebounds tonight and he’s really been outstanding for us all year long,” said Merrimack coach Chris Serino. “Even on the goal, I think he made two saves before they were able to score.”
While Exter shined in net, his counterpart, Geopfert, dazzled the fans as well. He recorded 34 saves, displaying a sharp glove on several occasions.
One save in particular kept the Friars in the game. At 2-1 late in the third, Merrimack’s Alex Sikachev found a loose puck on his tape all alone in the slot.
The speedy forward skated in on Geopfert and wristed a laser low to the stick side, but the keeper held his ground, made a nifty pad save, and froze the puck. Despite both teams having several good chances to close out regulation and into the overtime period, both goaltenders refused to budge and the game ended in a fitting tie.
Both teams will look to Saturday’s contest for a deciding victory in what should be another close, hard-fought battle. The pucks drops at 7 p.m. in the Volpe Center.