PROVIDENCE, R.I. — There’s a well-known maxim in hockey that goals in the last minutes of the period can be huge lifts or incredible deflators. Tonight, down 3-1 with 1:39 to play in the first period, Providence notched two goals within 25 seconds en route to a 5-3 victory against Massachusetts.
Friar co-captain Jon DiSalvatore was the first to light the lamp in the flurry. The senior converted on a loose puck down low with the assists going to fellow Coyotes, Bryan Horan and Peter Zingoni. The score marked DiSalvatore’s second of the night and 11th of the season, pushing him towards the top of the national scoring race with 36 points.
Before the official scoring could be announced, senior winger Mike Lucci chipped in his third goal of the year on a terrific individual effort, driving hard to the net and putting the puck through UMass goalie Tim Warner.
Even the eventual game winner came off the stick of Devin Rask with 1:04 left in the second period.
“The two goals at the end of the first period were the game for us,” said Providence coach Paul Pooley. “Devin’s goal in the last minute of the second period was another one of the tremendous keys. The second period is a swing period in the momentum game and, as we know very well, surrendering a goal in the last minute of a period can be a killer.”
“[Of our weaknesses] We’re not physically strong enough,” said UMass coach Toot Cahoon. “We do not defend well enough; our defensive integrity is marginal at best. All the teams ahead of us in the standings, and at the top of the league, turn up the heat defensively first and are able to shut you down.
“We gave a lot of easy goals away after we worked hard to get goals.”
The momentum clearly put the Friars in the driver’s seat as they scored four unanswered goals before things were done.
Rask continued a seven-game scoring streak, adding an assist to his goal.
“I’ve been getting a ton of chances and they are starting to pop in. I’m getting three or four good chances a game and that’s a result of hard work from my line,” said Rask.
Not to be outdone, Peter Fregoe closed out the Providence triple threat with the nail in the coffin at 17:32 in the third period.
The Minutemen, dubbed by some the cardiac kids, made it a contest of huge swings in momentum. Down 1-0 less than a minute in the first period, UMass responded in a big way. Thomas Pock and Tim Tuner notched their 13th scores of the year and Greg Mauldin added his 15th goal of the season in a 10-minute span to give the Minutemen a commanding 3-1 lead less than halfway through the first period.
“I’m not worried about all that much,” said Cahoon. “We just need to get better. That’s gonna start in practice; it’s going to continue with recruiting. Anyone who doesn’t think we are a work in progress is wrong.”
Nolan Schaefer withstood the early onslaught and remained solid in net for Providence. The senior netminder stopped 29 of 32 and the win brings his record to 8-6 on the season. On the other side, Tim Warner, starting in just his fourth game of the season, was only able to make 24 saves on 29 shots. The best save of the night, however, was not made by either goaltender. Continuing the theme of strong play from seniors, Friar defenseman Shawn Weiman made a terrific stop, stacking the pads and sliding across the crease to preserve the two-goal lead and the victory.
“Whether it be from DiSalvatore, Rask, Fregoe, Schaefer or even Weiman, we got great play from our seniors stepping it up tonight,” said Pooley. “After the game I challenged the seniors to take the team on their backs and carry it to the next level. In my experience during championship runs at Lake Superior, the seniors always played their best hockey at this time of year, no matter what type of season they were having.”
UMass and Providence both lost a chance to gain ground on Boston University for the last home-ice spot in the Hockey East Quarterfinals. The Minutemen lead the Friars for fifth place by one point, but Providence has two games in hand against UMass. Providence looks to continue its winning ways against Massachusetts-Lowell and New Hampshire next Friday and Sunday, while the Minutemen face BU and Mass.-Lowell on Friday and Saturday.