LOWELL, Mass. — Technically, college hockey games last 60 minutes. This one, however, was over after 14.
Massachusetts-Lowell opened the game in near comatose fashion and Providence made the River Hawks pay, grabbing a 4-0 lead by the 13:59 mark. The four goals, scored in a span of little more than nine minutes, gave the Friars their quickest such lead of the season. From that point, it was just a matter of finishing a game that had already been decided.
“It’s always huge to step up right in the first period and come out [strong],” said PC defenseman Stephen Wood, who earned first-star honors with two goals and an assist. “One of our main goals in every game is to get the first goal. That was huge for us tonight and we just kept going with it.
“Usually it builds momentum, which is what happened tonight. To put a team away like that is the sign of a great team. We hadn’t had it all year, but it seems like it’s coming after tonight.”
The victory gives Providence (15-12-1, 8-9-1 HEA) its first back-to-back wins since opening the season with a 7-0 record. Combined with a Massachusetts loss to Boston University, the Friars now move into fifth place in Hockey East, three points behind BU.
“We’re not worrying about impressing anybody,” said PC coach Paul Pooley. “We’re trapping right now and we’ll be trapping the rest of the year. We just need to execute better than the next team. We like what we’re doing.”
For Lowell, the loss was devastating both in its effect and its manner. Desperately needing points to escape the Hockey East cellar, the River Hawks’ abysmal performance gave little hope to their supporters that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Unlike earlier in the year when the team frequently outplayed its opponents only to lose the goaltending battles, the ‘Hawks — with few exceptions — submitted meekly to a talented opponent, but one with a sub-.500 league record.
“It’s almost like we have some guys — enough key guys — who are petrified to put it on the line when they have to,” said UML coach Blaise MacDonald. “Every game for us right now is a playoff game and maybe some guys can’t handle the pressure.
“It looked to me like guys were timid and afraid to compete. Meanwhile, our themes were fearlessness and relentlessness.”
Wood started the scoring at the 4:37 mark, putting a screened shot on net that goaltender Dominic Smart never saw. The next goal didn’t come until 12:17, but they came fast and furious after that with PC scoring three times in 1:42. Devin Rask fought off two defenders along the left boards to center the puck to Cody Loughlean in the slot and the junior buried his seventh of the year.
Mike Lucci made it a 3-0 game less than a minute later, putting a rebound in the left slot past Smart. Jon DiSalvatore chased Smart by eluding a backchecker and flipping his 12th of the season over the netminder. Chris Davidson replaced Smart, who could not be faulted on any of the four PC tallies, 23 seconds after the fourth goal.
The Friars unwisely opened the door to a comeback just a crack late in the period, taking two penalties that resulted in a 1:05 five-on-three Lowell advantage. However, the River Hawks not only were unable to capitalize, they even gave up an unsuccessful breakaway in the closing seconds. The play typified the evening in that Marc Concannon, whose pocket had been picked, gave nothing more than a go-through-the-motions effort on the backcheck.
Wood scored his second of the game at 3:45 of the second period to make it 5-0, but was answered 30 seconds later by Concannon.
A third-period power-play goal by Devin Rask at 2:46 gave PC its final 6-1 margin.
With 3:53 remaining in the game, freshman and fan favorite Paul Mammola saw his first action of the season in relief of Davidson.
Providence begins a five-game gauntlet against nationally ranked teams by hosting New Hampshire on Sunday at 4:00 in a game televised by Fox Sports New England. The following two weekends include two-game sets with Maine and Boston University.
Lowell travels to sister school UMass on Saturday night at 8:00, seeking to avoid a sweep of the season’s series. It, too, will then face the iron of Hockey East, taking on BU in a home-and-home series and New Hampshire.