PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Friday night’s game between Providence and Massachusetts-Lowell featured two teams fighting for their playoff lives.
The Friars, tied with Boston University for the fourth and final home-ice slot in Hockey East, were looking for a big win to force the Terriers into taking three out of four points at Maine. The River Hawks, battling Northeastern for the final playoff berth, would face a do-or-die situation Saturday against the Huskies if they could not win at Providence.
When all was said and done, the Friars, and the battle for home ice, came out on top by a score of 3-1 on senior night at Schneider Arena.
As both teams ground to a scoreless tie deep into the second period, thoughts of overtime and otherwise began creeping in. Although neither team was playing poorly, both appeared to need some sort of spark.
The Friars got theirs at 19:04 of the second on a terrific play from Devin Rask and Peter Fregoe. Co-captain Jon DiSalvatore chipped the puck off the boards to Rask, who raced up the right side. A single defender forced Rask to the boards, but the senior co-captain was able to feather a pass to a streaking Fregoe who was alone in front for the tap-in.
“It’s all about timely goals and timely saves for our hockey club,” said Providence coach Paul Pooley. “We’re confident in winning this way and for us it was scoring a transition goal like that and letting Nolan [Schaefer] make the saves.”
“It was just a case of being at the right place at the right time,” said Fregoe. “The forwards are getting the puck to the net; I’m happy to be the one benefiting.”
“We’re peaking at the right time,” said Fregoe. “We’ve got a lot of confidence going into the postseason and Nolan Schaefer’s been huge and when he has confidence great things can happen.”
On the other end of the ice, Schaefer continued his amazing hot streak. Although it wasn’t a 40-save outing, the senior was solid in net, stopping 30 of 31 to bring his record to 13-6-2 and close out the month of February undefeated at 6-0-2. In the classic sense of the phrase, Schaefer made the stops he needed to win.
“He is just so alert and so focused right now,” said Pooley. “He’s moving well, seeing the puck, smelling the puck and playing his angles.”
“We had some great chances; for us, it’s a combination of not being able to finish and facing some of the toughest goalies in the country,” said Lowell coach Blaise MacDonald.
The senior had his most impressive stops during a 5-on-3 in the first frame. He did a solid job of controlling his rebounds and seeing his way through screens.
Chris Davidson played well in net for Lowell. While he could not gain a victory, he played nearly two flawless periods, but would probably like one shot back.
“Davidson controlled rebounds, made some key saves,” said MacDonald “I think he’d like the third goal back… It looked like it went in off of his blocker or the handle of his stick.”
Lowell, fighting for the last playoff spot in HEA, will finish its regular season schedule with a game against Northeastern. Whoever wins that final game of the season will win the season series and gain a playoff berth.
Coming into Friday night’s action, Providence and Boston University sat deadlocked in fourth place, fighting it out for the final home-ice spot. As the final seconds ticked off the clock, Schneider Arena was whipped into a frenzy with an announcement that Maine had taken a 2-1 lead at home against BU.
However, the home crowd’s elation turned into eager anticipation for Saturday’s result as the Terriers stormed back in the final minutes to steal a 4-2 victory. A victory for Maine spells home ice for Providence, while anything short of that means the Friars travel to BU.