AMHERST, Mass. — A casual observer would be hard-pressed to identify the undefeated team at the Mullins Center Friday night.
In one end, the Providence Friars played with grit and style, staying two steps ahead of their competitors at nearly every turn. At the other end was the Massachusetts Minutemen, who played a sluggish brand of hockey, one that resembled in no way the team that jumped out to its best start in 30 years.
The Friars ran away with game one of a home-and-home series, winning 6-2 in front of 2,197 in Amherst. PC jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first period and never looked back.
Providence moves to 5-1-1 (1-1-1 Hockey East), while the Minutemen drop to 4-1 (1-1).
Colin McDonald’s power play tally at 12:33 of the third period gave Providence the 6-2 advantage, but it was over long before that. David Carpentier’s goal at 3:40 of the second period was the game-winner, although PC rattled off three more goals to finish off the beating.
Jeff Mason took a deflection off a Minuteman shinpad and zipped a long wrister from the point that beat goaltender Gabe Winer to make it 4-0 at 7:17 of the second. Tony Zancanaro followed up with a beautiful deke in the crease on a breakaway and McDonald finished things off midway through the final period.
“It’s a good feeling, everybody contributed,” Providence coach Paul Pooley said. “Every line played, every defenseman played, [goaltender] Bobby [Goepfert] played well, so it was a good road win. I told them before we started the game ‘we’re not here to impress anybody, we’re here to get two points and win a Hockey East game,’ and they went out, were very methodical and did everything we asked them to do.”
The Friars had much to be happy about with their third and fourth lines. The two trios combined for two goals and seven assists.
Providence thrived on an aggressive forecheck and took advantage of a Minuteman offense that often was stuck in their own end while the Friars pounded away at Winer.
“We have a problem with a host of our forwards who want to be offensive players, and not good two-way players,” UMass coach Don Cahoon said. “We can’t play like the Edmonton Oilers. Right now we’re just not a hard-working two-way team.”
The Minutemen showed their first sign of life with less than a minute remaining in the second period. Kevin Jarman slipped around the net and when John Toffey’s stuff attempt slipped to the right side of the crease where Jarman pounced to score his first collegiate goal cutting the Friars’ lead to 4-1.
UMass added another goal when John Luszcz’s centering pass was tipped by John Toffey and landed at the feet of Stephen Werner, who potted it to make it 5-2 with 12:48 remaining.
After jumping out to a 2-0 advantage in the first period the Friars picked up right where they left off 3:40 into the middle stanza when Carpentier took a feed from Chase Watson and put it past Winer.
The first period saw Providence outmatch UMass throughout the ice although the Minutemen managed to kill off penalties to Warner and Kuiper. When the curtain fell on the opening act though, the Friars held a two-goal lead, thanks to a nifty wrister from Stephen Wood with just two seconds left making it 2-0.
Providence broke the ice at 14:27 of the first when Mike Robinson teed up a slapshot from the point. Winer made the initial stop but Kevin Brooks jumped on the rebound, took a step to Winer’s right, and slipped the puck into the gaping net.
The two squads will match up again Saturday night, this time at Schneider Arena in Providence for Game 2 of the series.