PROVIDENCE, R.I. — It wasn’t a total blackout on Friday night at Schneider Arena, but the power was running a little on the low side.
Given that Providence and New Hampshire were perched first and second in the Hockey East standings in power-play success rates entering the weekend, it came as no surprise that both of the contest’s goals came via man-advantage situations, in a 1-1 tie between the Friars and Wildcats.
Brian Yandle cashed in for UNH late in the first period, while Friar Chris Chaput netted the lone PC goal early in the second.
There were only eight power plays handed out all night by referee Scott Hansen, testament to the conservative work turned in by each team. With both sides struggling to find their way as the season grows long — New Hampshire had won only once in its previous six tries while Providence was 2-4-1 in seven games entering the weekend — it was no wonder that each erred on the side of caution when it came to taking penalties.
“No one wants to take a penalty, and I think (Hansen) called a pretty even game,” said Chaput. “Both goals were scored on the power play — and that shows right there why nobody wanted to take a penalty.”
Providence’s David Cacciola and New Hampshire’s Jeff Pietrasiak each recorded 33 saves to earn the deadlock. Cacciola, after needing seven appearances to pick up his first win, had to know that No. 2 on the season wasn’t going to come any easier — despite monster statistics between the pipes.
He improved both his already obscenely low goals against average of 1.65 and save percentage of .945 — numbers that had entered the weekend ranking second in the nation in both categories — to 1.54 and .949, respectively.
“I felt good in there,” Cacciola said. “It was just too bad we couldn’t come away with a win.”
Pietrasiak is unbeaten in four starts this season at 3-0-1.
New Hampshire (11-7-3, 5-3-3 in Hockey East) was likely best equipped to grab the two points. By Providence head coach Paul Pooley’s own count (UNH mentor Dick Umile wondered aloud how many chances his team had squandered) the Wildcats had six breakaways against Cacciola — none of which were successful. Every time, it seemed a UNH bid met with either a pad or a stick or a glove owned by Cacciola.
Wildcat Sean Collins had two of those breakaways, each of which came with the Friars on the power play.
“After the second and third (breakaways), I didn’t think they were going to get any more,” Cacciola said. “They just kept coming. I had to do my job. I read the puck well and stopped it.”
Umile was a little more eager, given that his squad was playing the role of road warrior, to accept the point and look forward to Saturday’s return engagement at UNH’s Whittemore Center.
Pooley wished he’d gained one more point, even though Providence ensured it cannot lose the season series with the Wildcats after a 7-4 win back in November coupled with Friday’s tie gave Providence three of a possible four points against UNH at Schneider.
“We played hard and we generated a lot of scoring opportunities,” said Umile, whose team has only won twice since the end of November. “I’m disappointed we can’t win it, but … The guys competed hard, and I just told them that maybe that’s what it takes — to gut out a game like that, a tie — to get us going.”
“It’s lukewarm, a little bit,” Pooley said of the draw. “I don’t think we took care of the puck as well as we should have. We gave up six breakaways, including four on the power play, and that’s not how you win a hockey game against a good hockey club.
“There were a lot of mistakes out there, but I thought the kids played hard. We’ll have to come back (Saturday) night.”
The league-leading Friar power play, clicking at 22.1 percent coming in, needed Chaput’s goal to knot the score. Jason Platt fired wide of Pietrasiak’s cage on the left side, and Chaput pounced on the carom on the far side to knock in his fifth of the season.
Yandle had given UNH a 1-0 lead at 13:07 of the first, drilling a one-timer from the left circle by Cacciola with the Wildcats skating five-on-three. The goal was Yandle’s ninth of the year and team-leading seventh on a power play with a 21.7 percent success rate entering the night.