AMHERST, Mass. — Providence sophomore goaltender Alex Beaudry made a career-high 47 saves to backbone his team to a 2-1 victory at Massachusetts Saturday evening. The win gave the Friars a split for the home-and-home series, as the Minutemen posted a 5-3 come-from-behind victory in Providence the night before.
The Providence defense shut down the high-scoring Massachusetts offense, which had been averaging 4.33 goals per game heading into Saturday’s contest. The loss for UMass snapped its four-game winning streak to start the season, the longest for the Minutemen since the beginning of the 2003 campaign. In a spooky coincidence, Providence was the team that ended Massachusetts’ four-game winning streak in 2003 on Oct. 31 in Amherst, 6-2.
“I thought we played well last night and it was a pretty even game,” said Providence coach Tim Army following the contest. “We had better discipline tonight, and when [UMass] scored early in the third I thought we had good poise after that. On the road, on a night when the crowd was really into it, things can get pretty scrambly, but we played well and did a good job of killing the penalty at the end of the game.”
Beaudry’s previous career best for stops was 42, which he recorded during a 5-4 win by Providence at UMass last season on Jan. 16. Twenty of his 47 saves came in the third period this evening.
“He saw the puck extremely well,” stated Army of his netminder’s performance. “There were a lot of point shots, he found his way through traffic really well, and I don’t think he gave them a lot of second opportunities. What he does well is absorb pucks and allow us to get some whistles, and he directed a lot of pucks off to the corners, which gave us a chance to contain UMass and get ourselves reorganized defensively.”
Massachusetts coach Don Cahoon stressed a lack of focus for his team as the reason for the loss.
“Right from the goal on out, lack of focus is probably the expression I would use to categorize our team’s play tonight. We weren’t up to the task of meeting [Providence] head-on, and for two periods we floated around and played at the end of our sticks. We didn’t play as hard, or as determined, or as gritty as we need to. The gritty piece keeps rearing its head; when we play with that passion, we get a lot more done. When we play at the end of our sticks and try to be pretty, we get neutralized more often than we would like to.
“You throw the ice in there, the ice wasn’t that great for either team, and now you can’t make those swift passes and it gets a little frustrating for guys. We’re not going to beat anyone consistently in our league if we don’t overcome that.”
Both teams battled in the early moments looking for control of the contest, and it appeared that Providence had the slight edge over Massachusetts. The Friars opened the scoring at 6:15 on a goal from Kyle MacKinnon. MacKinnon skated into the Minutemen zone from the left and wristed a shot from the top of the circle that beat Paul Dainton.
MacKinnon’s tally proved to be the only one of the period, as Providence entered the first intermission with a 1-0 lead. Although UMass had a 15-10 shot advantage in the first frame, the Friars’ defense was stellar, as it allowed only two shots from inside the dots.
“What we wanted to do was have a good first five minutes,” said Army. “Not necessarily score, but to come on the road after losing late last night and come out and play our game. [MacKinnon] scored just after that, and I think that settled us in, and with a young team after a tough loss last night I think it helped us get into our game.
“We did a good job as a five-man group covering the ice, which is hard to do in a big rink. We’ve gotten faster over the last five years; we’re more equipped to get around the rink in this type of environment. We did a good job with five-man puck pressure. If you look at the shots in the first, most were from the blue line.”
Providence added to its lead at 10:53 of the second. Skating in from the right, Jordan Kremyr rifled a shot from the half wall that caromed off of Daiton’s leg pads and right to Matt Bergland. Bergland wasted no time, firing the puck back at the net and beating Daiton to make it 2-0 Friars.
UMass turned up the intensity in the latter half of the period but to no avail, as Grade ‘A’ scoring chances seemed to miss connections or sail wide of the net.
Senior defenseman Justin Braun had one of the best opportunities of the second period when he caused a Providence turnover in neutral ice and skated unobstructed to the goal. Beaudry, however, stonewalled not one but two attempts by Braun to keep the Minutemen off the board.
Cahoon noted following the game that he thought his team was trying to do too much in the second period.
“At the end of the second period I said to them that less is more, a little more grit, make simple plays, advance the puck, get it to the net, crash as a group, we weren’t willing to do that.”
Massachusetts finally broke Beaudry’s shutout bid early in the third period as the Minutemen power-play unit continued to stay hot. Defenseman Matt Irwin notched his fifth goal of the season on a blast from the point that weaved through traffic and beat Beaudry along the ice.
The Minutemen pulled Daiton in the waning moments but to no avail, as the Friars held on for a 2-1 victory. Daiton finished the evening with 26 saves. UMass went one-for-five on the power play while Providence failed to score on its three man-advantage opportunities.
“We only took the five penalties, but we did a really good job killing them,” commented Army on his team’s ability to contain the UMass power-play. “We knew that we had to keep it to 3-5 penalties; anything over that it was going to be a problem trying to contain them in this building.”
Providence returns to action on Sunday, Nov. 8 in an afternoon tilt at Vermont. Massachusetts will take on Niagara in a Friday-Sunday home-and-home series beginning Nov. 6 in Amherst, Mass.