PROVIDENCE — Niko Rufo scored in overtime to lift the No. 8 Providence Friars to their fourth straight victory, a 3-2 win over No. 3 Miami. Austin Czarnik assisted on two power-play goals in the losing effort for the RedHawks.
Goaltending and special teams were the stories of this top-10 matchup. Jon Gillies made 33 saves in the win for the Friars, and Jay Williams stopped 35 pucks in the losing effort. The game saw a combined three power-play goals on 15 total opportunities.
In the first sellout of the newly renovated Schneider Arena, the Friars possessed the early jump. Despite an unusually early 5:20 puck drop, the crowd was ready and raucous, and seemed to help propel Providence to an early advantage.
Just over two minutes into the game, the fourth line pinned the RedHawks in the defensive zone. Sophomore defenseman John Gilmour threw a wrist shot on the cage that Williams saved, and Providence sophomore Kevin Rooney had a whack at the loose puck before classmate Steven McParland was able to bat the puck into back of the net to give the Friars a 1-0 advantage.
Nate Leaman was quick to commend his fourth line following the game.
“Our fourth line was terrific tonight, they were a real bright spot in the game,” Leaman said. “They give us a lot of energy. They can all skate, so they were getting in on the forecheck. They got a lot of time on the penalty kill, all three of them.”
At the 1:22 mark of the second period, Providence sophomore Mark Jankowski showcased some of the skill that led Calgary to make him a first-round pick. He took the puck down the left boards and made a self-pass to elude a defender. Once in the zone, he curled the puck to the middle and slid a backhand shot into the open net. The goal was unassisted, but senior Derek Army made it possible by driving hard to the net to take away Williams’ sight of the puck.
Leaman was coy when asked about the goal following the game.
“That’s a big time goal by a big time player. That goal is a difference-maker. They have a difference-maker in [Czarnik], and he did that to us last year in overtime on their sheet.”
After a predominately whistle-free opening period, the game slowed down in the second. The referees called eight penalties in the period, six of them on Miami. To make matters worse for the RedHawks, they were whistled on two separate occasions for penalties against Gillies. First, junior Blake Coleman was called for slashing after he whacked Gillies’ glove after he covered the puck. Second, sophomore Kevin Morris was whistled for shooting after the whistle, and after arguing the call was assessed an unsportsmanlike minor and a 10-minute misconduct.
Momentum quickly turned in the third period as the RedHawks earned two early power plays. This time, it was Miami who scored just over two minutes into the period when Czarnik took a shot that was redirected by Blake Coleman. It marked Coleman’s fifth goal of the season.
Five minutes later, the RedHawks again found themselves with the man advantage. Czarnik sent a pass to sophomore Riley Barber, who rifled a one-timer into the top corner of the net over the shoulder of Gillies for his sixth goal of the season.
Miami coach Enrico Blasi commended his team’s resilience in the third period.
“I thought we did a good job coming back,” Blasi said. “I thought we played very good in the third.”
With three minutes remaining in the game, Miami sophomore Chris Joyaux was whistled for a five-minute major and game misconduct for contacting the head of Providence junior Shane Luke. The Friars were unable to capitalize in regulation, but freshman Trevor Hamilton took an elbowing penalty with 23 seconds left.
The two-man advantage carried over into overtime. As Hamilton was leaving the box in overtime, Rufo put the puck behind Williams from a sharp angle for the game-winner. Gilmour recorded his second assist of the game. Senior Derek Army recorded an assist on the game as well.
Blasi said of the effort, “We got a little undisciplined and there you go, there’s the game.”