PROVIDENCE — Mark Jankowski and Anthony Florentino paced the offense as No. 5/6 Providence skated to a 4-2 win over Merrimack.
“It was just a good hockey game,” said Providence coach Nate Leaman. “It was extremely intense and extremely physical. The fact that we are down to 20 games makes these feel like playoff games. I thought the whole game was playoff hockey, very good hockey.”
The Friars used the energy from a sellout Schneider Arena to gain an early advantage in shots, but neither team was able to beat the opposing goaltender until the 13:00-minute mark of the period.
Merrimack junior Connor Toomey intercepted a pass and slid it to John Gustafsson, then drove the net and tipped the puck down and past goalie Jon Gillies. The play went to review to determine if it was batted home with a high stick, but was ruled a good goal.
In the second, the Friars capitalized on a brief two-man advantage following a five-minute major to Kyle Singleton when Mark Jankowski rammed home a rebound of a Derek Army jam attempt. Anthony Florentino also recorded an assist on Jankowski’s fifth of the season.
Other than the first nine seconds of the major to Singleton, the Friars were unable to muster even a shot on goal. As the penalty expired, the Friars found themselves short-handed, as Brandon Tanev was whistled for a collision with Rasmus Tirronen.
On the power play that ensued, the Warriors scored on a nicely set up rotation. Chris LeBlanc fired home a one-timer for his first collegiate goal to complete the play.
Merrimack coach Mark Dennehy has been pleased with the play of freshmen Hampus Gustafsson and Chris LeBlanc, saying, “I liked that power-play goal. Mikey [Collins] to Gusta [Gustafsson] to Blancs [LeBlanc] was good puck movement. They are still making freshmen mistakes, but playing well.”
Less than seven minutes into the third period, the Friars evened the score on a wraparound by Conor MacPhee. After confusion behind the net, MacPhee gained possession and beat Tirronen to the front of the net.
With seven minutes remaining in the game, Shane Luke jumped on a bouncing puck and skated in alone. He faked to the forehand before slipping the backhand into the net.
The play also resulted in a power play, as Luke was hooked on the breakaway. The Friars appeared to take a 4-2 lead when Luke put the puck into the net; however, he was ruled to have batted the puck in with his hand.
The Friars took a 4-2 lead with 58 seconds remaining when Jankowski skated down the net, eluded the last defenseman, and delivered the puck into the empty net.
Leaman commented positively on his team’s resiliency, stating, “The key was good leadership in the locker room between the second and third periods. The guys didn’t get frustrated. I think if you look back to last year, we were a year younger and we would have gotten frustrated from a game like this.”