PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Nick Saracino’s goal and two assists paced No. 7 Providence’s comeback effort as the Friars defeated No. 8 Massachusetts-Lowell in front of a sellout crowd at Schneider Arena.
Jon Gillies stopped 25 shots to record his 12th win of the season, while Connor Hellebuyck stopped 36 in the losing effort.
Providence coach Nate Leaman summed up the game quite simply.
“I thought it was a good game,” Leaman said. “In the first period, both teams were trying to feel each other out a little bit. We’ve played this team in some big games in the past. We were a little tentative. In the second period, I didn’t think we played poorly, but they scored on their opportunities.”
A late arrival due to traffic by the visitors pushed the start time back and it had a noticeable impact at the start of the game.
The host Friars came out of the locker room playing very physically and threw several big body checks early. Captain Steven Shamanski and Noel Acciari each leveled UML players in the neutral zone in the game’s first five minutes.
Aside from the early physicality, the first 15 minutes of the game were uneventful. That is until a Stefan Demopoulos chip sent defenseman John Gilmour in on a breakaway at 14:53 and Gilmour made no mistake depositing the puck on a shot off the left post and past Hellebuyck to put the Friars up 1-0. Drew Brown also assisted on the play.
The second period did not look like the typical checking game with low scoring that each team is known to use.
At 6:02, A.J. White scored to even the game for Lowell. The play started with Michael Kapla before White finished off the play. Just over 90 seconds later, Michael Colantone skated in as part of a three-on-two rush and fired it over the glove of Gillies to give Lowell the 2-1 advantage. Shayne Thompson and Gregory Amlong assisted on the goal.
Joseph Pendenza scored UML’s third goal in a stretch of just 4:18 at the 10:20 mark of the period. White and Amlong assisted the goal that put the River Hawks up 3-1.
Saracino responded for the Friars, scoring at 11:11 of the second to pull Providence back within a goal. Josh Monk took a shot from the point that bounced into the air before Saracino hit it out of midair for his fifth of the season. Tom Parisi also assisted on the goal that was confirmed by a review.
Late in the period, Michael Fallon scored on a rebound to restore the River Hawks’ two-goal lead. The play started with a failed clearing attempt that Kapla kept in at the line. Terrence Wallin redirected Kapla’s shot from the point before it reached the net. Fallon scored on the rebound, lifting it over a prone Gillies.
At the 12:28 mark of the third period, the Friars drew to within a goal on a Trevor Mingoia shot from the slot. The shot glanced in off the post and over the shoulder of Hellebuyck, marking Mingoia’s second of the season. Saracino recorded the only assist on the play.
“We needed something to go our way,” Leaman said. “Trevor made a great shot there in the third period and got us energized. We came alive.”
With just under five minutes remaining in regulation, Mark Jankowski made a spin move to get to his forehand before shooting the puck past a screened Hellebuyck. Jankowski’s ninth of the season was assisted by Saracino and Mingoia.
The Friars have seen too much overtime recently and decided this game was not destined for extra time.
Brown made a drive to the net and shot it off of Hellebuyck before a falling Ross Mauermann got enough of the puck to get it over the goal line for his 15th of the season, but more importantly, a 5-4 lead. Demopoulos also recorded an assist on the play.
Lowell coach Norm Bazin echoed Leaman’s thoughts on the game.
“I give credit to Providence, they stuck to their game plan,” Bazin said. “I thought it was a tale of two games tonight, between the second period and the third period. I thought the first was very even and we didn’t get it done at the end.”