PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Providence coach Nate Leaman had just finished his opening statement in the postgame press conference Sunday following the Friars’ win over Denver when he leaned over the microphone to add a final thought.
“One last point: We were able to hit the empty nets,” he said, referring to the two late goals Providence scored with Denver goalie Tanner Jaillet pulled for a 4-1 victory. “We hit the first empty net and the guys were celebrating on the bench and I’m like ‘No, no, there’s a lot of game left here, boys. Remember last night.'”
2015 NCAA East Regional
The Friars found themselves in a similar situation Sunday night. Up 2-1 on Denver thanks to a late power-play goal by Tom Parisi, Providence once again faced an extra-attacker situation as the Pioneers pulled goalie Tanner Jaillet in the closing minutes, looking for the equalizer.
But this time the Friars held, as Tanev and Kevin Rooney each added an empty-net goal to secure the win and send Providence to the Frozen Four for the first time since 1985.
It was an interesting weekend for the fourth-seeded Friars, who not only watched Miami come roaring back Saturday but saw Denver tie it up with a fluky power-play goal midway through the final period.
Defenseman Joey LaLeggia launched a shot from the point that ripped off the glass, rolling on top of the net before bouncing off goalie Jon Gillies and past the goal line.
“I watched it go over the net and then I heard it hit the glass and I saw a bunch of eyes in front of me looking straight up and I fell backwards and hit the puck into the net,” Gillies said.
It was the type of goal that could have given new life to Denver, as the Friars and Gillies had successfully stymied the Pioneers’ high-powered attack for much of the game. But Providence held tight and took the lead for good on Parisi’s goal at 14:59.
“It was an unlucky bounce but the boys had my back and we were able to battle back,” Gillies said.
LaLeggia hit costly
Denver coach Jim Montgomery likes to attack. It’s how the Pioneers play, and it’s been a large part of their success this year.
But that aggressive style cost them against the Friars, as LaLeggia was called for a five-minute major and game disqualification for contact to the head after wiping out Providence’s Steven McParland near center ice at 10:37 of the third period.
“He’s playing the way coach wanted us to play,” Denver senior Daniel Doremus said. “We’re not going to change the way we play. We were just going hard and trying to win the game.”
Montgomery didn’t necessarily disagree with the call, saying it was a great hockey play, but acknowledged the way the game is played has changed. Still, he said he sees the need for consistent officiating throughout college hockey.
“I guess you’re supposed to back off and let a guy attack you instead of angling that puck like I’ve taught them,” Montgomery said. “Joe LaLeggia did everything I asked of him on that play and unfortunately it was head contact. …
“I do think that we need uniform officiating in college hockey; it’s long overdue. During the regular season, when an East team comes West, or when a West team goes East, you’re playing by a new set of rules. I think it’s important that as a body of coaches that we get one guy in charge of all the other supervisors of the different leagues.”
• Providence will make its fourth Frozen Four appearance. Besides 1985, the Friars also appeared in the 1983 and 1964 Frozen Fours.
• Forwards Shane Luke, Noel Acciari, (Providence) and Grant Arnold (Denver), along with LaLeggia, Parisi and Gillies were named to the all-East Regional team. Acciari was named the regional’s most outstanding player.