Hometown captain Acciari guides Providence to a long-sought Frozen Four appearance

Noel Acciari has collegiate highs for goals (14) and points (30) this season for Providence (photo: Melissa Wade).

Not too many players can say they captained their hometown team to a Frozen Four berth. Providence captain Noel Acciari will be one of them.

Acciari played a tremendous role in boosting his team to the Frozen Four for the first time since 1985.

2015 Frozen Four

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Acciari is from Johnston, R.I., a mere 10-minute drive west of Providence. As luck would have it, Providence was sent to the East Regional in Providence’s Dunkin’ Donuts Center for the NCAA tournament, and it was through there that the Friars punched their ticket to Boston.

“It was a great feeling drawing Providence,” Acciari said. “It wasn’t really a home game for us, though. We don’t practice or play here at all.”

Before last weekend’s matchups, Providence hadn’t played a game inside the Dunkin’ Donuts Center since 2004.

“It was great to have our fans here,” Acciari said. “They all bussed over from school; they were wonderful.”

The Dunkin’ Donuts Center serves as the home to the Boston Bruins’ AHL affiliate. Pee-wee intermission games have always been a common sight in the arena, and that was Acciari’s introduction to the rink.

“Coming here when I was little, watching games, playing in between the periods and stuff,” he said. “It’s a great feeling getting these two wins and making it to the Garden.”

During pregame introductions last weekend, the crowd in Providence roared for its hometown captain. He didn’t let the fans down, recording two goals and one assist and being named to the all-regional team.

That’s a long way from where Acciari and the Friars started the season.

Providence won just once in five games in October before catching fire and going on a 20-8-1 tear to finish the regular season.

Despite their solid play for much of the second half, the Friars were ousted from the Hockey East playoffs in the quarterfinals.

The well-rested Friars group barely held on to an at-large NCAA tournament spot, becoming the first Providence team to make the field in two straight years.

The Friars really found their offense in the second half of the season, and that continued in the East Regional. They ousted top seed Miami 7-5 in the first round.

The fourth-seeded Friars continued their improbable run on Sunday evening against Denver. A controversial major penalty on Denver’s Joey LaLeggia midway through the third period gave Providence the opportunity it needed, and Tom Parisi broke a tie with five minutes remaining.

Two empty-net goals later, the Friars had a 4-1 win and a trip to the Frozen Four.

Acciari, the junior captain, has suited up for 113 games in Friars black and white. None has been bigger than the one he’ll play against Omaha on the TD Garden ice in Boston next Thursday.

“It’s a great feeling,” he said. “I didn’t do it myself. I had a great team around me. We knew the feeling of last year against Union and not winning that game.”

A year ago, Providence made it to the regional final but lost to the eventual national champion.

The feeling was quite different as time ran down Sunday. The Friars bench could be seen exploding with joy as each empty-netter was scored.

The celebration, however, was subdued. After a few loud minutes around the Providence locker room, it was all business again for the Friars.

Leaders like goaltender Jon Gillies, defenseman Parisi and Acciari assured the media that they weren’t happy with just making the short trip to Boston.

“The job isn’t done yet,” Acciari said. “We still have two more games to try and win. We have a bigger goal left in our sight.”