Providence beats Omaha in semifinals, will play for first national championship

Providence is into the national championship game for the first time since 1985 (photo: Jim Rosvold).

BOSTON — For the first time in 30 years, the Providence Friars will play for a national championship.

The Friars defeated Omaha 4-1 at the TD Garden on Thursday led by a 25-save performance by goaltender Jon Gillies, a goal and two assists by Nick Saracino and goals by Noel Acciari, Mark Jankowski and Trevor Mingoia.

Jake Guentzel scored Omaha’s lone goal.

It’s the second time the Friars have reached the national title game and first since 1985 when Providence fell to Rensselaer 2-1 in the final in Detroit.

The teams played a scoreless first period in which Providence held a decided territorial advantage, outshooting Omaha 16-9.

The Friars extended that in the second, holding a lopsided 17-7 margin in shots. That wasn’t enough to solve Omaha goaltender Ryan Massa until, uncharacteristically, the senior netminder made a mistake.

At 11:02, Acciari poked home a loose puck from the crease after linemate Brian Pinho sent a harmless looking shot on net from the right point on the rush. Massa didn’t handle the shot cleanly and, after Saracino swatted at the puck in the crease, Acciari was unmarked and poked home the game’s first goal.

At 14:58, the Friars extended the lead. Jake Walman and Saracino worked at the blue line to steal the puck and keep it in the offensive zone and then fed Mark Jankowski, who was alone in front of the net and made a move around Massa for his seventh goal of the season.

The Friars held a 33-16 advantage in shots through 40 minutes.

In the third, Omaha showed a different gear and finally solved Gillies. Tyler Vesel forced a turnover on the right half-wall and quickly centered a pass that Guentzel sniped home.

The Friars, however, responded just 26 seconds later to retake control. Jankowski forced the play behind the net and quickly found Mingoia, who fired a puck blocker side at 11:10 for a 3-1 lead.

Saracino scored into an empty net in the game’s final minute.

The Friars fired 48 shots on goal compared to just 26 for Omaha.

Providence will face the winner of Thursday’s second semifinal between Boston University and North Dakota.