BUFFALO, N.Y. — It wasn’t the desired outcome for the Providence Friars, but they walked off the ice at KeyBank Center with their pride intact after dueling for the better part of 60 minutes on Thursday with defending national champion Minnesota Duluth.
“I thought it was a great game,” Vincent Desharnais said. “I think we responded really well. We had good pace, but we have to give credit to [UMD goaltender Hunter Shepard]. He played awesome, but I’m so proud of our team. We battled so hard all year long, and what we did with this team was exceptional.”
The Friars generated a number of opportunities against the Bulldogs, especially in the second period. Providence generated two quality chances early in the period, and a number of pucks simply missed their intended target.
Later in the period, Brandon Duhaime spearheaded a 2-on-1 opportunity, only to watch the passing lane broken up by a backchecking defender. With under five minutes remaining, Greg Printz had the puck on his backhand with a good chunk of open goal mouth available, but it somehow missed a red-light opportunity.
In the third period, even with the Bulldogs killing off a crucial two-man advantage, the Friars simply kept going. Minnesota Duluth won the shot advantage in that period, but Providence was able to generate opportunities in between the circles and inside the low slot, a location where it was deadly throughout the East Regional.
“Their team is coached really well,” Jack Dugan said. “They had a game plan and executed it. They have a lot of fast and skilled players that clog the neutral zone pretty well. We got through it, but their goalie came up big.
“We’re one of the most conditioned teams in college hockey,” Dugan said. “We come into the year in August. We had them tired, and I think if the game went to overtime, we would’ve [been able to win]. I think they just did a good job defensively and capitalized on their chances. Outside of that, I really thought we were the better team.”
For Providence, it’s probably of little consolation, especially since the Friars kept the game tied into the late stages of the period. The Friars will exit Buffalo as a proud team, though the desire would likely be to be proud and playing on Saturday.
“It doesn’t matter [who the opponent is],” Desharnais said. “Our focus is always to play PC hockey. I thought that’s what we did, and we just needed a bounce or two to get into the game. But I can’t state enough how proud I am of this group.”