Yet again, the momentum scale went on to creek smoothly and consistently the opposition’s way, allowing the nightlong suffocated Massachusetts Minutemen to renew their hopes by the third period. But what had worked most soundly for St. Lawrence two weeks back in a 4-1 Friar falter, and exhilaratingly for Northeastern in a 3-2 overtime final, did not come to full pass this time.
Instead, the cliché about a third whirl around that needs no introduction came true for the Friars, who pulled through 3-1 before 1,918 at Schneider Arena in Part I of a home-and-home tilt with the Minutemen.
By all counts, the opening twenty minutes was the most lopsided frame to tilt PC’s way as they dispensed fifteen shots compared to UMass’ three, eight of those bids spacing out over four power plays. Minutemen freshman Paul Dainton’s dynamics that ultimately earned his second star of the game honors were good enough to withstand fourteen of those stabs, but the illicit habits of his peers tripped him up early.
Two and a half minutes after the opening draw, at which point the Friars led the shooting gallery 2-1, Scott Crowder went to the bin for elbowing. On their first man advantage, Providence meticulously cycled the puck for about a minute before the Men finally tipped it out of their end.
But on a quick return trip, forward Greg Collins hung back in the slot slowly creeping towards Dainton whilst waiting out his associates in a scrum at the far hash marks. Jon Rheault emerged and forwarded it to Collins, who proceeded to spoon a backhander upstairs for the icebreaker.
PC ran the shot clock after that, with the aid of three more power plays, including a five-minute, three-stab spree with Minuteman Alex Berry’s head check to Mark Fayne. And they would carry the gush, though tone it down a grade, into the middle frame, outshooting their adversaries 11-8.
Amherst exponentially thawed out over that span, cleaning up their play whilst taking their first two power plays on the game, though they registered no shots on those. It didn’t hurt them, either, to have a play called back after one of the Friars’ last major blizzards of the game around the halfway mark. Post-whistle suspicion that one shot may have reached home compelled referee Dave Hansen to consult video replay before confirming it no goal.
That notwithstanding, in the other crease, junior goaltender Chris Mannix counteracted everything in his first forty minutes of action this season, including a dying seconds sugar rush that spotted two shots against and an obstructive, too-close-for-comfort mirage of bodies nearly ramming him into his net.
Providence temporarily rekindled its touch to simultaneously attain two milestones at 0:25 of the final period, those being their first multi-goal lead of the season and their first even strength connection out of their last six. Near point patroller Trevor Ludwig froze the disc and looped it along the walls to Pierce Norton, who strolled behind the net for a hand-off to Nick Mazzolini, who was coasting in the opposite direction. Mazzolini thrust the puck out in front for a wizardly Kyle Laughlin –who was credited with an assist on Collins’ tally- to sneak through the legs of Dainton.
It was right then and there that the Minutemen woke up for real. The PA announcer was nowhere near through disclosing the niceties of the Friars’ insurance goal when Jordan Virtue lured Mannix to a distorted sprawling position and set up Matt Burto to flick one in at 0:41.
Nine minutes later, in the midst of another man advantage and after his club had piled up four unanswered tries, Chris Davis thought he had poked an equalizer through Mannix’s skates from behind the cage. Obscured sight, however, sent Hansen back to the phones, and after a particularly prolonged conference with the video judge and ice level judge, his ruling melted the Mass perk-up.
With 2:09 remaining, Providence, working its first power play since the opening frame, restored the two-goal edge for good. Monitoring their own chosen post, wingers John Cavanagh and Mazzolini each took their stabs before Cavanagh, at the left side, left it up to John Mori in the slot. Barely keeping his blades in order as he collected the shipment –it had, after all, been a shaky stretch drive to the evening- Mori nailed a low flyer to the left of Dainton.
This article originally appeared in the Friartown Free Press