Earlier this week, in a league-wide media teleconference, Friars coach Tim Army proclaimed sharp similarities between the forthcoming New Hampshire Wildcats –currently fastened atop the Hockey East standings- and the nationally regal Michigan team PC encountered in December.
In Friday’s on-ice follow-up, Army’s pupils offered Cats’ goaltender Kevin Regan a similar fight to what they had given the Wolverines’ Billy Sauer –and a handful of other netminders since then.
And Regan, who upon his graduation this spring will be vying for membership in the never predictable Bruins Goalies’ Guild, responded similarly. With only one blemish, he compiled a career-high 52 saves, enough to mold out a 1-1 draw before 2,543 at Schneider Arena.
Meanwhile Providence, bolstered by Tyler Sims’ 28 saves and a second period equalizer by John Cavanagh, made a baby-step from their 5-4 OT slip-up to these Wildcats three months ago –one bitter pill that Army has regularly hearkened back to ever since.
Overall, the Friars are now 2-3-4 in bonus round action this season. This was only New Hampshire’s third game going beyond sixty minutes and first since their November visit to the PC campus –extraordinary given the night-to-night anarchy across Hockey East.
Anarchy? That bottle opened the moment Friday’s first puck was dropped. The Friars’ starting forward unit released the bashing beast within, flaunting three hits on its first shift. For the next few minutes, PC sculpted a 4-0 edge on the shot clock before New Hampshire leveled four bids of its own, all while contesting bodies battered without mercy.
At the 6:16 mark, though, Friar captain Jon Rheault was the first checker to go overboard and took a two-minute sit-down for cross-checking. Less than 30 seconds later, the UNH power play, curiously ninth in the league for all its flustering flare, nonetheless struck for an early lead.
Senior forward Matt Radja, withholding the biscuit around the near circle top, forwarded it to left point patroller Brad Flaishans. Flaishans’ low rider got the boot from Sims but met up with freshman Danny Dreis, who raked in the rebound from the backdoor.
After Wildcat Phil DeSimmone was flagged at 9:50 for obstruction hooking, the nightlong shooting imbalance ensued. Starting with one power play stab, the Friars ran ahead 14-4 on that front for the remainder of the period. But Regan, who was required to push away five more shots on another PK just three minutes after DeSimmone’s jailbreak, was impeccable for the moment.
The middle frame followed a somewhat similar pattern to the first, though it was New Hampshire running on the initial sugar rush with four unanswered whacks at Sims. By the eighth minute, the Friars had killed off back-to-back penalties, confining the Cats to two shots in the process, and went on to bust ahead in the shooting gallery, which they lead 39-20 at the horn.
And at 13:39, after the first 30 produced zilch, Providence finally cracked the cage. In a routine grinding session, Ian O’Connor laced a feed from behind the net to linemate John Mori in the far corner. Mori hopped out with it to forward to Cavanagh, who thrust a quick wrister under Regan’s glove.
After each team had already taken three shorthanded shifts, the final five minutes of the second period were marred by two separate incidents that warranted 4-on-4 action. And at the 1:00 mark of the third, the Friars briefly had a wide-open 4-on-3 advantage when Joe Charlebois went off for elbowing Nick Mazzolini in neutral ice.
But about that time, the puck-stabbing and skater-slamming tempest tapered off considerably. PC was restricted to ten tries at Regan, the Wildcats a game-low seven at Sims for the remainder of regulation.
The fun-size fourth period may have been the most end-to-end frame of the evening. Within the final thirty seconds alone, Radja nearly stamped a Wildcat win by collecting a fugitive puck at the Friar blue line and breaking alone down the far alley. He ended up whiffing it well over the crossbar.
On the resultant turnover, Rheault –tied with Matt Taormina with three game-winners for PC this season- saw his team’s last attempt of the night swallowed by Regan’s UNH crest with nine seconds to spare.
This article originally appeared in the Friartown Free Press