It’s been 10 years since the last time 2 top 10 schools faced off against each other at the Mullins Center. The #FillTheBill campaign, coupled with the early season buzz around both teams gave the arena a palpable energy. Last night Providence and UMass gave the 6,327 in attendance a glimpse of post season hockey and did not disappoint.
The first period seen both teams come out flying. The Minutemen knew they had to stifle the Friars from the opening drop, to keep PC from getting into a rhythm. UMass got a gift from PC junior Vimal Sukumaran when he was whistled for roughing 1:45 into the game. The UMass Power Play is one of the nation’s most potent and it didn’t take long to get on the board. Freshman defenseman Marc Del Gaizo put the Minutemen up 1-0 when he scored his 4th of the season as he slid down from the point to bury the cross crease pass from senior Jake Pritchard.
Sophomore John Leonard put the Minutemen up 2-0 when he picked up a lose puck in the neutral zone and raced in alone on Friar goalie Hayden Hawkey. Leonard beat him by sliding the puck 5-hole @ 9:50. UMass carries play through the rest of the first period.
The second period was more of a Friar affair. UMass looked a bit sluggish, while PC coach Nate Leaman surely lit a fuse under his team during the break. UMass sophomore Mitchell Chaffee was whistled for Interference @ 11:06, putting PC’s just as hot PP unit on the attack. Less than a minute later junior defenseman Jacob Bryson cut the deficit in half. Sukumaran won the draw back to Bryson, who walked in from the point and wristed one past Matt Murray from the slot.
PC continued to carry the play into the 3rd period after outshooting UMass 10-8 in the 2nd. That trend continued as the Friars outshot the Minutemen 13-5 in the 3rd. UMass was called for Too Many Men @ 5:39 giving PC’s PP another chance. Freshman Jack Dugan and Tyce Thompson worked the puck around the Amherst PK box, getting the assist when Thompson’s shot was tipped past Murray by junior Kasper Björkqvist. Tie game 2-2 @ 6:44.
UMass did pick up its play after PC tied it. This game looked to be heading to overtime with each team earning a point. At this point UMass would have been happy to have held on for a hard earned point. As this season is a very different type of season for the Minutemen, an innocent Ty Farmer wrist shot from the point found its way through traffic in front of Hawkey and into the net. UMass had the lead, and the 2 points in the Hockey East standings, with 1:25 remaining in the game.
Minutemen coach Greg Carvel said after the game that this was the team’s biggest win in his 3 season’s at the helm. Carvel likes his team’s character and confidence that’s been on display so far. The two teams meet again tomorrow night in Providence @ Schneider Arena at 7pm.