Just Not Enough
Providence Falters in Hockey East Semifinal
by Nick Canelas/CHN Reporter
BOSTON There's no question that Jon Gillies was the backbone of Providence's success all season long. His dominant rookie campaign carried a young Friars team to the Hockey East semifinals, and his dominant second half put them within reach of a league championship and at-large bid to the NCAA tournament.
But as good as Gillies has been all year, there was a clear deficiency in goal-scoring, and that caught up to Providence as it needed Gillies to carry his team one last time Friday at TD Garden if it was to keep its season alive.
As expected, Gillies did just that, but his 35 saves weren't enough as two third-period goals lifted Massachusetts-Lowell to the 2-1 win over the Friars in the Hockey East semifinals, ending Gillies' impressive first season between the pipes.
The freshman goaltender was as strong as he's been all year for Providence, robbing the River Hawks of numerous quality scoring-chances, especially in the second period, but couldn't get the necessary goal-support to pull out the win.
It became clear in the second period that if the Friars were to win the game, they would do it on the heels of another big performance by Gillies. The River Hawks came out the aggressors in the middle period and never took their foot off the gas. They outshot Providence, 15-7, in the period, with eight of those opportunities coming from in close. The Friars, on the other hand, only got one quality chance in the frame.
"Second period we got on our heels a little bit," Providence coach Nate Leaman said. "(UML) gave us some push back."
But Gillies bailed out his teammates with some brilliant saves, including a big one on Joseph Pendenza with roughly five minutes left in the period. Christian Folin fed Pendenza with nothing but clear space in front of him, but Gillies scrambled to make the kick save with the pad.
The UML onslaught continued one minute later when Riley Wetmore's wraparound bid was stonewalled by the pad of Gillies and Providence escaped a poorly-played second period with a 1-0 lead.
But such dominance couldn't be sustained, and the Friars paid for it in the third. All it took was an unfortunate bounce for Providence on a Pendenza shot 34 seconds into the frame, and A.J. White was there to clean up the rebound before Gillies could get set.
The Friars finally started getting some pressure after the River Hawks took the lead 12 minutes, 30 seconds in the third period. But it was too little, too late.
"I liked the way we responded," Leaman said. "We had some good push back, some good chances there. (Tied game) in the third it comes down to a bounce."
Providence was especially hurt in the second by penalties just minutes apart, forcing it to spend a majority of the time in the defensive zone. This allowed UMass-Lowell to slowly build momentum as the period progressed and heading into the third.
"We spent a lot of time on the penalty kill, that had a little bit to do with it," senior Kyle Murphy said. "We kind of got away from our forecheck a little bit and we didn't get enough pucks to the net in the second period."
The River Hawks pressured Providence with their speed and it ultimately came down to Gillies to get the job done. However, one goal simply wouldn't be enough at this point in the season. Leaman didn't see it as a dependence on Gillies, just an overwhelming shift in momentum.
"I just think we got a little scrambled," Leaman said. "The momentum in long games like this swing back and forth. It was a really good game. I though we had the momentum early in the game. I thought they came back, had the momentum in the second and the third period I thought was a really even period.
"That's the way these games go. If you think you're gonna win every shift of the game, you're not going to. There's gonna be some peaks and valleys, you just gotta stick with it a little bit."