Maine came into the series hanging on to the last home ice spot in the Hockey East playoffs and sitting in a very precarious position in the pairwise rankings which determine the at large NCAA bids. For PC this game was a chance for redemption and to move closer to guaranteeing a playoff spot.
Maine this year unlike their powerhouse teams of past years struggles on the power play. They have converted only about 15 per cent of their chances this year. By the end of this game it would come back to bit them.
If one measured the game in terms of time of possession Providence was badly outplayed by Maine. However the Friars did several things real well last night they have not done recently. While they did not create sustained pressure they did create a lot of good one on one chances giving them quality shots on net. The defense for the most (the 1st goal being an exception) bent but did not break. They allowed Maine to get their shots off but they were mostly outside the slot where the chance for damage was minimal. The Friars also did a good job of killing their penalties which in the end was key. Finally Tyler Sims gave Providence a strong effort in net.
The first period ended up with no score but set the trend for what was to happen. Maine dominated the offense out shooting the Friars 16-6. PC had 3 very good break ins, the best a 2-1 which end up with defensemen Matt Mannina getting a clear shot on net, but putting his shot high. For this team to be dangerous they must learn to bury those type of shots. Maine's control of play was also helped by the fact the Friars had to kill the only 2 penalties of the period. However by killing them they did not give Maine the chance to play this game with the lead like Lowell had done to PC the week before.
Out of the gate in the 2nd period the Friars administered some of the medicine Maine was known for under their late coach Shawn Walsh. Come out in the first couple of minutes and rock the opposition, try to score and get the opponent on their heels. This time it worked for PC. Chris Chaput made a nice feed to Torry Gajda who seemed fool Maine's goalie. Then 34 seconds later senior Dave Chapentier busted down left wing and picked the upper corner for a 2-0 lead. Maine would halve the lead with a power play score just before the 16 minute mark. It was one of the few times the defense broke down. Maine dug it out of the corner, then set up Brent Shepheard in front. Once again Maine had out shot PC badly in the period 13-6, but Maine had seemed to become frustrated with PC's tight checking. Still from a PC perspective knowing what had happened so far this year seeing Maine gain their skating legs was a scary thought. Also PC failed again to capitalize on a clean break in. This time Tony Zancanarro forced the turnover and got ahead of the pack, but was unable to bury it. This came just after the Maine goal and would have provided the shift in momentum to finish off Maine.
Again in the third period the Friars pushed hard at the start. A minute and a half into the period Chaput corralled a puck behind the net and scored a wrap around goal when Howard failed to cover the short side quick enough. From that point on PC became the victim of several questionable calls which made for some nail biting. The referee generally allowed the player to play last night but 2 of PC's 3rd period penalties followed plays where blatant Maine fouls were ignored. Also the ref called matching penalties for unsportsmanlike conduct when all PC's Bill McCreary did was dare the Maine player to hit him. Which the Maine player did. In the end McCreary was so incensed he drew a misconduct. After killing the first penalty Maine got back to within one when they picked up the puck after it had crossed the line and only then the linesmen waved off the icing which was being called. That seemed to surprise everyone else and a quick pass out front netted the 2nd Maine goal. Maine's final bid came with another questionable call with about 2:30 to go. First Maine had the power play, then after failing to score in the first minute of that power play Maine pulled the goalie and tried to used weight of numbers to score. However killing the penalty seemed to give the Friars momentum which they used to create an open net chance which Chris Chaput could not convert.
The win combined with Merrimack's loss to Northeastern clinched the final playoff spot for PC. What is more surprising is the realization that with 2 games left with Merrimack and with a game in hand the Friars are in position to overtake Massachusetts for 7th. Despite all their woes this year unlike either the Merrimack or Massachusetts team the Providence team has not given up.
Hockey Friars Down Maine
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