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Providence College overpowers UMass hockey in Hockey East playoff opener

Caroline O’Connor/Collegian

PROVIDENCE – The Massachusetts hockey team seemingly did its best in an attempt to upset the No. 10-ranked Friars Friday night at Schneider Arena in the opener of the Hockey East playoffs.

The Minutemen (5-28-2) outshot Providence College (21-9-5) 12-11 in the second period after the Friars took a 1-0 lead on a Brian Pinho tip-in at 16:21 of the first period, and dominated shots on goal in the first 20 minutes of play (12-4). But UMass failed to get any puck past PC goalie Hayden Hawkey (22 saves) on its bevy of chances in the final two periods in falling 3-0 to the Friars.

The Minutemen held a 5-to-1 power play advantage, but registered just two shots on goal during the Friars 10 penalty minutes and failed to capitalize on the man advantage – a problem that has plagued UMass all season long.

“It’s been that way all year long,” Minutemen coach Greg Carvel said. “We don’t have a skill level and we don’t have the compete level. They do. They have a good penalty kill. We try to dump pucks in and we can’t win the battles. When they go on the power play they dump it in and they get the puck. We have to get bigger, stronger and more skilled.”

“Our penalty kill was probably the star of the game for us, but the bottom line is we have to be better [Saturday] night,” PC coach Nate Leaman said.

Minutemen goaltender Ryan Wischow stood on his head for the majority of the contest and kept UMass in the game before the Friars finally pushed their lead to two with under five minutes to go in the third period.

The freshman netminder made 32 saves, but the Friars’ Josh Wilkins put home a rebound at 4:40 after winning a battle in front of the net and then set-up Erik Foley just over two minutes later to extent the PC lead to three.

The Minutemen had their chances to score but couldn’t find twine, as defensemen Jake McLaughlin and Ivan Chukarov grazed the post with two one-time bombs in the first and second period, respectively.

Steven Iacobellis found a streaking Austin Plevy on a 3-on-2 breakaway with 8:49 to play in the final period, but Plevy was tripped up by Foley and UMass couldn’t score on what was an open left side of the net after the forward deked his way by the Friar defensemen. The top line was without senior forward Ray Pigozzi, who was suspended for one game for violating team rules prior to Friday’s game.

“We can’t really play 60 good hard minutes,” Carvel said. “We can play about 55 and that’s the difference. I thought we played well enough to find a way to win. If [Austin] Plevy scores that goal and ties the game at one halfway through the third period, I like our chances. Even there, I know it’s a penalty, but he’s got to bury that. The puck is on his stick with a wide open net and he’s got to bury it. That’s where we’re lacking strength. That’s where Erik Foley is able to bully his way to the front of the net and was able to score, because he’s a big strong kid. They’re big and strong and we’re small and weak.”

The Minutemen blocked nine shots in front of Wischow, including a Ryan Badger sacrifice in the waning moments of the second period where it looked like PC would blow the game open. Wischow denied a pair of Friar chances, sprawling in the crease to keep the game in play heading into the final period.

“I thought he was really good,” Carvel said of his goaltender. “I know he had 32 saves but I don’t think there were a lot of tough ones but he did make a couple of really nice saves in the first period and in the first part of the second. I think he’s playing with a lot of confidence right now and we haven’t seen that in a while.”

The two play game two of the best-of-three set Saturday night at Schneider Arena with UMass facing elimination. Puck drop in Providence is at 7:05 p.m.

Kyle DaLuz can be reached at kdaluz@umass.edu and followed on Twitter @Kyle_DaLuz.

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