By Roman J. Uschak
BRIDGEPORT, Conn. — Third-seeded Providence College did its best to prevent an all-ECAC final at the 2014 NCAA East Regional in Bridgeport, Conn. Mission accomplished.
The Friars led by a 4-0 score after two periods at Webster Bank Arena on Friday against second-seeded Quinnipiac, and that’s the way it ended as 10th-ranked Providence punched its ticket to Saturday’s regional final against top seed Union, which beat Vermont, 5-2, earlier Friday. The winner of that contest will advance to the NCAA Frozen Four in Philadelphia on April 10.
“It was a good game,” said Providence head coach Nate Leaman. “I’m really proud of our team for executing our game plan and sticking with it.”
That plan was to play fast and physical — and rely on sophomore netminder Jon Gillies when all else failed.
“It’s unbelievable to have a goalie like Jon behind us,” said sophomore forward Mark Jankowski, who tallied the game-winning goal for the Friars.
Gillies (South Portland, Maine) made 37 saves against seventh-ranked Quinnipiac, an NCAA tournament finalist last year. The Friars and Bobcats had earlier played to a 3-3 tie at Quinnipiac in late November.
“We knew how good they (Quinnipiac) were offensively," said Gillies, who thanked his teammates for their defensive assistance. "After the second period, we wanted to keep going."
The win was Providence’s first in NCAA tournament play since 1991, while the Friars had last participated in the national tournament in 2001. It was also the first time that Quinnipiac had been shut out since last year’s NCAA title game loss to Yale.
“It was pretty simple,” said Quinnipiac head coach Rand Pecknold. “We played poorly tonight, and we had a tough time getting going. There was a lot of obstruction, hooking and holding, but we’ve got to fight through that better.”
Providence took a 1-0 advantage just 3:37 into the contest. Trevor Mingoia fed Conor MacPhee (Windham, N.H.) from the left corner, and MacPhee quickly relayed the puck from the left circle over to Jankowski for a tap-in at the far post.
“That all materialized with my linemates,” said Jankowski. “I went to the net, he gave me a great pass, and I just tapped it in.”
The Friars broke things open with a trio of goals in the second stanza.
Anthony Florentino (West Roxbury, Mass.) started things off when his wrist shot from the left point found its way past Quinnipiac goaltender Michael Garteig on the stick side at 5:10, and then Shane Luke made it 3-0 when he cleaned up a rebound left by Kevin Hart (Cumberland, Maine) at 8:06. Mingoia made it a four-goal game at 14:19 on a power play, after Quinnipiac forward Connor Jones had been whistled for charging Gillies. Jones then earned a misconduct penalty after the goal.
Providence will now attempt to earn its first Frozen Four berth since 1985 by beating Union on Saturday, when Leaman will face former assistant coach Rick Bennett, who is now in charge of the Dutchmen.
“Once the puck drops, I don’t think anyone will be thinking about it,” said Leaman. “It’s one game to see who advances.”