PROVIDENCE, R.I. — The Providence College Friars have one of the worst power plays in the country at a 12.9 percent efficiency rate. That ranks 53rd among 59 Division I teams.
But it’s much better against the University of Maine.
For the third time in as many games against the University of Maine, the Friars scored a power-play goal and Friday night’s power-play goal proved to be crucial as the Friars captured game one in their best-of-three quarterfinal Hockey East series 3-1. Game two is Saturday at 7 p.m.
PC is now 20-9-6 while Maine fell to 16-14-6.
Mark Jankowski’s goal with Providence on the man-advantage in the second period answered Ben Hutton’s goal earlier in the period to re-establish a two-goal lead and short-circuit the Black Bears’ momentum.
Providence goalie Jon Gillies of South Portland made an exceptional save off Cam Brown later in the period, scrambling from post-to-post to stop Brown’s one-timer from the right circle off a Devin Shore feed.
Gillies also made a good stop as the second period elapsed. Shore made a rink-length rush and cut around a defenseman only to have Gillies hold his ground at the near post.
The Friars protected the lead impressively in the third period, holding the Bears without a shot until 9:06 left.
Maine’s Jake Rutt hit the post with 3:20 left.
Maine coach Red Gendron said his team “didn’t play championship [caliber] hockey.
“Our passing was atrocious and our forechecking wasn’t good. We need to battle a little harder. In order to beat a quality opponent like Providence, everyone has to be sharp,” said Gendron. “Kudos to Providence. They did what they had to do to win.”
Jankowski’s vital goal saw him carry the puck around the net and wheel into the faceoff circle to the left of Maine goalie Martin Ouellette before wristing the puck through the goalie’s legs.
“I was looking to pass it but their defenseman dove so I carried the puck behind the net. When I came out front, I intended to pass it but nobody was open so I just shot it and it went five-hole,” said Jankowski.
Jankowski added that the Friars have spent a lot of time working on the power play.
Friars coach Nate Leaman said he isn’t concerned with statistics pertaining to the power play.
“We just want to win the special teams. Our penalty killing has been really good this year. We just don’t want the power play to lose momentum for us,” Leaman said.
Goals just 1:29 apart in the first period by Trevor Mingoia and Derek Army supplied the Friars with a 2-0 lead.
“That was huge for us,” said Jankowski.
Maine has never had a lead in the three games it has played against Providence.
Hutton cut the lead in half 4:57 into the middle period and set a school record for defenseman with his 14th goal of the season.
Mingoia opened the scoring when he was left alone in the left faceoff circle and one-timed a Jankowski pass into the short-side corner past Ouellette’s blocker.
Army expanded the lead off a faceoff play.
The puck was drawn back to Kyle McKenzie at the point, and he dished the puck to Brandon Tanev in the high slot. Tanev’s shot deflected in off Army’s leg.
Providence dominated the first period but Ouellette came up with some important saves to keep his team within striking distance
Maine gained some life when Hutton’s screened wrister from the point sailed over Gillies’ glove.
The Bears had the Friars controlled play for the next several minutes but couldn’t get the equalizer and when Maine’s Conor Riley was called for holding at the 12:52 mark, Jankowski cashed in.
Maine’s dreadful passing and inability to establish a forecheck was glaringly evident in the third period as Gillies was rarely tested. He did smother a Shore tip-in attempt off a bouncing wrister by Hutton with 7:05 left and, after Rutt hit the post, Maine generated some chances with the extra attacker.
Maine had a power play midway through the third period but it was completely inept. Maine did not register a shot on goal during the two-minute advantage.
Maine outshot Providence 35-32. Gillies ran his career record to 5-0-1 against Maine. He made 12 Grade-A (high-percentage) saves among his 34.
Ouellette finished with 11 Grade-A’s among his 29.
“Marty was terrific and so was their goalie,” said Gendron.
Leaman felt his team was “fortunate to win.
“We were sloppy. We’re going to have to play better on Saturday. We stopped forechecking,” said Leaman.