NORTH ANDOVER, Mass. – The top-ranked Providence College men’s hockey team took a lead into the third period for the 12th time this season and survived a late penalty kill en route to a tough 2-1 victory over #16 Merrimack on Friday night at Lawler Rink.
The Friars remain unbeaten on the season (10-0-3, 3-0-2 HEA) and are now unbeaten in 17 games dating back to last season after securing two important points in the Hockey East standings on Friday. Merrimack drops to 6-3-4 and 2-2-4 in Hockey East play.
Nick Ellis surrendered just one goal and turned away 30 shots, including 16 in the third to capture his ninth victory of the season. Collin Delia made 28 stops for the host Warriors on Friday to drop to 6-3-4.
Neither team could find the quality scoring areas in the early going, but it was the Friars that struck for the lone goal of period at the 7:46 mark. Thanks to some hard work in the corner by North Andover native Brian Pinho, the sophomore worked the puck free to Brandon Tanev, who then fed Anthony Florentino for a one-time blast that beat Delia over the glove. The goal was Florentino’s fourth of the season and second in as many games for the junior defenseman.
The Friars’ defensive corps kept the Warriors at the perimeter for much of the period and gave Ellis clear looks at the Merrimack shots.
Undaunted, the Warriors wasted no time in evening up the game as Mathieu Foget converted on a 2-on-1 connection from Hampus Gustafsson just 1:28 into the middle frame. After the Friars killed off a penalty just minutes later, they seized momentum and began to swarm the Merrimack end, holding a 13-4 edge in shots during the middle stanza.
Jake Walman drew an interference penalty on Matt Cronin and the Friars’ power play went to work against a Merrimack penalty kill that came into the game at an 88.6% clip. Erik Foley’s digging along the half wall and subsequent pass to Tom Parisi at the point, led to a shot at the net where Garrett Gamez re-directed for his second strike of the season at 10:10.
Providence continued to mount the attack as the line of Steven McParland, Kevin Rooney,and Ryan Tait utilized their speed to generate multiple chances, but Merrimack’s Delia denied the Friars’ bid for the insurance marker.
Merrimack looked to net the equalizer with a power play opportunity early in the third, but it was the Friars who nearly extended their lead with the man-down, as Rooney found Parisi charging in from the point but Delia came out to smother it and keep it a one-goal game.
Despite that bid, Merrimack controlled the play in the third as they outshot the Friars 16-3 over the final 20 minutes. Tanev appeared poised to seal the game with an empty netter late, but was whistled for cross-checking with 54 seconds to play. The Warriors threw everything they had at the Providence net, but Ellis stood tall with several brilliant saves, including the best one of the night on Hampus Gustafsson from the bottom of the circle in the waning seconds.
Providence and Merrimack will go at it again tomorrow night at Schneider Arena beginning at 7 p.m.