Men's Hockey: Wildcats reach first Hockey East final since 2007
In the team's first semifinal appearance since 2011, the UNH hockey team did not disappoint. After a slow-paced first period which saw both teams play conservatively, UNH rallied in the second period to score three unanswered goals. The Wildcats defeated Providence by a final score of 3-1.
The first period saw very little action, with both teams testing the waters with their style of play. UNH went on two power plays in the period, but Providence only allowed four total shots to get on net during the advantage.
"I thought we had an OK first [period], I thought we were going to keep getting better and better," Providence head coach Nate Leaman said.
Providence's defense slowed UNH's breakout, using their size to disrupt the flow of the offense. When UNH forwards tried to work the puck on the outside, Providence pressured along the boards and forced UNH to give the puck up before they found an opening.
UNH's first tally came at the 7:05 mark of the second period on a shorthanded goal by Kevin Goumas. After Eric Knodel forced a turnover in the neutral zone, Goumas carried the puck into the offensive end, wrapping around the net and beating a sprawling Jon Gillies with a backhand shot.
"One thing we talked about before playing [Providence] was try to attack Gillies on the ground, get him [moving] side-to-side" Goumas said. "I thought it would be a good opportunity and I had a lot of open net to work with."
With the goal, Goumas passed head coach Dick Umile on the all-time career scoring list with 145 points.
"He told me [on Tuesday] that he's coming after me," Umile said. "I told him, 'Good.'"
Justin Agosta notched the second goal of the game with a slap shot from just inside the blue line. Positioned along the right side, Agosta let off a slap shot to the far post. The shot caromed off defenseman Kevin Hart's skate and fluttered past Gillies.
With less than 10 seconds left in the period, UNH was able to force another turnover in the neutral zone. Goumas led a 2-on-1 rush with Nick Sorkin to his left. Driving the net from the right side, Goumas centered the puck to Sorkin. Sorkin ripped a shot in the slot, but the puck sailed high and caromed off the glass. Goumas gathered the puck behind the net and wrapped around the left post. Gillies couldn't find the puck and it trickled under his pad.
It appeared that the period had ended before the shot crossed the goal line, but the referees went to the monitor and determined that 0.4 seconds remained on the clock.
"That was a pretty big goal, I didn't know what they were reviewing at first," Goumas said. "Matty Willows chipped the puck out and the defense crashed, we caught them in a line change. I tried feeding Nick backdoor and I guess he got hooked a little bit.
"I knew time was running out because we went out there for a short shift, and I just wanted to get that puck as quickly as I could to the net."
Providence was able to trim UNH's lead at the 3:22 mark of the third period. Drew Brown was able to gather the puck behind the net and fed Kevin Rooney in the slot. Rooney was able to get his stick on the puck and deflect it under DeSmith's pad for the goal.
UNH was able to defend in front of its own net and stymied the rest of the Friars' opportunities. Providence pulled its goalie with 2:02 remaining, but couldn't get a good look on net.
With the win, UNH advances to its first Hockey East final since 2007 when the team lost to Boston College, 5-2. The last time the Wildcats won the conference was 2003, a season that saw UNH make it to the National Championship.
"We've wanted to get to [the Hockey East championship] and it's a hard place to get to, to be quite honest," Umile said. "Right now, it's about the moment. The team is feeling good about themselves and we're just looking forward to coming out here, competing and giving our best shot. We feel good about the way we're playing."
In the first semifinal, UMass-Lowell scored two goals early in the first period and never looked back. The Riverhawks dominated Notre Dame all game and won by a score of 4-0. The last time UNH and Lowell met was on Nov. 1-2. Lowell won both games, 5-2 and 3-2, with the second game being won in overtime.
The Hockey East championship will be played Saturday night at 7 p.m. and can be seen on NESN+ and NBC Sports.
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