PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Sophomore Matt Willows (Congers, N.Y.) notched his first career hat trick, and the seventh-ranked University of New Hampshire men's hockey team skated past No. 17 Providence College, 4-1, Saturday afternoon at Schneider Area to stave off elimination and even their best-of-three Hockey East quarterfinal series one game apiece.
The fifth-seeded Wildcats (19-10-7, 13-8-6 HEA) forced a third and decisive game against the fourth-seeded Friars (16-13-7, 13-8-6 HEA) on Sunday afternoon at 4:30 p.m. (NESN) in Providence.
Junior Kevin Goumas (Long Beach, N.Y.) racked up assists on all three of Willows' goals to increase his team-leading assist total to 32, and junior Jeff Silengo (Madison, Conn.) scored his third goal of the season in his triumphant return from a six-game injury absence.
Sophomore goaltender Casey DeSmith (Rochester, N.H.) made 38 saves to improve his record to 18-8-7 on the season; he upped his career postseason record to 2-3-0.
The Wildcats grabbed a 1-0 lead at 15:19 of the first period when Willows scored his sixth goal of the season. The right-winger received a pass from Goumas in the right circle, weaved into the slot and went forehand to beat Providence netminder Jon Gillies glove-side. Brett Pesce (Tarrytown, N.Y.) tallied a secondary assist, his fourth of the year. PC held an 11-7 shot advantage in the first period.
Willows made it 2-0 at 1:45 of the second period. Freshman Dan Correale (Prince George, British Columbia) used the end wall behind Gillies to feed Goumas deep on the right side; Goumas shoveled over to Willows in the left circle, and the sophomore found the back of the net for his second goal of the game and his seventh of the year.
The Friars retaliated less than two minutes later when Nick Saracino scored a power-play goal, gathering in a head-man pass from John Gilmour and depositing it past DeSmith to trim UNH's advantage to 2-1 at 3:32 of the second period. Gillies was credited with a secondary assist as PC snapped UNH's streak of 27 straight killed-off penalties. It was Saracino's third goal of the series and sixth against the 'Cats this season. The Friars outshot the Wildcats, 12-11, in the middle frame.
UNH recaptured a two-goal advantage at 17:33 of the third period when Silengo took a feed from Eric Knodel (West Chester, Pa./assist) and snapped it past Gillies (20 saves) for a 3-1 lead.
Willows capped the scoring by depositing a Goumas pass into the empty net at 18:23 of the third for his eighth goal of the season. Providence held a decided 16-6 shot advantage in the final period for a total shot advantage of 39-24.
Providence went 1-for-3 on the power play, and UNH went 0-for-1 on the power play.
The Wildcats and the Friars play Game 3 of their best-of-three Hockey East quarterfinal series Sunday, March 17, at 4:30 p.m. The game will be televised live on NESN. For more information, visit www.unhwildcats.com.