Niko Rufo's Overtime Tally Lifts Providence Past Miami

Providence players line up for the starting lineups prior to the 2013 Hockey East Semifinals. - Jeff Cox

Despite the overtime win, Nate Leaman said his team will need to play much better Saturday night.

Providence, RI -- Nate Leaman said his team played an immature game, but it was Friars freshman Niko Rufo who was the hero in Friday's 3-2 overtime victory over Miami.

"I thought we looked very immature tonight. We weren't playing on our toes. We were getting the puck and we'd hold it. We weren't controlling the pace at all," said Leaman.

Niko Rufo tallied the game-winning goal on a poor angle wrist shot 1:36 into the extra session. The score came with the Friars on a two-man-advantage thanks to two penalties late in regulation committed by the RedHawks. John Gilmour and Derek Army set up the overtime marker. "Niko is a very creative player," said Leaman.

The goal came as a relief to Providence considering it blew a two-goal lead entering the final 20 minutes of play. The Friars got on the board first just 2:05 into the game when their fourth line connected for a score. Steven McParland batted home a loose puck in front of the net off a shot from the point by Gilmour. Kevin Rooney picked up the other assist on the goal that came due to a failed clearing attempt.

"Our fourth line was terrific tonight. They were the big bright spot in the game. They gave us a lot of energy. We have three guys who are really good skaters there. They were getting in on the forecheck. Their goal was a good forecheck goal," said Leaman. "I was matching them against anyone because of the energy they were bringing. They were finishing hits and winning battles," added the third year head coach.

Calgary Flames prospect Mark Jankowski showed why some NHL scouts are so high on the sophomore from St. Catherines, Ont. He dashed down the left side before cutting into the middle of the ice with a toe drag. With Army crashing the net, it drew Williams over to one side, and Jankowski backhanded the puck into a wide-open net.

"It's a big time player making a big time play. That goal was a difference maker. That was a great play by Mark. It's great to see him having more confidence with the puck," said Leaman.

Trailing 2-0 after two periods, Miami capitalized on two power play attempts in the third period to force overtime. With Tom Parisi off for hooking, Blake Coleman tipped in a shot from MU superstar Austin Czarnik just 2:40 into the third period.

Almost five minutes later, Rico Blasi's team knotted the score at two on an absolute laser off the stick of Riley Barber. The one-timer by the Washington Capitals prospect was set up by a nice feed from Czarnik.

Both goaltenders made some key saves, but Providence sophomore Jon Gillies was exceptional. The South Portland, Maine native stopped many of the 35 shots he faced from in close. Williams made 35 saves while allowing three scores.

The two teams combined for 59 total penalty minutes, but 43 of those were whistled on Miami. Blasi displayed his displeasure for some of the calls on the bench, but opted to not comment on the officiating following the game.

Miami falls to 3-2 on the season while Providence improves to 4-0. The same two teams will meet again Saturday night at 7:05 p.m. at Schneider Arena.

Leaman believes his team will need to play a lot better to have a similar result in the series finale. "We really struggled in some areas. We're fortunate to get a win. We'll take the win, but we've got to get a lot better in 24 hours."

Jeff Cox covers college and junior hockey, NCAA recruiting, NHL Draft prospects and the AHL for SBNation. Follow him on twitter @JeffCoxSBNation.

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