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UMass-Lowell rallies for 2-1 victory over Providence

Two freshman goaltenders stole the show in the early Hockey East Semifinal at the TD Garden Friday night. Connor Hellebuyck took the win for UML, making 34 saves while Hockey East Rookie of the Year Jon Gillies stopped 31 of 33 for Providence.

UMass-Lowell celebrated winning the Hockey East Regular Season Championship. The River Hawks will have a chance for a second trophy Saturday night.
UMass-Lowell celebrated winning the Hockey East Regular Season Championship. The River Hawks will have a chance for a second trophy Saturday night.

Two third period goals propelled UMass-Lowell to a 2-1 victory over Providence College in Friday's Hockey East semifinal at the TD Garden. A.J. White and Scott Wilson scored the tying goal and go-ahead goal for the top-seeded River Hawks.

Providence drew first blood in the game at the 8:59 mark of the first period. Freshmen Kevin Rooney and Noel Acciari came into the offensive zone two-on-one. Acciari's initial shot was blocked. Rooney picked up the loose puck and fired it once, then went wide with the rebound and snuck it in past UMass-Lowell freshman Connor Hellebuyck. It was the first career goal for the Canton, Massachusetts native. His older brother Chris picked up the secondary assist. Leaman thought his fourth line was one of his best units all night. "We got a big goal from our fourth line. Our fourth line was tremendous tonight."

Leaman was pleased with how his team came out of the gate. "We got the start we wanted to. We came out and executed well early," the second year coach said after the game.

The second period was scoreless, thanks in large part to Providence freshman goaltender Jon Gillies. The Hockey East Rookie of the Year stopped a barrage of UMass-Lowell shots. The South Portland, Maine native stopped 15 total shots in the frame, many of them from in tight.

The second period is when Lowell started to take control of the game even though they had nothing to show for it on the scoreboard. "We got better as the game went along," said the UML bench boss. On the other hand, Leaman recognized his team had started treading water in the second period. "We got back on our heels a little and took some penalties. Our immaturity showed there," he said.

Just 34 seconds into the final period, UMass-Lowell freshman A.J. White found a loose puck in front of the net and banged it home with Providence goalie Jon Gillies out of position from the initial save. Josh Holmstrom and Joseph Pendenza were credited with the assists.

Scott Wilson gave the River Hawks the lead at the 12:30 mark when he one-timed a shot past Gillies. The play came on an odd-man rush up ice. Riley Wetmore was breaking down the left side when he fed a pass over to Wilson. The goal was the 15th of the season for the Pittsburgh Penguins draft pick.

"We managed to be in the offensive zone a little more and took advantage," said Bazin. "They executed on some chances in front of the net. They won some of those one-on-one battles," added Leaman.

Gillies made 31 saves in the loss while Hellebuyck stopped 34 of 35 shots for the victorious River Hawks. Both teams were scoreless on the man advantage.

UMass-Lowell moves on to the Hockey East Finals Saturday at 7p.m. where it will face the winner of tonight's second semifinal between Boston College and Boston University. It will be the third championship game appearance for the River Hawks who have lost both times previously. The loss ends Providence's season as the Friars will not be in the top 16 of the Pairwise Rankings.

Jeff Cox covers college hockey for SBNation. Follow him on twitter @JeffCoxSBNation.