Providence, RI — It wasn’t always pretty, but No. 10 Providence came out with a 4-3 victory over Miami in the season opener for both teams Friday night at Schneider Arena.
“I’m glad we found a way to win the hockey game, but I was very disappointed with our discipline and decisions in the third period. We found a way, but we really made it hard on ourselves tonight,” said Providence coach Nate Leaman.
Junior center Brian Pinho scored the decisive goal on a shorthanded tally with 6:07 to play in the game. The Washington Capitals prospect and Miami goaltender Ryan Larkin got to a loose puck at about the same time. The puck deflected to the side, but Pinho raced to it and threw it into the open net to give the Friars a 4-3 lead.
“He’s going to be out there [in key situations]. I thought he had a pretty good game,” said Leaman.
The goal stood up as the game-winner despite the Redhawks having a four-on-three man advantage as well as a few opportunities with their netminder pulled late in the game.
Senior defenseman Kyle McKenzie and Pinho both made key blocks in the final minutes with Miami pushing for the equalizer.
“It was a heck of a play by [Kyle] McKenzie. That’s poise. That’s a senior out there. It’s the first game of the year in a big moment,” Leaman remarked. “Pinho had a pretty nice block shot at the end.
With the NCAA looking to emphasize hooking and interference penalties in an attempt to prohibit clutching and grabbing, the game was marred with penalties. There was a combined 50 minutes in penalties committed by both clubs.
“When you give someone 10 minutes of power play time in the third period, you’re pretty lucky to come away with a win. That’s a young team. I’m not so happy with it. We know better than that,” Leaman said.
Providence scored the only goal of the first period on an early power play. Josh Monk set the play in motion with a pass from the neutral zone to Josh Wilkins at the right wall. Wilkins’ shot on goal was stopped, but Erik Foley was there in a flash to pounce, banging home the rebound.
The first period was by far the best of the night for the Friars. Leaman’s club held a 14-5 advantage in shots on goal and was able to sustain zone time with a good forecheck.
“We were getting pucks deep. I thought we played a pretty good first period. We had three or four opportunities to shoot where we passed,” Leaman said.
Miami scored its first of two power play goals in the second period to even the score, 1-1, at the 1:42 mark. Gordie Green raced the puck down the right wing boards before sending a pass out to the slot where Justin Greenberg quickly deposited the puck through the wickets of Providence goaltender Hayden Hawkey.
The Friars regained their lead at 2-1 with 8:52 to play in the middle frame. Robbie Hennessey sprung Niko Rufo with a feed through the neutral zone. Rufo, who hadn’t scored since Oct. 25, 2013, also against Miami, cut in and tucked one past the Miami goaltender as he was being hauled down.
“He breaks in like that once a practice. It was good to see him do that. He had the crack on the penalty shot, too,” said Leaman referring to a penalty shot attempt Rufo had with 4:05 to play in the game.
Miami erased the Providence lead with another strike on the man advantage with 2:53 to play in the second. After a scramble in front that almost resulted in a goal, the puck squirted out to the point. Scott Dornbrock blasted home a slap shot with the lone assist going to Greenberg.
The Friars answered 23 seconds later on a transitional play. Scott Conway and Garrett Gamez broke into the zone, but the chance was denied. However, Jake Walman one-timed the clearing attempt on net. The shot was stopped, but Gamez immediately sent the rebound into the back of the net.
The Redhawks connected on their third power play goal of the game midway through the third period to knot the score at three. Grant Hutton’s slap shot caromed off Hawkey’s shoulder and into the net. It was the sophomore’s first collegiate goal.
Hawkey picked up the win, making 15 saves on 18 shots faced. Larkin stopped 28 of 32 shots in the loss.
“I thought he played well. That was a good growth game for him,” said Leaman of the Montreal Canadiens prospect who will be the full-time starter after backing up Nick Ellis a year ago.
The two teams will meet again Saturday night in the series finale at 7 p.m.