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Hockey East Semifinal Preview: Providence vs. UMass Lowell

Previewing the first Hockey East semifinal between UMass Lowell and defending national champion Providence, set for a 5 p.m. faceoff at TD Garden.

Matt Dewkett

BOSTON -- Good afternoon and welcome inside TD Garden for the start of the semifinal round of the 2016 Hockey East Tournament. In today's opening game, second-seeded Providence returns to this building for the first time since winning the national championship in April and will take on No. 4 UMass Lowell.

Faceoff is set for 5 p.m. The game will be televised regionally on New England Sports Network and across the country on NBC Sports Network.

Both teams posted two-game sweeps in last weekend's quarterfinal round and enter tonight's game on impressive winning streaks. The Friars' ten-game winning streak dates back to the first weekend of February and trails only Denver and Northeastern for the longest in college hockey, while their opposition has won three straight contests and six of the last seven.

This game has "defensive battle" written all over it. The River Hawks are the top defensive team in Hockey East as they averaged 1.81 goals allowed per-game overall and just 1.68 in league play, while the Friars' 1.86 mark is a close second.

The Friars gutted out 3-1 and 2-0 wins over No. 7 Merrimack last weekend to advance to the conference semifinals for the 14th time in program history and fourth in the last five years. PC won the Hockey East title in both 1985 and 1996.

Junior Nick Ellis has won nine straight games since the beginning of February and leads the NCAA with a 1.06 GAA and .958 save percentage in that span. Ellis stopped 45 of the 46 shots he faced against the Warriors last weekend en route to sharing Hockey East Defensive Player of the Week honors with Kevin Boyle, his counterpart this evening.

Boyle and the River Hawks posted a rather convincing sweep of No. 5 Boston University in the quarterfinals, earning 3-2 and 5-0 wins at Tsongas Center. The senior netminder, who was named Hockey East Co-Player of the Year, made 24 saves last Saturday en route to setting the single-season school record with his eighth shutout.

On the offensive side, senior captain A.J. White has played some of his best hockey this season in recent weeks. White has 16 points in his last 15 games, including seven goals, but notched only an assist last week.

UML is making its fourth consecutive semifinal appearance and 17th all-time, but looks to return to the winner's circle after BU broke a two-year run last season.

If the River Hawks win tonight, they would be just the fourth team in Hockey East history to play for four consecutive championships. Maine appeared in the title game for seven straight years from 1987-93, while Boston College has turned the feat twice (1998-01 and 2005-08).

Here are tonight's lines:

RIVER HAWKS (23-8-5)

Jake Kamrass - Nick Master - Adam Chapie
Ryan McGrath - Connor Wilson - Gage Hough
A.J. White - Michael Fallon - Michael Louria
C.J. Smith - Joe Gambardella - John Edwardh

Niklas Folin - Tyler Mueller
Dylan Zink - Michael Kapla
Tommy Panico - Chris Forney

Kevin Boyle
Christoffer Hernberg
Sean Cleary

FRIARS (27-5-4)

Erik Foley - Mark Jankowski - Trevor Mingoia
Brandon Tanev - Brian Pinho - Nick Saracino
Conor McPhee - Kevin Rooney - Steven McParland
Garrett Gamez - Bryan Lemos - Ryan Tait

Kyle McKenzie - Josh Monk
Tom Parisi - Anthony Florentino
John Gilmour - Vincent Desharnais

Nick Ellis
Hayden Hawkey
Brendan Leahy