Weekend preview: Game on
The Lowell River Hawks (23-8-5, 12-6-4 HE) vs. the Providence College Friars (27-5-4, 16-3-3 HE)
5:00 p.m. Friday at the TD Garden, Boston, M.A.
Lowell finished tied fourth in Hockey East with 28 points in 22 games, and Providence College finished tied for first in Hockey East with 35 points in 22 games.
Last three games
Lowell – 5-0 vs. Boston University, 3-2 vs. Boston University, 3-1 vs. Boston College
Providence – 2-0 vs. Merrimack College, 3-1 vs. Merrimack College, 6-0 vs. Amherst
Lowell trails Providence College 54-46-11 all-time
Lowell and PC split the season series 1-1
C.J. Smith – 36GP, 16-21-37 (22 GP, 5-12-17 HE)
Adam Chapie – 35 GP, 15-19-34 (21 GP, 8-8-16 HE)
Joe Gambardella – 36 GP, 8-25-33 (22 GP, 2-15-17 HE)
A.J. White 36 GP, 10-13-23 (22 GP, 8-7-15 HE)
Dylan Zink – 35 GP, 10-12-22 (22 GP, 7-6-13 HE)
Mark Jankowski – 36 GP, 15-25-40 (22GP, 11-15-26 HE)
Trevor Mingoia – 34 GP, 14-23-37 (20GP, 10-13-23 HE)
Nick Saracino – 36 GP, 11-20-31 (22GP, 6-12-18 HE)
Brandon Tanev – 36 GP, 15-13-28 (22GP, 9-7-16 HE)
Jake Walman – 27 GP, 13-15-28 (19GP, 5-10-15 HE)
Kevin Boyle (22-8-5) – 35 GP, 2071:44, 1.80 GAA/.934 SV% (22 GP, 1292:28, 1.62 /.941 HE)
Christoffer Hernberg (1-0-0) – 2 GP, 99:00, 1.21 GAA/.941 SV% (1 GP, 39:09, 1.53/.929 HE)
Nick Ellis (25-5-4) – 34 GP, 2002:06, 1.86 GAA/.928 SV% (21 GP, 1218:17, 1.82/.936 HE)
Hayden Haekey (2-0-0) – 5 GP, 179:35, 1.67 GAA/.940 SV% (3 GP, 114:10, 1.05/.960 HE)
Overall (36 games) – 113 goals for (3.14/gm), 65 goals against (1.81/gm). Power play 29/147 (19.7%, 3 SHGA), penalty kill 104/121 (86.0%, 4 SHGF)
Hockey East (22 games) – 58 goals for (2.63/gm), 37 goals against (1.68/gm). Power play 13/86 (15.1%, 2 SHGA), penalty kill 63/75 (84.0%, 2 SHGF)
Overall (36 games) – 122 goals for (3.39/gm), 67 goals against (1.86/gm). Power play 33/161 (20.5%, 1 SHGA), penalty kill 119/141 (84.4%, 3 SHGF)
Hockey East (22 games) 71 goals for (3.23/gm), 39 goals against (1.77/gm). Power play 24/106 (22.6%, 0 SHGA), penalty kill 71/85 (83.5%, 3 SHGF)
Lowell and Providence are two teams cut from the same cloth. Both are stout defensively, ranking second and third nationally in goals allowed respectively. The River Hawks and Friars split their season series, with each team holding serve at home. Providence bested Lowell 4-2 on Jan. 21, with Lowell striking back 3-1 the following night. Truth be told, this game is a coin flip. If either team were playing at home, we’d give them the advantage, but at a neutral site like the TD Garden its 6-5 and pick ‘em.
Lowell is playing their best hockey of the season at exactly the right time. Lowell’s last three games have been wins against NCAA tournament teams Boston College and Boston University. The River Hawks have been stellar at the Garden over the past three seasons, reaching the Hockey East finals in each of those years. Head Coach Norm Bazin won’t have the benefit of the last change against Providence, one of the key factors in how strong Lowell has been at home this season compared to their road record. The River Hawks got Gage Hough back last Saturday night, but will continue to be without forward Evan Campbell for what we understand will be the rest of the season.
At the same time, Providence has been playing well since the 2015 NCAA tournament began almost a year ago and nothing to date has slowed the Friars down. Nate Leaman’s teams haven’t fared as well in the Hockey East tournament, but the Friars are riding the second longest winning streak in the nation. However, Providence has been beating a string of tomato cans leading up to the showdown on Friday night, and it’s legitimate to wonder how the Friars will handled a sudden jump in competition. Sophomore defenseman Jake Walman will miss this game and the remainder of the tournament due to season ending surgery. Walman played a big part in Providence’s 4-2 win over Lowell, netting a goal and an assist to lead the Friars, and his loss may prove critical.
In the end, we’re picking Lowell to move on to the Hockey East Championship game on Saturday night. Lowell’s play down the stretch is compelling, but it’s their exemplary record in the Hockey East tournament that tips the scales for the River Hawks. Lowell has been there before, played extremely well and taken the Hockey East championship twice in the last three years. Friday night against the Friars of Providence College will be the next step toward title number three.