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UNH ousted by Providence in Hockey East quarterfinals
Because Providence College rallied to beat UNH, 3-2, in the third game of the teams' Hockey East quarterfinal series Sunday at Schneider Arena, all the Wildcats can do is wait and see if they land an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament - as opposed to what would have been an automatic bid if they had captured the conference tournament.
"It's going to be tough," John Henrion said. "It's going to a waiting game, which is nerve-wracking. But hopefully things will go in our favor.
"We're confident that if we get a chance we have an opportunity to do something special. That's been our mentality all year. If we get to Manchester (for the Northeast Regional), I think we'll be ready to take on the challenge."
Providence advanced to play UMass Lowell in Friday's semifinals at the TD Garden. the Friars and River Hawks play the opener at 5 p.m., followed by Boston University and Boston College in the nightcap.
Ironically, the challenge the Wildcats (19-11-7) weren't up to facing Sunday was on their penalty kill, a category where they ranked No. 1 in Hockey East.
UNH led 2-1 late in the second period when the Friars (17-13-7) erupted for two power-play goals in a span of 44 seconds and goalie Jon Gillies (30 saves) protected that 3-2 lead during the final period.
Grayson Downing gave UNH that 2-1 lead at 10:31 during a power play when he deflected in a slap shot from the right point by Trevor van Riemsdyk.
UNH's Connor Hardowa was called for interference at 14:35 and PC tied it at 16:29 during a delayed penalty on the Wildcats.
Merrimack's Tim Schaller beat Casey DeSmith (22 saves) on a slap shot from the left circle.
The delayed penalty then was assessed to Henrion for slashing and UNH's nemesis, Nick Scaracino, scored what proved to be the game-winner at 17:13 when he flipped in a rebound during a scrum in front of DeSmith.
Scaracino, a freshman, posted 7-3-10 totals in six overall games against UNH and 4-1-5 totals in the best-of-three quarterfinals.
"He's a real good hockey player," UNH coach Dick Umile said. "Obviously he got the shot off. I think that's the one that went off one of our sticks. But it was a power-play goal and it proved to be the difference."
In retrospect, Providence was on a four-minute power play considering Schaller's goal came on a delayed call against Henrion.
"They were down a goal and that was a great momentum swing for them," Henrion said. "We did the same thing we always do - trust our guys that are on the kill.
"(Providence) made a couple of nice back-door passes. That's their job on the power play. Our job is to stop them. They got the better of us but that doesn't faze our penalty kill. We know how we want to play and we trust the guys we put out for the kill."
PC grabbed the early lead when Mark Jankowski finished off a 3-on-2 rush at 1:37 of the first with a snap shot from the right circle. But Henrion tied it at 17:07 of the period when he flipped the rebound of a van Riemsdyk shot over Gillies.
"I thought our guys played hard today," Umile said. "I thought we got control of the game. But in a couple of minutes the game turned around.
"They got two power-play goals and that was the difference in the game. I was disappointed because I thought we took control of the game and our guys competed. But it didn't happen."