PROVIDENCE, R.I. — There are victories and then there are quality victories.
What No. 20 New Hampshire accomplished Friday night qualified as a QUALITY victory.
Matt Willows' goal 15 seconds into overtime gave the Wildcats a pulsating 3-2 victory over No. 3 Providence College at Schneider Arena.
Nick Sorkin passed to Willows in the slot and Willows beat Nick Ellis high to his glove side for his second goal of the game.
The victory was noteworthy for a number of reasons: it broke the Friars' five-game winning streak; it came against a Providence team (9-2-1, 5-2-0) that had been outscoring its opponents by an average of two goals per game (3.82 to 1.82); and it came against a Friar team that was 4-1-1 against New Hampshire (7-5-1, 5-2-0) last season.
The win was the sixth straight for UNH.
For the majority of the first period, which ended with UNH leading 2-0, the ice appeared slanted in the direction of Friar goalie Jon Gillies (22 saves in two periods).
PC recorded the first four shots on goal but UNH then reeled off 12 consecutive shots before the Friars managed their fifth with 3:36 left in the period.
UNH hung its first goal on the board when Sorkin won a draw to Willows, whose slap shot from the left circle deflected off a Providence defenseman and eluded Gillies at 5:16.
Willows' goals were noteworthy because he recorded a hat trick against Gillies during last season's Hockey East quarterfinals — and because Gillies stepped on the Schneider Arena ice with a 1.59 goals-against average plus a .949 save percentage.
The Wildcats upped their lead to 2-0 with 21 seconds left in the period when Dan Correale fed a streaking Grayson Downing, who beat Gillies 5-hole.
Each team hit iron during a scoreless second period.
PC's Paul DeJersey clanged a shot off the left post 4½ minutes into the period and Willows followed suit, during a power play, when he drilled a shot off the crossbar.
Even though the Friars failed to score during the period still was costly because Gillies suffered a lower-body injury during a collision in the latter part of the session and was replaced by freshman Ellis in the third.
The Friars gave an indication of what was to come in the third period when they seized the advantage and fired a plethora of shots at Casey DeSmith (29 saves). Altogether, PC outshot UNH, 14-4, in the third.
PC finally beat DeSmith at 6:28 of the third when Nick Saracino, who was positioned behind the net, passed to Noel Acciari just outside the crease and Acciari scored on a one-timer.
Mark Jankowski emulated Acciari when he tied the game at 2-2 with 5:48 left in regulation.
Brandon Tanev, who was stationed near the left boards, centered the puck for Jankowski, who also beat DeSmith on a one-timer.
DeSmith, a native of Rochester, now has stopped 126 of 130 shots during his last four starts.
The teams play again Saturday night at 7 back at Schneider Arena. Providence has announced that the game is sold out.