Maine Hockey Journal

South Portland’s Gillies to play for national title

Providence's, from the left, Noel Acciari, Tom Parisi, Stefan Demopoulos, and goaltender Jon Gillies, celebrate after defeating Denver in the NCAA East Regional hockey tournament, Sunday, March 29, 2015, in Providence, R.I. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

Providence’s, from the left, Noel Acciari, Tom Parisi, Stefan Demopoulos, and goaltender Jon Gillies, celebrate after defeating Denver in the NCAA East Regional hockey tournament, Sunday, March 29, 2015, in Providence, R.I. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

BOSTON – Providence College skated circles around the University of Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks for a very convincing 4-1 win Thursday in the NCAA Men’s Hockey Frozen Four semifinal before 18,022 at the TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts.

The Friars were led by South Portland native Jon Gillies as he recorded 25 saves in his team’s first Frozen Four appearance in 30 years.

Gillies, a junior, went into the game, playing perhaps might have been his final NCAA game. Instead, he’ll have one more game on Saturday where he’ll take on Hockey East rival Boston University after they defeated North Dakota in the second semifinal, 5-3.

Gillies, who is a second round draft pick of the Calgary Flames, will worry about his future after Saturday’s game.

“I think it’s a continuation of what we’re able to do all year defensively as a team,” said Gillies of his team’s defensive shutdown. “It’s the commitment to moving our feet and closing that gap a little bit more than maybe some other guys would and really taking away time and space where they saw the rush or if they get a dump and they get the possession down low.”

Regardless of whether he returns to the team or not, the Friars have their focus set on Boston University. Both teams faced each other early into the season, splitting a home-at-home series.

The only blemish on the night for Gillies came on a shot by Jake Guentzel, who received a pass from Tyler Vesel in the slot and he wristed it past Gillies to make the game 2-1 with half of the third period remaining.

The Friars got the first score of the game, which, due to the possession dominance, seemed inevitable.

Senior goaltender Ryan Massa of the Mavericks had trouble on the initial shot by Providence’s Brian Pinho as he fumbled the rebound to the slot. Captain Noel Acciari found the puck, brought it to his backhand, and put it past Massa. The goal came 11:02 into the second period.

The Friars used the momentum to their advantage and kept firing the pucks to the net. With just under seven minutes remaining in the second period, Nick Saracino ripped a shot that rang the crossbar and went into the protective netting above the glass.

Shortly after, Saracino tallied his second assist of the contest when Mark Jankowski went backhand to forehand to place the puck perfectly over the right blocker of Massa.

“They battle hard, and they both have a lot of vision,” said Jankowski of Saracino and Trevor Mingoia. “So it was a really a great play by both those two players for Trevor to win the battle and get it to Nick and for Nick to find me in front there.”

At the end of the second, the Mavericks were staring down the barrel of a Friar’s team with a dominant 2-0 lead and 33-16 shot difference.

The beginning of the third period seemed to be more of the same as Providence poured more and more shots on Massa.

Though being outshot the entire game, the Mavericks looked as though they would make a game of the previously one-sided contest.

Only 24 seconds after Guentzel’s goal for Omaha, the Friars’ Mingoia crushed all hope and energy that the Mavericks gained with their tally.

Mingoia received a pass in the slot from Jankowski that he one-timed past Massa.

“When we got (our first) goal I just thought we had a chance,” said Omaha’ head coach Dean Blais. “Whether you have to pull your goaltender and get the extra attacker on, but when they scored right away to make it 3-1, you could feel the energy go out of the bench. Great shot by a great player. Ryan (Massa) will blame himself. But give them credit, that was a big goal for them.”

The goal put the contest out of reach for Omaha as Saracino netted the fourth goal into the open net after Messa vacated his cage for the extra skater in hopes of tying the game.

Messa gave his club the best opportunity available to them given the 48 shots on net. Diving glove stops, saves through piles of players, and point-blank opportunities can plague a goaltender who is under constant pressure, but Massa seemed to take the challenge as an opportunity to shine.

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