BOSTON. - Sophomore Scott Wilson (Oakville, Ont.) snapped a 1-1 tie with 7:30 left in the third period to lift top-seeded UMass Lowell to a 2-1 victory over fourth-seeded Providence College in the semifinals of the 29th annual Hockey East Championship Friday night at TD Garden.
The fifth-ranked River Hawks (25-11-2) move on to finals for the third time in program history and will bid for their first-ever title. UML will take on the winner of the semifinal nightcap between second-seeded Boston College and third-seeded Boston University Saturday at 8:00 p.m.
The tightly played game was a duel between two of the conference's best goalies, PC freshman Jon Gillies (South Portland, Maine), the 2013 Pro Ambitions Hockey East Rookie of the Year and a first-team all-star, and UMass Lowell's Connor Hellebuyck (Commerce, Mich.), who earned second-team all-star honors and was the runner-up as rookie of the year.
Gillies finished with 31 saves while Hellebuyck made 18 of his 34 saves in the deciding third period, allowing the lone goal midway through the first stanza.
Wilson converted a cross-ice backhand pass from UMass Lowell senior captain Riley Wetmore (Swanton, Vt.) to snap a 1-1 tie with seven and a half minutes into the third.
Wetmore's centering pass from the left boards found Wilson, who had a PC defender all over him, at the right side of the crease and his one-timer beat Gillies for his 15th goal of the season.
The Friars then increased the pressure to tie and with an extra attacker with 50 seconds to go, a point-blank bid by junior Derek Army (North Kingstown, R.I.) was denied by Hellebuyck before PC could not connect on two centering feeds in the waning moments.
After killing a pair of early power plays, Providence broke through midway through the opening period on a goal by freshman Kevin Rooney (Canton, Mass.), who deposited a rebound of a shot by his cousin Chris Rooney (Canton, Mass.).
Linemate Noel Arciari (Johnston, R.I.) also picked up an assist feeding Chris Rooney, whose initial shot from the low shot was stopped by Hellebuyck. Open at the left post, Chris Rooney rapped it home for his first career goal.
Shots on goal were even at 10-10 in the first 20 minutes and both teams went 0-for-3 with an extra skater.
The River Hawks swarmed the Friars to start of the middle period with an 8-1 advantage in shots. Gillies kept it at 1-0 with several good saves highlighted by robbing Wetmore and Ryan McGrath (O'Fallon, Mo.) from close range. Late in the frame, Gillies held his position at the goal line to stymie two UML whacks at a loose puck in the goal crease.
UMass Lowell freshman A.J. White closed out the period with a great bid for the equalizer, streaking down the right side but his wrist shot went wide of the mark.
Fueled by the early outburst, UML out-shot Providence 15-7 in the second. White's hard work paid off with the tying goal only 34 seconds into the third. Defenseman Chad Ruhwedel (San Diego, Calif.) skated the puck through the neutral zone and fed Joseph Pendenza on the left side. Gillies stopped Pendenza's low drive and the rebound went to White, who didn't miss from the right post for his second of the year.
The loss was the first for Providence (17-14-7) in 15 games this season when it led after two periods while the River Hawks, ranked fifth in the two national polls, improved to 19-3-1 in the last 23 games.
Both teams could not convert on the power play with PC going 0-for-4 and UMass Lowell going 0-for-5 in the hard-fought but cleanly played contest.