Frozen Four Live: Providence Crushes Omaha 4-1, Advances To National Title Game

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Final, PC 4-1: Nick Saracino fires home an empty-netter, and that will do it. Providence advances to Saturday’s national championship game, where it’ll play the winner of Boston University-North Dakota.

Follow along with all the action in that second semifinal right here.

Third period 17:49, PC 3-1: Barring a stunning comeback, it appears that PC will be moving on to Saturday’s national title game. But we would be remiss to leave you without showing you this superb save by Ryan Massa:

Massa now is up to 45 saves, but his night is finished. Omaha coach Dean Blais calls him to the bench for an extra attacker.

Third period 11:10, PC 3-1: For a moment there, it looked we might have had ourselves a whole new hockey game.

So much for that.

Jake Guentzel got the Mavericks on the board by firing a blocker-side rocket past Gillies, but the Friars responded just 24 seconds later, with Trevor Mingoia finally finding the back of the net after numerous close calls.

Tyler Vesel was credited with the helper on Guentzel’s tally after intercepting a Gillies clear attempt, and Mark Jankowski and Ross Mauermann assisted on Mingoia’s.

Third period 7:30, PC 2-0: It’s been Jon Gillies’ turn to stand on his head here in the third. Omaha has had no fewer than three bona fide scoring chances thus far in the final frame, but Gillies — with the help of some excellent D-man play in front of him — has been able to keep the Mavericks off the board.

Third period 5:36, PC 2-0: PC kills it. Back to 5-on-5.

Third period 3:36, PC 2-0: Omaha heads back on the power play, as Anthony Florentino is whistled for interference.

Third period 0:01, PC 2-0: The third period is underway. The Mavericks will need to find a way to conjure up some offense, and fast.

Second intermission, PC 2-0: The second period comes to an end, and Omaha will have 20 minutes to erase a two-goal deficit. Ryan Massa has 33 saves for the Mavericks, while Jon Gillies (16 saves) has hardly been tested.

Second period 17:09, PC 2-0: PC kills off the Mauermann penalty, and we’re back to full strength.

Second period 14:58, PC 2-0: Score another for the Friars.

Junior center Mark Jankowski took a feed from Saracino in front of the net and roofed one past Massa. Defenseman Jake Walman was credited with the secondary assist.

After coming up empty on their first 28 shots of the night, PC now has scored on two of its last four.

Omaha now will have its first power play of the game, as Mauermann was whistled for tripping 11 seconds after Jankowski’s tally.

Second period 11:02, PC 1-0: PC strikes first.

Massa gives up a far-too-juicy rebound on a shot from Brian Pinho, and Noel Acciari capitalizes, corralling the puck and sliding it past the Mavericks netminder. Nick Saracino was credited with the primary assist.

The Friars’ shot advantage now stands at 29-12.

Second period 8:04, 0-0: Massa stands on his head to foil yet another Friars scoring chance, and the Mavericks return to full strength. The goalie had some help from a few of his teammates on this latest PC bid, as three Omaha skaters clogged the crease to assist after Massa fell to the ice.

Second period 6:04, 0-0: We’ll now have our second penalty of the night, as Omaha captain Brian O’Rourke levels Stefan Demopoulos with high hit at the blue line. O’Rouke will sit two minutes for elbowing, and PC will go on the power play.

Second period 4:35, 0-0: Ross Mauermann goes for a wraparound attempt, but Massa turns him away. The Omaha netminder has been just as sturdy this far in the second as he was in the first and now is up to 22 saves on the night.

Second period 0:01, 0-0: We are underway in the second period, with both sides still seeking their first goal.

First intermission, 0-0: The game remains scoreless with 20 minutes in the books. Ryan Massa has been strong in net so far (16 saves already), but Providence should have at least a goal or two at this point. They dominated play until the final two minutes, when Jon Gillies made two impressive saves in a row to foil Omaha’s best chance of the evening.

First period 15:40, 0-0: Another chance for the Friars. This time, Brandon Tanev’s shot goes behind Massa and through the crease but rings the far-side post.

Omaha’s luck won’t last much longer.

First period 13:04, 0-0: Trevor Mingoia has his second grade-A scoring chance of the period for PC, but he loses possession as he tries to slip a backhander past Massa.

First period 11:40, 0-0: We’re still scoreless here on Causeway Street, and neither team has been able to create much in the way of offense in the middle third of the first period. PC captain Ross Mauermann had the best chance of these past five or so minutes, but Massa turned away his glove-side bid.

First period 6:11, 0-0: It’s been all Providence through these first six minutes. The Friars own a 6-1 advantage in shots, while the Mavericks can’t seem to get the puck out of their own zone. PC also has been the more physical thus far, as evidenced by Stefan Demopoulos’ huge hit on Avery Peterson in front of the penalty boxes.

Massa has been up to the task, but his teammates are going to have to start helping him out a bit.

First period 2:23, 0-0: The Friars put the pressure on Ryan Massa during the man-advantage, but the Mavericks netminder stood tall. We’re back to 5-on-5.

First period 1:23, 0-0: PC will get its first power play of the evening less than two minutes in, as Omaha’s Luke Nogard is sent to the box for tripping.

First period 0:01, 0-0: Providence’s Noel Acciari wins the opening faceoff from Omaha’s Tyler Vesel, and we are underway.

The Friars will start with the line of Nick Saracino, Acciari and Brian Pinho in front of Kyle McKenzie, Josh Monk and goalie Jon Gillies. The Mavericks counter with Vesel centering Jake Randolph and Justin Parizek, with Luc Snuggerud and Brian O’Rourke on defense and Ryan Massa in net.

The crowd is rather lean at the moment, but it should continue to swell as the evening wears on, especially as we approach puck drop of the second semifinal between North Dakota and the hometown Boston University Terriers.

4:40 p.m.: TD Garden has undergone a bit of a makeover in anticipation of this weekend’s festivities. In addition to the customary fresh coat of paint at center ice, banners honoring every national champion have been hung from the rafters and the sweaters of most (if not all) of Division I’s member schools are on display outside the pro shop.

The fans in attendance here also represent a broad cross-section of college hockey fandom. In addition to those of the four teams participating tonight, we’ve spotted jerseys from Minnesota, Maine, UNH, Boston College, Wisconsin, RIT and Michigan, just to name a few.

4 p.m. ET: All roads led to Boston this season in college hockey, and this weekend, those roads will come to an end.

The 2015 Frozen Four begins Thursday night at TD Garden, with Providence, Nebraska-Omaha, Boston University and North Dakota all still holding onto dreams of a national championship.

For the two teams taking the ice in the first semifinal, PC and Omaha, this stage is a foreign one. The Friars have reached the Frozen Four just four times in school history (none since 1985), while the Mavericks, who played their first game as a varsity program just 18 years ago, will be appearing in the national semifinals for the first time.

The strength of both teams is goaltending. PC’s Jon Gillies — the 2012-13 Hockey East Rookie of the Year —  led the conference in save percentage (.929), goals against average (2.01) and minutes played (2180:45). Omaha’s Ryan Massa, meanwhile, owns the best save percentage in the nation (.939) and allowed just one total goal in the Mavericks’ regional wins over Harvard and RIT.

Up front, junior winger Nick Saracino leads Providence with 35 points (13 goals, 22 assists), while sophomore linemates Jake Guentzel and Austin Ortega pace Omaha with 38 and 37 points, respectively. Ortega’s 20 goals rank fifth among all Frozen Four participants (the top four all play for BU).

Here’s a look at the lines and pairings for both teams:

Puck drop is set for 5 p.m., with BU-North Dakota to follow at 8:30.

Thumbnail photo via Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY Sports Images

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