BOSTON, Mass.-- Solid team defense and a pair of goals by Kevin Goumas (Long Beach, N.Y.) in a three-goal second period lifted fourth-seeded New Hampshire over third-seeded Providence, 3-1, in the second semifinal of the 30th annual Hockey East Championship Friday night at TD Garden. The Wildcats advance to the title game against second-seeded UMass Lowell Saturday night at 7 p.m. (TV: NESN, NBC Sports Network).
Goumas, who had three goals and an assist in UNH's last game, a deciding 5-4 win in the quarterfinal series versus Northeastern, tonight scored the key first goal and added a back-breaking tally with time winding down in the second. Goalie Casey DeSmith (Rochester, N.H.) led the UNH defensive effort with 25 saves, 11 in the final period.
New Hampshire (22-17-1) will make its eighth championship game appearance, its first since 2007, and will bid for its third title, its first since back-to-back crowns in 2002 and 2003. Providence (19-10-6) was stymied in the semifinals for the third straight year.
In a fast-moving first period, UNH had a 9-5 edge in shots on goal helped by a pair of power-play opportunities. The Friars killed another penalty to start the second but the New Hampshire defense kept the PC offense at bay by blocking several early shots, a trend it continued blocking 28 throughout the contest.
Goumas broke through with his first of the game, a shorthanded goal at 7:05 of the middle period. Killing the penalty, he skated with the puck from his own end deep into the PC end. Forced around the goal, he quickly cut inside and beat Jon Gillies (South Portland, Maine) on a wraparound. Captain Eric Knodel (West Chester, Pa.) picked up an assist. Six and a half minutes later defenseman Justin Agosta (East Meadow, N.Y.) gave UNH a 2-0 advantage as his drive from the point was redirected past Gillies by a PC defender, assists going to Matt Willows (Congers, N.Y.) and Maxim Gaudreault (Annapolis, Md.).
Goumas finished the stanza tucking one inside the right post to make it 3-0 right before the horn. The senior center crashed the net and released his shot with 0.4 seconds to go, a play confirmed by video review. Willows and Nick Sorkin (Rockville, Md.) added helpers on the late tally.
At 3:22 of the third, sophomore Kevin Rooney (Canton, Mass.) ignited the PC fans by converted a centering feed from Drew Brown (Grass Lake, Mich) to make it 3-1. Energized by the goal, the Friars rallied on offense testing DeSmith with three good scoring chances. The junior goaltender and the UNH defense closed out the Friars the rest of the way to move on to Saturday's title game.
The Wildcats outshot Providence 28-14 over the first two periods finishing with a 31-26 edge. Goumas' two goals give him 19 on the season and 52 points, six coming in this tournament. The least penalized team in Hockey East, they committed just one minor, killing PC's lone power play in the second period.
Gillies, pulled with two minutes to go for an extra attacker, finished with 28 stops. Providence killed all three UNH power plays and has not allowed a PPG in 20 of its last 21 attempts over the last six games.
Notes: New Hampshire snapped Providence's six-game winning streak, which was the nation's fourth-longest active win streak ... The Wildcats improved to 6-2-0 over their last eight games ... The win snaps a six-year drought for UNH in the semifinals, the school's longest since making its first appearance in the title game in 1992 ... Providence senior Derek Army set a new program record by skating in his 147th consecutive game. His father Tim Army holds the PC career record with 151 ... UNH senior Kevin Goumas (146 points in 145 games) passed his head coach Dick Umile for sole possession of 30th on the UNH career scoring list. Goumas has been held without a point just once in his last 13 games, posting 26 points in that stretch ... Rooney's goal was the fourth of his career, two of which have come in the semifinals at TD Garden.