LOWELL - It had been 10 years since UMass-Lowell hosted a postseason game, but Providence proved to be rude guests Thursday night, crashing the party with a 5-3 victory in the opening game of their Hockey East series.
Derek Army and Matt Bergland each scored twice for the Friars, who return to the Tsongas Center for Game 2 in the best-of-three series Friday at 7 p.m.
“Tonight I thought we did a better job of generating offense,’’ said Providence coach Nate Leaman. “It was a good, close game. It came down to that third period and we were fortunate to win it.’’
After being the two Hockey East teams left out of the playoff mix last year, the seventh-seeded Friars and second-seeded Rivers Hawks were eager to get down to business.
Lowell’s Chad Ruhwedel was called for a hit from behind just 14 seconds in and Zach Kamrass was called for a cross-check 1:08 later, but the Friars could not capitalize, mustering only one shot on goal.
The River Hawks were slow out of the gate as it took nearly nine minutes for them to get off their first shot on Providence goalie Alex Beaudry.
It only took less than a minute after that to make one count.
Scott Wilson unloaded a blast from the right point that deflected in the air, landing in front of Beaudry.
Riley Wetmore’s whack at the puck clanked the left post, but Josh Holmstrom followed up for the game’s first goal at 9:59.
The Friars’ power-play drought, which reached 0 for 21 and spanned more than four games, finally ended in the second period when Army’s slap shot flew past Doug Carr at 5:28.
“It came back to me and Shane [Luke] had a great screen in front,’’ said Army. “I just kind of held, the guy went down, and I just shot it low by Shane and it went in.’’
After the teams traded goals, Providence regained the lead. Damian Cross carried the puck into the River Hawks’ zone on the right, then curled back and passed to a charging Army coming through the slot. He knocked home his 10th of the year with 2:33 left in the second.
Midway through the third period, Ruhwedel flicked the puck across and a driving Matt Ferreira tipped it home for what looked like the tying goal. However, a replay determined that the puck was directed in by Ferreira’s skate and the goal was called back.
Less than two minutes later, the Friars got a much-needed insurance goal as Bergland followed up a Tim Schaller shot and roofed home the rebound to make it 4-2 at 11:30.
“You got to deal with those types of things,’’ said UMass-Lowell coach Norm Bazin of the negated goal. “I thought we were reactionary tonight and we got to get back to being pro-active.’’
Ferreira pulled Lowell within one with 4:29 remaining in the game, this time putting stick to puck on the left doorstep, but the River Hawks were unable to get the equalizer. Bergland potted an empty-netter to conclude the scoring.