Providence leads UMass-Lowell 1-0 through 20 minutes thanks to Kevin Rooney's first career goal.
A year ago in the Hockey East semifinals, Providence was doomed by a slow start. This season, the Friars are leading UMass-Lowell after one period 1-0.
Providence failed to convert on two back-to-back power plays, but drew first blood just a few minutes later at 8:59 of the first period. Freshmen Kevin Rooney and Noel Acciari came into the offensive zone two-on-one. Acciari's initial shot was blocked. Rooney picked up the loose puck and fired it once then went wide with the rebound and snuck it in past UMass-Lowell freshman Connor Hellebuyck. It was the first career goal for the Canton, Massachusetts native. His older brother Chris picked up the secondary assist.
UMass-Lowell took three penalties to Providence's two. Neither team connected on the man-advantage. Shots were even at 10 in the period. Jon Gillies stopped all 10 shots he faced while Hellebuyck made nine saves.
The game is a must-win to keep Providence's season alive. The Friars' hopes of an NCAA bid hinge in the balance while the River Hawks will receive an automatic bid regardless of the outcome.
Jeff Cox covers college hockey for SBNation. Follow him on twitter @JeffCoxSBNation.