Anthony Florentino was inserted into Providence College’s lineup Saturday night thanks to an injury to captain Josh Monk on Friday.
The senior defenseman made the most of his opportunity and further extended the University of Maine’s woes away from Alfond Arena.
Florentino registered a hat trick, including a pivotal power-play goal, as the 15th-ranked Friars posted a 5-3 Hockey East win over the Black Bears at Schneider Arena in Providence, Rhode Island.
Coach Nate Leaman’s club (16-8-4, 8-6-2 HE) won its seventh consecutive game. The Friars are 11-2-2 over their last 15 contests.
Coach Red Gendron’s Black Bears (10-15-1, 4-11-1 HE) lost their ninth straight in Providence and 10th straight overall against the Friars. UMaine has not beaten Providence since October 2012 and is 0-15-3 in its last 18 road contests.
The Friars got on the board first when Florentino beat Rob McGovern with a high wrister at 13:08 of the first period. Robbie Hennessey won a face-off cleanly back to Florentino.
Providence took advantage of a power play just past the midway point of the second period to go up 2-0, with Brandon Duhaime smacking home a one-timer at 8:41 shortly after Cam Brown was whistled for hooking.
UMaine got on the board six minutes later as Blaine Byron skated through the left circle at 14:43 and fired a sharp shot past Hayden Hawkey. It was the senior winger’s fourth goal in the last seven games.
Florentino restored the Friars’ two-goal lead in the final 30 seconds of the period, wristing a high shot past McGovern from the right circle.
Brendan Robbins gave UMaine some life seven seconds into the third period, converting a penalty shot after he was hooked down, but Florentino struck again less than five minutes later to give the Friars a two-goal cushion.
The resilient Bears refused to quit, with freshman Chase Pearson getting his second goal of the weekend and his 12th of the season on a rebound at 15:43.
UMaine pressed hard to try to get the equalizer but was unable to do so, and Erik Foley iced it with an empty-netter.
“The good part about it was our kids battled like crazy,” Gendron said, “[but] it’s not good enough and we’ve got work more work to do.”
Special teams proved to be a pivotal factor, as the Black Bears went 0-for-7 on the power play compared to 2-for-5 for the Friars. UMaine could not cash in on a 37-second, 5-on-3 in the second period.
“We had some real good chances on the power play,” Gendron said. “We had a couple of great looks on that [5-on-3 but] the puck didn’t go in.”
The Friars dominated the opening period for the second time in as many nights in outshooting UMaine 15-3 but the Bears were able to manage the puck better as the game wore on and generated more chances via their forecheck.
“The first period we came out a little slow, but the second and third we carried more of the play,” Byron said. “I thought we were using out speed better.”
But the slow-starting first period once again played a factor in sending UMaine home with another loss.
“I think that’s just the bottom line, [playing a] full 60 [minutes], that’s how you’ve got to win games in this league,” Brown said.
The Black Bears’ captain hopes they can build on their strong third period.
“We couldn’t finish it off but I thought we had a good third period for sure,” Brown said.
“We took a little bit too many penalties than we would’ve liked tonight,” Byron added.
PC outshot UMaine 33-28 while McGovern came up with 28 saves.
The Black Bears will welcome Notre Dame for a two-game series next weekend. Friday’s game is at Cross Insurance Arena in Portland while the teams will play at Alfond Arena in Orono on Saturday.
Follow Ryan McLaughlin on Twitter at rmclaughlin23