PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Last season, Providence forward Mike Lucci scored four goals in 37 games. On Friday night at Schneider Arena, Lucci scored twice in a span of 10 minutes to aid his feisty Friars squad in a 5-0 shutout of the Miami RedHawks.
The score was not quite indicative of the actual flow of the game, however. If PC senior netminder Boyd Ballard hadn’t turned in one of his strongest performances to date in a Friar uniform, the night could have gone quite differently for Miami.
Miami held a 12-6 advantage in shots on goal during the first period, but Ballard stonewalled the RedHawks throughout the night, easily earning his first star of the game certification.
The Friars were opportunistic early and opened the scoring 2:50 into the opening stanza. Devin Rask, anchoring the front line for PC, carried the puck into the Miami end and passed it out front to the trailing Lucci. The sophomore wasted no time in wristing one past Miami goaltender David Bowen, giving PC a 1-0 lead just three minutes into the game.
While Miami couldn’t quite get it going on the power play in the first 20 minutes (going 0-for-3 with four shots), the Friars made the most of their man advantages, scoring when Lucci took a feed from Drew Omicioli and Matt Libby at 12:50.
Centered deep inside the face-off circle to Bowen’s right, Lucci ripped a shot into the top corner to give PC a 2-0 lead at the end of the first period.
The RedHawks had plenty of opportunities to get on the board early in the second period, but Ballard held the fort and kept Miami off the board.
Miami had its best chance to draw closer during a two-man advantage more than midway through the game when Friar Dominic Toretti was called for interference at 11:10 and PC was penalized on a too-many-men call at 12:09.
Despite the 5-on-3 power-play, the RedHawks were unable to get the puck past the often-sensational Ballard, who was helped by solid defense from his teammates in clearing play out front of the net.
The excellent play of the PC penalty killing unit soon carried over to the offense during the tail end of the Miami power play, when PC’s Drew Omicioli stole the puck at the point and broke in on an end-to-end rush.
Flying over the blue line, Omicioli ripped a blistering slap shot past Bowen to give the Friars a 3-0 lead at 13:50.
The shorthanded goal was arguably the defining goal of the night for the Friars, who would later add a tally by Matt Libby (on the PC power play at 19:38) to give the Friars a 4-0 lead at the end of two periods.
While Miami held a 24-18 shot advantage at the end of two periods, the Friars clearly held the momentum and were able to control most of the play in the third.
If Miami had any thoughts of a comeback, they were quickly extinguished during the opening seconds of the period when an uncovered Cody Loughlean took a feed out front from Peter Zingoni at 36 seconds to make the advantage 5-0.
Although the Friars carried the majority of the play in the final stanza (outshooting Miami 12-6), again the RedHawks had good chances to get on the board — including another 5-on-3 advantage, this time for over 90 seconds, in the closing minutes.
However, Ballard held his ground on stopping some 30 total shots, carrying PC to a 5-0 win in netting his fourth career shutout.
The Friars (1-0 overall) are now 2-2 against Miami during the past three seasons (avenging a season-opening loss to the RedHawks in 1998 at Schneider), while Miami falls to 1-1-1 overall.
PC plays host to another CCHA foe, Lake Superior State, on Saturday at Schneider Arena, while Miami travels up north to the Whittemore Center to take on UNH.