PROVIDENCE, R.I. — In one of the most lopsided contests of the young hockey season, the Providence College Friars, sparked by two goals and an assist by Jon DiSalvatore and a 35-save shutout by Nolan Schaefer, defeated the Union College Skating Dutchmen, 8-0, Sunday at Schneider Arena.
The victory came one night after Providence lost a two-goal lead against Hockey East rival Boston University before rallying late for a 4-4 tie. After a night of such emotions, Friar coach Paul Pooley was a little bit concerned.
“Our biggest problem the last couple of years has been letdowns,” said Pooley. “I was concerned about that tonight, but before the game told the team that this is a maturity thing and that they need to show that and get up for this game.”
Get up they did, striking for their most one-sided victory since an 8-0 shutout of Northeastern on November 23, 1997.
Friar netminder Nolan Schaefer, who collected his first career shutout, admitted that he was doing a little bit of clock-watching as the game drew on.
“I was [watching the clock] a little bit — I always do,” admitted Schaefer, who is now 2-0 with an 0.50 goals against average on the year. “I try not to think about it or say the word ‘shutout’ in my head. I don’t want to jinx myself.”
Offensively, the Friars win was a balanced effort, with all four lines scoring at least one goal.
“Balance is a big thing for us,” said Pooley. “I think that’s what has to happen. We need to have our third and fourth lines scoring to take pressure off our first line.”
Special teams played a major role in the game. Providence killed off eight Dutchman power plays, scored a shorthanded goal, and added three goals with the man advantage themselves.
“I tell the guys that all we have to practice is faceoffs, power play and penalty kill,” joked Pooley. “They’re calling a lot of penalties this year, so we have to be solid in those areas. I always say that goaltending and special teams can win games and it did tonight.”
The Providence power play is now 10 for 36 this season, while the penalty killing unit has killed off 32 of 35 chances.
For Union, the loss was anything but pleasant. Head coach Kevin Sneddon made a quick exit after the game, but not without making a brief statement about his team’s play.
“I don’t have much to say,” said Sneddon. “That was an [expletive] of a disagree. I give Providence all the credit. They’re a good hockey team.”
Providence opened the scoring at 12:41 of the first period when J.J. Picinic wristed home a pass from Marc Suderman over the left shoulder of Union goalie Brandon Snee (19 saves). It was the second goal in as many nights for the senior, who entered the weekend with only two career goals in 42 games.
Just 1:16 later, the Friars struck again, when Peter Fregoe took a home run pass from DiSalvatore, walking in alone on Snee. Fregoe got the goaltender to go down on his deek move, then lifted the puck over Snee to give the Friars a 2-0 lead.
Union outshot the Friars, 13-12, in the first but the difference in the period was clearly quality opportunities. Only two Union shots came in the grade-A scoring area, while eight of the Friars’ shots were quality chances, including both goals.
Early in the second period, the Friars extended the lead. Devan Rask, who was Saturday night’s hero when he tipped in the tying goal late in a 4-4 tie with Boston University, fed DiSalvatore on the right-wing side. The sophomore was able to unleash a hard wrist shot that beat a moving Snee over the right shoulder to give the Friars a 3-0 lead.
At 5:22, the Friars extended the lead to four. Union’s Jason Ralph and Jeff Hutchins were whistled for simultaneous minors at 3:47, giving Providence a full two-minute, five-on-three power play. After countless near-misses, DiSalvatore netted his second goal with a soft wrist shot from the left point that Snee lost through a tough screen in front.
Not even the power play could save Union, as Providence struck with a shorthanded tally at 9:48. Matt Libby’s breakout pass sent Rask and Drew Omicioli away two-on-one. Omicioli finished of Rask’s feed to give Providence a 5-0 lead.
But all of the cheering in Schneider Arena was silenced just 20 seconds later, when the Friars’ Regan Kelly, just back from a one-game suspension for fighting, leg-checked Union’s P.J. Byrne. The play earned Kelly a five-minute major, but more importantly left Byrne immobilized on the ice for nearly five minutes. There was no report after the game on Byrne’s condition.
The ensuing power play, though, resulted in more of the same for the Union offense — perimeter shots that Schaefer was able to turn aside. The Dutchmen’s only quality chance came from the stick of Union’s Ralph. The hard wrister beat Schaefer cleanly but struck the inside of the right post and bounded out without entering the goal.
Before the second period ended, the Friars struck again. This time it was a Jay Leach blast that deflected off the Union defense and over the shoulder of Snee to give the Friars a 6-0 lead through two.
Union changed goaltenders to begin the third period, with sophomore Marc Wise (13 saves) replacing Snee. That though, didn’t help the Union cause, as the Friars struck twice in 77 seconds early in the period. Regan Kelly at 6:15 and Cody Loughlean at 7:32 recorded power-play tallies to extend the Friar lead to 8-0.
From there, it was up to Schaefer to hold the fort for his first career shutout, which included stopping Union on a five-on-three power play.
The win improved the Friars record to 3-0-1, the team’s best start since the 1990-91 season, when they started the season 8-0-1. The Dutchmen suffered their first loss of the season, dropping to 2-1.
The Friars will finish their five-game season-opening homestand next Friday night when they host the University of Maine. Union is off until next Saturday when the Dutchmen host crosstown rival RPI.