College Hockey:
Gionta, Boston College Down Providence

Clemmensen Makes 28 Saves for Eagles

— If this weekend’s series between the Providence Friars and the Boston College Eagles was meant to determine which team in the upper echelon of Hockey East belongs at the top, there wasn’t any doubt after Saturday’s rematch at Schneider Arena.

Paced by a pair of goals from Brian Gionta, strong goaltending from Scott Clemmensen, and sloppy PC defense, the Eagles silenced a sold-out Schneider Arena en route to a 4-2 victory over the Friars.

The first period reflected Friday’s game at Conte Forum. The Friar offense had chances yet often appeared tentative, and whenever PC knocked on the door — such as during a great opportunity for freshman forward John Luszcz off a pass from Cody Loughlean alone, down low in front of the BC net — Clemmensen stonewalled PC time and time again.

Adding insult to injury for the Friars was that, exactly like Friday’s game, PC had nothing to show for it — and the Eagles received a gift goal to open up the scoring.

While BC set up on the power play late in a scoreless first period, the Eagles’ Chuck Kobasew threw in a relatively benign shot toward the Friar net. PC’s Drew Omicioli, the only player near the Friar goal, then tried to deflect the shot before it reached goaltender Nolan Schaefer.

Unfortunately for Omicioli, his tip deflected the puck past a helpless Schaefer and the Eagles owned a 1-0 lead at 16:44 — one that they would carry into the second period.

While PC’s defense had trouble containing BC forward Gionta in the Eagles’ 4-0 win on Friday, the young Friar defense played with some intensity in the opening period. Unfortunately, the Friars fell victim to the senior forward’s determined play and outstanding use of back-checking to set up second chances in the second stanza.

While PC’s Jon DiSalvatore served time for a questionable interference penalty, Gionta and teammate Jeff Guiliano fed an open Ben Eaves to Schaefer’s left.

Eaves ripped a first shot from the faceoff circle that Schaefer kicked away with his pad, but the PC defense was nowhere to be seen on the rebound as Eaves shot it back inside the far post.

The goal, Eaves’ fifth of the season, gave BC a 2-0 lead at 5:20.

While PC outshot the Eagles 11-7 in the second period, it still couldn’t solve Clemmensen, whose flawless performance on Friday marked the senior Eagle goaltender’s fourth career shutout over the Friars.

With a degree of frustration setting in on the PC offense, the Friar defense then fell apart for the second straight night, allowing Gionta and Co. the opportunity to rush up ice and develop chances with uncovered players camped out in front of Nolan Schaefer.

Midway through the period, Jeff Guiliano, Krys Kolanos and Gionta made a rush off a PC giveaway and flew into the Friar end. Guiliano then fed an open Gionta all alone in front of Schaefer for the Eagles’ third goal at 11:49, giving BC a 3-0 lead.

PC finally got on the board at 16:57 — ending nearly five consecutive scoreless periods this weekend — when the freshman line of Cody Loughlean, Mike Robinson and John Luszcz collaborated for the goal that ended Clemmensen’s scoreless streak.

Robinson’s pass found Loughlean deep inside the right faceoff circle, but the PC forward ripped a shot past Clemmensen that found its way inside the left post.

The goal, Loughlean’s third, brought the Friars to a 3-1 deficit, and was well-deserved for a line whose hard work was one of the few bright spots for PC on the weekend.

But the Eagles answered quickly and shot down any hopes of a Friar comeback before the second period concluded.

This time, Gionta flew up the ice and took advantage of another Friar defensive letdown. J.D. Forrest and Mike Lephart found Gionta off the bench and the BC forward wasted no time in putting home a shot all alone, uncovered in front of Schaefer to give BC a 4-1 lead at 18:46.

The Friar defense, which consists of four freshmen and seniors Matt Libby and Jay Leach, seemed to have no answers in covering Gionta either night, with the weekend games being remarkably similar to other recent BC whitewashings over PC (specifically BC’s 8-0 and 6-0 shutouts both last season and in 1998-99).

The Friars outshot the Eagles 10-3 in the third period (30-24 for the entire night), but only lit the lamp once more, when Matt Libby put home a rebound of a Peter Fregoe shot at 17:59. Libby now paces Hockey East defensemen in scoring with 10 goals on the season.

BC rose to 17-6-1 (10-3-1 in Hockey East) while the Friars dropped to 13-7-3 (7-5-1 league).

The Eagles will host a pair of games with Maine beginning on Friday at Conte Forum. PC will play at UMass-Lowell on Saturday in its only contest next weekend.

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