PROVIDENCE, R.I. — With the exception of a one minute, 42 -second stretch in the first period, Friday night’s Hockey East Quarterfinal game between Boston University and No. 11 Providence College could have been considered a nailbiter: the teams traded goal for goal for the other 58 minutes and 18 seconds.
Unfortunately for the Terriers, the Friars notched three goals in that stretch of the first period and BU never got within a goal after that. J.J. Picinic added a pair of insurance goals in the third period to put the game out of reach, as No. 3 seed Providence (20-10-5) beat No. 6 seed BU (13-19-3), 6-3, in game one of their best-of-three series in front of 1,550 fans at Schneider Arena.
The Friars’ Devin Rask scored two goals as well, increasing his team-leading total to 22 for the season.
Still, the Terriers played with their hearts on their sleeves, continuing to battle despite shaky goaltending early and a game that was out of reach late.
“It was a hard-fought battle: let’s face it, it was a gang war out there,” Providence coach Paul Pooley. “That’s fine. We just have to be ready for the same kind of game tomorrow night. We have to be ready to battle and bang and take a hit and make a hit.”
“You don’t win a playoff game giving up three goals in the first 10 minutes of the game, and that was just about the game,” Terrier coach Jack Parker said. “I thought we tried to come back and played pretty hard, stopped the bleeding in the second period.”
“I thought we were playing pretty well in the third until we gave up a couple of goals that were pretty much non-coverage situations,” Parker added. “But by that time the game was well over.”
Although the Terriers looked a bit iffy with their passing in the opening minutes, no damage was done initially. There was no indication that the teams would soon combine for four goals in just over three minutes.
Providence struck first at 7:40 when sophomore Jon DiSalvatore got the puck in deep off the left-wing boards and skated out toward the faceoff dot before wristing one past Jason Tapp on the short side.
The goal absolutely ignited the Friars, who proceeded to blitz the BU zone. After a Terrier penalty, Providence capitalized in short order. Tapp stopped Regan Kelly’s right-point slapshot but left a fat rebound in the slot. Peter Fregoe whiffed on the puck, but Rask was on his heels and hit a chunky portion of net. In the span of just one minute, 20 seconds, the Friars picked up a 2-0 lead.
“They got a big boost from the first one, and we got a big deflation,” Parker said.
The onslaught didn’t stop there. Right off the ensuing faceoff, it looked as if the Friars were still on the power play. They brought the puck into the zone, teed the puck up on the points, and blasted away again. This time, the shot beat Tapp and gently hit the post before dying inches from the goal line. Stephen Wood managed to reach around the goalie and poked home the hockey equivalent of the one-yard endzone plunge, just 22 seconds after the previous goal.
That was all for Tapp, who yielded three goals on nine shots. Though it was a poor showing, he also could have sued his teammates for lack of support.
Freshman Sean Fields entered the Terrier net, and — coincidentally or not — BU picked up its first goal within two minutes. On a power play, Mike Pandolfo redirected Mike Bussoli’s slapshot from the left point past Nolan Schaefer to make it 3-1 and give the Terriers a glimmer of hope.
Later in the period, Fields stopped Rask on a breakaway, then fell to the ice with a Dominik Hasek-style shoulder roll to deny the rebound bid.
The Friars threatened again in the opening minute of the second, when Fields had to sprawl to stop Cody Loughlean’s redirect of a shot-pass from the right point. The Terriers had a chance of their own when Mark Mullen and Nick Gillis executed a nice give-and-go in front of the net, only to have Schaefer get a blocker on Mullen’s point-blank shot.
DiSalvatore and Fregoe had a shorthanded two-on-one break with two minutes to go in the period but couldn’t convert it. After the early flurry of goals — followed by a long lull in scoring — the next goal loomed larger and larger as the second period wound down and the third period ticked away.
The Terriers had trouble staying out of the penalty box early in the third period, though some were necessary to deny scoring chances. Just after one power play elapsed at 7:05, the Friars got that critical fourth goal.
Shawn Weiman took a slapshot from the left point, and Picinic looked like a soccer star as he pivoted his leg to the side and redirected shot high into the net. At a glance, it looked like it could have bounced off his knee, but the big forward said otherwise.
“Everyone’s been saying that; I swear it was off my stick,” Picinic said. “It went off the blade. The puck was going wide, and I chipped it into the far corner.”
Another Providence goal at 10:52 added insult to injury, as Picinic picked up another on a 15-footer after fielding a pass from the corner.
It was a big night for the typically defensive-minded third line of Picinic, Adam Lee, and Marc Suderman.
“Adam and J.J. are seniors, and they’re obviously very, very focused, and Suderman fits right into that mix,” Pooley said. “Obviously, they’re good defensively for us, but if they can chip in a couple goals for us, guess what, that’s a positive.”
“Usually we’re the defensive line; we were supposed to shut down the Pandolfo and Collins line,” Picinic said. “Tonight we had a couple of opportunities. Actually, we had some other chances but couldn’t bury them.”
After a nice rush by Freddy Meyer, Mike Pandolfo got one back for the Terriers with six minutes left. Dan Cavanaugh picked up another in the closing minutes, but it was too little, too late.
BU is now 1-7-1 in its last nine trips to Schneider Arena. Oddly enough, the Terriers were 7-1-0 in the eight games prior to that stretch at Providence College.
The teams square off for game two of the best-of-three series on Saturday night.