PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Apparently there were no history majors playing in Saturday night’s game two of the Hockey East quarterfinal series between Boston University and Providence College.
Coming into Saturday, BU was 1-7-1 in its last nine games of this season. By a curious coincidence, the Terriers also held an identical 1-7-1 record in their last nine visits to Schneider Arena.
History proved to be irrelevant. In fact, an engineering major stole the show. Terrier freshman Sean Fields came up with a huge game between the pipes, making a career-high 37 saves as BU kept their season alive, beating Providence 2-1 to tie the best-of-three series 1-1 in front of 1,920 fans at Schneider Arena.
“We just regrouped and focused on what we had to do,” Fields said. “We wanted to come up with a good effort, and if they beat us on talent, then so be it. But we weren’t going to let them outwork us.”
“I was pleased with how we played tonight,” Terrier coach Jack Parker said. “It’s a different game when your goaltender’s on his game, and he played very well tonight.
Given that BU has had some shaky goaltending during its recent tailspin, Parker was asked if he could remember the last time a BU goalie came up with such a terrific effort.
“I’m not that old,” quipped Parker, who turns 56 tomorrow. “I can remember [Fields and Jason Tapp] played very well in back-to-back games against UNH. We’ve had some good goaltending this year; we just haven’t been consistent.
“It sure has been a while in this rink; that’s for sure.”
Providence coach Paul Pooley was frustrated by the choppy pace of the game but impressed with the resilience of the Terriers.
“Son of a gun, they came out and trapped, and they got a goal off a shin pad and a goal off a skate,” Pooley said. “We just have to come out with more emotion tomorrow night. We had it in the third but not in the first two — it was a long game, and we couldn’t get in the flow.”
The first goal of the night made Pooley look like a coaching genius. Freshman John Luszcz, who did not dress for game one and had a grand total of one assist in 16 games this season, suddenly was elevated to the second line and promptly delivered his first collegiate goal just one minute 42 seconds into the game.
BU defenders were going after Jon DiSalvatore in the left-wing corner, so when the puck came out to freshman Jason Platt at the left point, Luszcz was all alone at the far side of the net. He gently redirected the feed past Fields for a 1-0 Friar lead.
“The guy made a good tip. He got it over my stick and through my legs,” Fields said. “You try not to think about it because you have a whole game to play. Just tried to focus on what I had to do and stop the puck.”
Certainly, no one suspected that he would do just that for the remainder of the game.
The Terriers answered at 5:50 by reminding the Friars why they have the best power-play percentage in Hockey East. Mike Pandolfo picked up the puck behind the goal line and skated out into the right-wing faceoff circle before wheeling to surprise the Friar goalie with a quick shot that caromed off a defender’s shin pad and in.
Curiously, each team scored on its first official shot of the game.
The next critical point came at 7:41, when the Friars enjoyed a five-on-three advantage for one minute, 11 seconds. They had several good chances, but Fields made two or three strong saves amidst some physical battles over positioning and rebounds.
Four minutes into the second period, Luszcz almost confirmed Pooley’s mastermind status when he sped around Freddy Meyer to create a great scoring chance, only to have Fields make a flashy glove save.
Fortified by the strong goaltending, the Terriers continued to play well as the second period progressed — a rarity this season. Shortly after one Freddy Meyer slapshot caused a close call in the crease, Meyer took another shot. This one hit Regan Kelly’s skate and got on edge, trickling past Ballard for a seeing-eye goal and a 2-1 Terrier lead at 7:56.
The always dangerous Devin Rask had a shorthanded chance for PC at the 12-minute mark, and Fields had the puck trickle over the top of his glove, but he fell on it quickly. Shortly thereafter, with BU dominating on a four-on-four, Kenny Magowan broke in on Ballard, but the senior made the save.
Rask caused more trouble on the same four-on-four, going to the net alone while a teammate tied up a defender near the net. He tried to slip a backhander past Fields, but the goalie made the leg save. Still, Rask drew a penalty on the play, as the number of players on the ice kept dwindling.
Fields was tested again 40 seconds into the third period, when Rask set up Peter Fregoe breaking into the Terrier zone, but the freshman netminder stacked his pads for the save.
The Friars had another good chance at 4:45, thanks to Luszcz again. The freshman stickhandled behind the Terrier net before dishing to Doug Wright crashing the net, only to have Fields deny PC once more.
BU started getting a few modest scoring chances as the period wore on, but Providence had the true opportunities. Cody Loughlean broke in on the right wing for one bid halfway through the period, and Rask had a good rebound attempt shortly after, but the Friars still struggled to solve the young netminder from Edmonton, Alb.
Terrier fans held their breath once again with 3:16 remaining, as Wright raced in again, only to have Fields aggressively pokecheck the big centerman.
With the goalie pulled, the Friars kept pressing right up until the final horn but to no avail.
The Terriers (14-19-3) were forced to play without defenseman Pat Aufiero, who missed his first game of the season after suffering a concussion in game one. Parker opted to go with five defensemen and an extra forward. Aufiero will not play in game three.
Drew Omicioli, who appeared to reinjure his arm on a scoring chance in game one, did not play. His status for game three is unknown.
For Providence (20-11-5), winning at least the quarterfinal series may prove to be critical in securing a berth in the NCAA tournament.
The rubber game of the series will be telecast on Fox Sports New England on Sunday night.