CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. — Coming into this weekend’s matchup, Providence had not fared well with Boston College. The Friars had not won on the road at Conte Forum since the ’99-00 campaign and hadn’t taken a series with BC since the ’95-’96 season. After Providence suffered a 5-1 loss to the Eagles earlier this season, one might have assumed history would repeat.
All that was changed this weekend. After hanging on to win 6-4 on Friday night, Providence dominated Boston College on Sunday afternoon, gaining a 5-2 win to take the season series.
The Friars took advantage of an injury-plagued BC squad. Alternate captain Ales Dolinar was added to the list of BC’s walking wounded, forcing the Eagles to play with nine forwards for the entire game. They did get J.D. Forrest back in the lineup, but the Friars outmanned and outgunned BC on Sunday.
“Providence won all the one-on-one battles,” said Boston College coach Jerry York. “They controlled the faceoffs and took advantage of almost all of their opportunities.
“We tried to get back into the game to close the gap, but [PC netminder Nolan] Schaefer made a big save for them or their defensemen boxed us out and wouldn’t let our guys get to rebounds.”
Unlike Friday’s quick start, Providence rallied for four goals in the second period for the victory after a BC score to open the period.
“When the other team scores first, it’s always about answering the bell and [Rask] certainly did. Our big players are stepping up and playing well lately and we’ll need them to be big down the stretch,” said Providence coach Paul Pooley.
Drew Omicioli was a big part of the success, pacing the Friars with two goals and adding an assist for a three-point afternoon.
“I’ve been in a little funk, but now I’m able to get the same kind of shots off and they’re finding holes and going into the net,” said Omicioli
“We knew that we could be a scary team if we put together 60 minutes of hockey,” said Omicioli. “On Friday night we didn’t finish strong; we let them back in the game, but tonight we played a full hockey game. We had a little lapse to open the first, but we killed off a couple of big penalties [BC 5x3 in the first] and it was huge for us.”
As Omicioli suggested, the penalty kill was instrumental in the victory for Providence, shutting down a dangerous Eagle power play and helping the Friars to escape the first period without surrendering a goal.
“Killing the major and the 5×3 was a huge lift for us. I told the guys before the game that we were going to win this game with faceoffs and special teams play,” said Pooley.
Providence continued the strong special teams play by notching a power-play goal. The Friars went three for eight on the man advantage this weekend, riding special teams to victory on Sunday.
After Friday’s three-goal outburst in the first period, many were surprised to see a scoreless tie on the board Sunday after 20 minutes of play.
“We haven’t had 0-0 after one in a long time,” said Pooley. “Last time we were here they beat us in the first and so we talked about a better start and got one tonight.”
“As a player, I wasn’t nervous about the score after the first,” said Omicioli. “In my freshman year, we came up here and beat BC 3-0 and it was scoreless going into the third. So we actually thought that no score on the road was a positive thing.”
In net, Providence’s Schaefer wasn’t pretty, but he made the saves he needed to make and he got a little help from the pipes.
“I’ve been trying to help this team and take a bigger role because they’ve been working so hard,” said Schaefer. “The defense is young, but they are really picking it up and giving me a lot of help. They’re tying guys up, picking up sticks, and doing a good job of clearing out loose pucks. Of course a little help from the crossbar didn’t help either.”
“He was solid tonight: not a lot of wasted energy, good in the scrambles, not a lot of rebounds,” said Pooley. “They like to throw the puck on net and that’s a positive thing because our defense collapsed well and Nolan did a good job making a couple of big saves.”
Conversely, Tim Kelleher struggled in net for BC, allowing four goals on 30 shots for the loss.
Providence and Boston College entered the weekend in a tie for sixth place in Hockey East, but the series proved to be a tale of two teams headed in two different directions. BC has dropped four straight while Providence has gone 3-0-1 in its last four conference games, including a road win at UNH.
“We’re gelling right now and it’s finally coming together. We’re on a hot streak and I think it’s going to continue,” said Omicioli.
“We’re playing hard right now and competitively for sure, and that’s all I can ask for,” said York. “Hats off to Providence for the way they played this weekend.”
The Friars look to continue their strong league play as they take the show on the road against Northeastern and UMass-Amherst. BC will look to right the ship and get healthy before tackling the same two teams.