BOSTON, Mass. — Ten minutes away from pulling off an upset over second-seeded Boston University, Providence College saw Game One of the best-of-three Hockey East quarterfinal slip away with the help from an improbable bounce.
With 9:22 remaining and BU trailing 2-1, Terrier frosh Ryan Whitney dumped the puck into the zone high on the glass when misfortune struck.
“It was just a dump-in off the glass,” Friar goalie Nolan Schaefer said. “I was busting my butt to try and get back and stop it. It hit a division in the glass and just came out in the slot. I slipped; I wasn’t expecting it.”
“I didn’t even see it actually,” said Terrier freshman David Klema, the beneficiary of this particular bit of puck luck. “I just knew that Whitney dumped it in, and it was ringing around the boards. I was going hard to the corner to see if I could pick it up, and all of a sudden it was in the middle of the ice. I was the only one there, so I shot it in.
“One of the injured guys was watching the game on TV in the locker room, and he said it was the fastest he’s seen me skate this year, when I saw that puck,” Klema said. “I whiffed on the puck a little bit, but the defenseman wasn’t quick enough to get it.”
“It’s kind of a heartbreaker when you play so good and work so hard to get the lead,” Schaefer said.
That set the stage for Mark Mullen’s game-winning goal at 14:32. After Mike Pandolfo’s quick-release shot from a sharp right-wing angle was blocked, Mark Mullen got the rebound in tight on the same side. From his knees, he somehow popped the puck over a defender and the goaltender to make it 3-2.
That was the final, giving the relieved Terriers (24-8-3) a lead in the series – despite 37 saves in a losing effort by Schaefer – in front of a Spring Break-depleted crowd of 1,665 at Walter Brown Arena. Klema added an assist, while Devin Rask also notched a goal and an assist for the Friars (13-19-5). Sean Fields stopped 25 of 27 shots for BU.
“That was like pulling teeth,” Terrier Coach Jack Parker said. “I would just as soon be willing to have a dentist who is drilling – than to play Providence. I thought we played an excellent college hockey game. I thought we had some excellent chances, and Schaefer played unbelievable for most of the game.
“We got an unbelievable fortunate bounce on the power-play goa l- you couldn’t blame him for that,” Parker added. “A nice play by Mullen to go to the net on the rebound shot by Pando. But I really thought there were two or three times we thought we had goals and [Schaefer] just stonewalled us.
“I thought the difference in the game was that we had a really good effort killing their penalties.”
Still, the outcome was a bitter pill to swallow for Friar Coach Paul Pooley, given how well his team played.
“Good hockey game,” Pooley said. “Obviously a bad break for us. Up two-one and it hits a joint. It was a turning point for them; it gave them a little bit of life. I thought we were doing a good job.
“Obviously we were getting outshot a little bit but it was a ‘bend but don’t break’ mentality, and we had a couple chances and that’s what we were waiting for – to get the third one,” said Pooley. “Our kids played hard tonight. It was a very unfortunate break.”
For Pooley, the loss continued a disturbing trend, as Providence is now 0-6-2 – including three losses against BU – in its last eight games. What’s been the problem?
“Finishing games off,” Pooley said. ” But I thought if we worked like that all year, we wouldn’t be in this situation. So I was really proud of our kids; I thought it was a great effort tonight, and tomorrow we’ll have to be ready to go again.”
The first period was a statistically curiosity. The Friars outshot the Terriers by an 11-7 margin, but BU outchanced their guests by about 7-3.
Halfway through the period, a Chris Dyment shot-pass from the point just missed connecting with Mike Pandolfo for an easy tap-in with Friar goalie Nolan Schaefer out to cut down the angle in anticipation of a shot. Countering a few minutes later, Devin Rask tested Fields at 13:38 with a shorthanded shot that the sophomore snared with a flashy glove save.
The Terriers finally earned their first reward of the night when freshmen Klema and Justin Maiser teamed up to get one past Schaefer at 15:41.
“I knew we had an odd-man rush on the power play,” Klema said. “I slowed up to pull that defenseman toward me, and he did come toward me. So I just slid it through, and he made a nice tip right in the net.”
The second period looked like the mirror-image of the first, as BU had the bulk of the shots while Providence had the better chances and the only goals of the period. The Terriers had the shot advantage by a 19-8 margin, but the Friars had about five of the period’s seven best scoring opportunities.
A little puck luck helped the Friars tie the game at one piece at 8:43 of the middle stanza. In the PC zone, Terrier Ryan Whitney looked to receive a pass at the point but had the puck skip over his stick. Jon DiSalvatore was off to the races. He deked before trying a backhander; Fields made the save, but Rask poked the rebound home.
The seventh-seeded Friars took a surprising lead at 17:11 when Fields blocked a shot by Jon DiSalvatore, only to have the puck bounce to defenseman Stephen Wood, who – for some reason – had parked his 6’3″ frame near the Terrier crease. Wood buried the rebound to make it 2-1.
The Terriers picked up the pace in the third period, and Brian Collins almost tied it four minutes in after Schaefer just barely got a toe on a ten-footer after a nice feed from Mike Pandolfo.
It took more than half the period, but the Terriers finally tied it thanks to the bad bounce as Klema deposited it into the net before the Friars could scramble to take down the Vacancy sign.
Of 24 Terrier wins this season, 14 are now of the come-from-behind variety.
“We struggle to score goals too, so we don’t get too many 7-2 games, but we’re a pretty resilient bunch,” Parker said. “They don’t lose their poise, that’s for sure. And they’re willing to keep competing no matter what happens. They don’t play by the scoreboard, which is nice.”
The teams face off in Game Two on Saturday night.