PROVIDENCE, R.I. — As the puck dropped in Providence for the first time in nearly 5 months, the Friars were looking forward to something that they desperately needed all of last season a fresh start. Their wishes were granted as they hosted Queen’s University, a Canadian counterpart from Kingston, Ontario in the squad’s first outing of the 2002-03 campaign.
Providence used two-goal efforts from captain Jon DiSalvatore and veteran blue-liner Stephen Wood to defeat the Golden Gaels 5-1 before an enthusiastic crowd at Schneider Arena. Two of those tallies came on the man-advantage in the third period, putting the Friars ahead for good.
“We want to be much better in the third period. We want to be able to wear teams down in the third, instead of flopping and having to play catch up,” said DiSalvatore. “It felt great to be able to start that by finishing a team that we need to finish.”
“It’s nice to see that he [DiSalvatore] can be aggressive and create goal-scoring opportunities. We need that out of our seniors,” said Providence coach Paul Pooley. “Tt’s not just about points — it’s about being assertive every time that he comes out onto the ice. There’s no reason why he shouldn’t come onto the ice every night and be a dominant player.”
For the Friars, it was about getting into the swing of things after a disappointing season, about finding that assertiveness and building upon a strong core of players.
“We have a lot of things to work on, but it’s a good feeling to be able to puta team away,” said Wood. “We got a lot of work on our special teams, which was good. We were able to get two power play goals and that’s just one of the indicators that practice is working; it helps us a lot to be able to take a look at where we stand and what we need to work on.”
“It was definitely great to get a game under our belts,” said DiSalvatore. “Competing against your own guys in practice is one thing, but an exhibition is a good opportunity to play some hockey so long as things don’t get out of hand.”
At the end of the second period, things nearly did get out of hand. Providence’s Peter Fregoe and Queen’s Jamie Brock got mired in some extra curriculars, prompting 10-minute misconduct penalties and a little bit of a warning that things should remain an exhibition a good opportunity to prepare one’s team.
“Obviously, we need to continue to work on developing discipline and being able to rely upon our skills on the ice,” said DiSalvatore. “It’s easy in these games to get chippy and we want to avoid that; we want to be able to put teams away in the third period instead of taking silly penalties.”
Goaltender Matt Kenney was the lone bright spot for Queen’s, stopping 48 shots with at least 5 spectacular saves on the evening. The most impressive of his stops came on a breakaway where he slid across the crease on his back to deny Chris Chaput. Overall, his effort helped to keep the Canadian squad within striking distance into the third period.
As with most exhibition games, repetitions were a main concern. Providence took this to heart with coach Paul Pooley giving action to 4 lines of skaters, 3 defensive pairings, and all 3 of his goaltenders. Top-prospect Bobby Goepfert saw significant collegiate action for the first time, backstopping the Friars to a scoreless third period and making 11 saves in the effort. The freshman’s most impressive stop came on a penalty kill where he flashed a quick glove and then batted the puck the length of the ice to give the Friars a much-needed breather.
Friar starter, Nolan Schaefer, stopped 7 of 8 in the first, allowing the lone goal while sophomore David Cacciola made 7 saves in a scoreless second period.
Providence will open the regular season next weekend in non-conference matchups with Iona and Union. Queen’s will wrap up its tour of Hockey East with action in Merrimack tomorrow evening.
“We look at this time to come down and play some good games against some really talented players,” said Queen’s coach Chris MacDonald. “Those are the things that you need to do to get better and it means a lot for our program.”