PROVIDENCE, R.I. — From the first few minutes of Saturday’s game, it was clear that this contest with MSU-Mankato (0-2-0) would be much different for Providence (4-0-0). Rather than facing an early deficit as they did the night before, the Mavericks rode two man advantages to a 2-0 lead in the first period, putting the Friars on their backs for the first time in the young season.
The Friars did eventually put things together, scoring two third-period goals en route to a 5-3 win.
“Where this team can beat you is on the power play. And sure enough, they were on the power play right off from the get go,” said Providence coach Paul Pooley.
“We got down early, but the great thing about this team is that we aren’t pointing fingers. We are taking responsibility and working together to fix things,” added co-captain Devin Rask.
“It’s good to face some adversity early on in the year and it was great how we responded,” said Providence co-captain Jon DiSalvatore. “We came in after the first period and tried to analyze what we were doing right and wrong and just had to make our adjustments.”
The tightly-contested game was knotted with just over ten minutes to play in the third before Providence was able to convert on a couple of power play opportunities. Peter Zingoni’s game-winning goal, while not on the power play, came during the transition period as the penalized player was joining the play.
“Before the period, we said that a power-play goal could really put us over the top and be the difference,” said Pooley. “Zingoni’s goal is a result of our work ethic. We had guys in front. Jason [Bloomingburg] hit the net, Cody [Loughlean] was there and Zingoni just took the puck and flipped it in,” said Pooley. “This kind of hunger is the make-up of our team and we’re going to work hard and play with energy.
“We have enough ability skill-wise to beat people, but if we don’t outwork them it isn’t going to happen. We’ve got to roll up our sleeves and outwork people and then our ability to score will take over.”
Providence’s ability to score did exactly that as the DiSalvatore-Peter Fregoe-Rask line clicked yet again to add a power-play goal later in the period. Fregoe fed Rask down low who spun off a defender and feathered a pass over to DiSalvatore with nothing but air between him and the twine.
“That’s the kind of thing that makes playing with Devin Rask so much fun,” said DiSalvatore. “He’s got so much tenacity that he’s going to spin off of a defender and find the open man. We’ve got some playmakers on this line and I get to benefit a lot from that.”
“I thought we did a great job getting the goal in the third, but we took a couple of dumb penalties and you can’t let good players on the power play or you’ll get beaten,” said Mankato coach Troy Jutting.
“We got a little tired and the guy in the box was one of our top defensemen and a penalty killer. When you get a step slower, good players are always going to beat you. Providence is going to be a tough team to beat when they’ve got players that good playing so well.”
Despite giving up two early goals on the power play, Friar freshman goaltender Bobby Geopfert seemed poised and focused under pressure to finish the night with 32 stops on 35 shots.
“We have such a talented team that we can realize that all we need to do is play 60-minute hockey and play it one period at a time and be able to get back into a hockey game,” said Geopfert. “Mankato had a solid team, a great power play, and they gave us a great challenge; that’s all we can ask for heading into league play.”
Speaking of the the other half of the Providence goaltending tandem, Geopfert added, “Nolan [Schaefer] and I push each other in practice and in games, always trying to set the bar high and challenge each other to play as well as possible. He’s like my big brother and we really want to work to make each other stronger players. I’m just happy to be around a team like this and to be able to soak up as much knowledge about the game and my position as possible.”
The Friars will look to continue their best start (4-0-0) since the 1990-91 campaign into league play as they face Lowell at home next weekend.
“We need to take it one game at a time and Lowell is a big home game for us in Hockey East. We’ve only got one game next week, so we are looking forward to practicing hard all week and getting into league play,” said Pooley.