PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Despite being stifled for two periods, Providence was able to break the game wide open in the third period, notching six goals in a 15-minute frenzy. When the smoke cleared, the Friars toppled Princeton, 8-1, in front of 2,308 at Schneider Arena on Sunday afternoon.
The Tigers had gained the momentum, using a wraparound goal by Mike Patton to cut the Providence lead in half, 2-1, heading into the final period. The score awakened the sleeping giant and Providence (7-0-0) pounded Princeton (0-2-0) in the third period, scoring what seemed to be goal after goal in the final 20 minutes. Suddenly, the close contest turned into “point night” in Providence as the Friars smelled blood and went in for the kill.
Co-captain Devin Rask’s Texas hat trick in the third period should continue to open eyes on the national scene. His line, including co-captain Jon DiSalvatore and Peter Fregoe, forms one of the country’s most formidable trios. They combined for 5-7-12 line in the final period, cementing the victory in impressive fashion.
“Our line had a little talk after the second period,” said Rask. “We wanted to be able to move our feet more and stop relying so much on the puck. [my performance today] was a result of great teamwork, a lot of hard work from my line. [Defenseman Jason] Platt set me up with an open net on a wonderful pass.”
Until today, DiSalvatore and Fregoe had been getting much of the attention, claiming the top two spots in the national scoring race. Yet, Rask and the Friars prefer to be the unknown team from out East, embracing the role of the underdog.
“I think we are starting to make some waves on the scene now, but I really do like the role of underdog,” said Rask. “It’s fine with me if no one recognizes us and we’ll be more than happy to come up and surprise some people. We love the situation that we’re in, we’re having a great time playing hockey with this team, and we just want to keep it rolling.”
The Friars were playing for much more than an average non-conference home win this afternoon; the victory gives the 2002-03 edition of Providence hockey the school record for best start ever.
“Between periods I went down there and told them what they needed to do, but I also let them know what they were playing for,” said Providence coach Paul Pooley. “No team has ever been 7-0 in Providence College hockey history and I felt that I needed to let them know that. They absorbed that and it definitely fired them up.”
Said Rask, “Right now we’re playing solid hockey up and down. We’re rolling four lines that all bring something different to the table, our defense is sound and we’ve got two great goalies. It’s not just the first line that is getting it done. Just because we’re scoring the goals doesn’t mean that we are heroes. Our third and fourth line is checking the other team’s top line and that’s just as important as what we are doing.”
Providence has struggled in the early-goings with committing penalties, but the Friars took a step in the right direction today, only being whistled five times for 10 minutes.
“There’s a fine line between playing disciplined hockey and taking silly penalties. It’s something that we’ve been focusing on all summer and now into the season,” said Rask. “It’s been a slow process for us, but I think it’s finally coming around. It’s huge when we can stay out of the box. We can kill the penalties that we do get whistled for, but we don’t get tired from running ourselves out of steam on the P-K.”
Providence’s freshman phenom, goaltender Bobby Geopfert, continues to impress in net. Despite limited action, he stopped 22 of 23 shots on the day, earning his third win in as many opportunities.
On the Princeton side of things, goaltenders Eric Leroux and Trevor Clay combined to allow eight goals while stopping 44 (22 each) of Providence’s 52 shots. Leroux was the goaltender of record, surrendering the first two goals of the contest and dropping his first collegiate start.
Having played two strong teams this weekend in Providence and North Dakota, Princeton was forced to chalk two losses up to experience.
“It showed us right now where we are on the learning curve as a team,” said Princeton coach Len Quesnelle. “We really got exposed in our defensive zone by some really quick forwards.
“We ran out of gas in that third period and right now we need to focus on the little things. Heading into league play, we better have a much better idea on Friday night of what the little things are and what we need to do to execute.”
Both teams will look to fine-tune things heading into league play. Providence will play a home-home with Northeastern, while Princeton will travel north to face Colgate and Cornell.