PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Amidst an electric atmosphere, the second game of this week’s home-and-home series between Providence and Boston College had that playoff feel.
After a PC win at Conte, the Eagles sought revenge and the season series from their Catholic counterpart. The Superfans were out in full force and the cheers volleyed from side to side in a sold-out Schneider for another hard-fought Hockey East matchup.
Friday night, the Friars did a terrific job of limiting quality chances, forcing BC to settle for shots outside the circles and along the boards. Creating scoring opportunities from inside the dots was a focal point Saturday for the Eagles.
BC succeeded and cashed in on four of them, adding an empty-net goal to ice the game and season series by a 5-3 score.
“Tonight’s game we were much better [able] to get into that area for deflections, rebound, and better overall zone play,” said BC coach Jerry York. “Our ability to generate some offense inside that ten-foot area was the key.”
“Tonight’s game was a great night for hockey. It was a terrific atmosphere with their fans and all of our fans, especially the students,” said Providence coach Paul Pooley. “They were obviously going to be very hungry and they’re a top-ten team for reason.”
Entering the third period deadlocked at two, Dave Spina slid the puck inside the near post just 1:27 in, lifting the Eagles to their first lead of the night. The impressive Eagle offense, which had been somewhat stagnant this weekend, turned it up a notch, jumping out to a 4-2 lead halfway through the final frame.
“Being able to enter the third period tied at two really turned the tide in the game,” said York. “Again they scored the first goal on us and, while we don’t like having to come from behind, it was important for us to keep our composure.”
“We came out and played well in the first, but the third goal was the break for us,” said Pooley. “We played with a ton of energy and I thought we had them on the run a little bit. Coming into the third, we didn’t get into the offensive zone and out of the defensive zones.
It was simple — the ten-foot rule on both blue lines was broken.”
Peter Zingoni’s goal with seven minutes to play in the game cut the lead in half and gave the Friars and Schneider Arena a boost. Providence controlled play for much of the last ten minutes, but found its effort falling just short.
Zingoni, once again, had the best opportunity to tie the game on a loose puck out front, but the junior winger couldn’t tickle the twine for the second time on the night. Despite the Friars holding the puck deep in the BC zone, Eagle netminder Matti Kaltiainen had an answer for any shot that found its way through the maze of bodies.
Most of all, Kaltiainen solidified the win for the Eagles, playing well enough to keep the Eagles in the game. Although the box score may not indicate a stellar performance from the sophomore netminder, he made several key stops, especially during a high-pressure third period to preserve the win.
“We’ve had back-to-back nights of excellent goaltending from Matti,” said York. “Last night he kept us in the game and again tonight he was just so solid for us.”
Bobby Goepfert was strong in net for Providence despite allowing four goals, as it seemed that every mistake ended up in the back of the freshman’s net. Goepfert would probably like the first goal back — a fluttering pop-up off the blocker that fell down into the net — but he had some remarkable saves, including breakaway stops on Eaves, Voce, and Spina.
Both teams were especially impressive on the penalty kill, as neither allowed a power-play goal on the weekend despite 14 opportunities. Much of that credit can go to Goepfert and Kaltiainen.
Spina and Ryan Murphy helped to bolster the attack for the Eagles, joining Ben Eaves and Ryan Shannon on the scoresheet.
“We’re getting good play from guys like Chris Collins, Spina, and Murphy. All year it’s been Voce and Eaves and it’s nice to see them step it up,” said York.
The weekend split keeps both teams where they began the week; Providence remains in a four-team race for the final home-ice spots, while Boston College stays within breathing distance of Maine and the HEA regular-season title.