PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Eventually, everyone gets a second chance.
After squandering a three-goal lead in the final frame to Boston University, Providence got its bid in overtime on Friday night. A dramatic shorthanded goal by senior co-captain Jon DiSalvatore lifted the Friars from the jaws of what could have been a staggering defeat to a 5-4 victory at Schneider Arena.
After having a three-goal lead slip away in the closing minutes and watching co-captain Devin Rask get whistled for a penalty in overtime, desperation began to set in on the Providence bench.
“First, you’ve got to give credit to BU for a great comeback,” said Providence coach Paul Pooley. “But after they scored I told the team that what already happened was over and done with. I told them to be in the now, to play for this second and not any other time.”
“It was overtime and just about anything goes,” said DiSalvatore. “Obviously, my first responsibility is to make sure that I get the puck out. After that, if you can jump up with the play then you’ve gotta go for it. At first I was going to come off the ice for a change [since we were on the power play], but I noticed that the goalie didn’t come back into the net and I just fired the puck into the empty net.”
DiSalvatore took that chance, converting on a shot that was the result of a great hustle play by fellow senior Doug Wright. Wright broke a pass up at center ice and fought his way past a defender along the boards, sending a tough-angle shot wide of the net. BU’s Sean Fields came out high to play Wright’s bid, leaving him out of position to stop DiSalvatore’s game winner.
While other players had given up on the play and looked for a change, DiSalvatore collected the ricochet off of the end boards and slip a shot into the yawning net.
“A lot of that has to do with his instincts. Jon is a goal-scorer and he knew to stay on the ice and to follow Doug’s shot mainly through his instinct,” said Pooley.
“I liked our intensity and our play in the third period,” said BU coach Jack Parker. “We chipped our way all the way back and then we gave the game away on that play. Providence had two players that beat our whole team back down the ice. Defensively, we were awful all night. That play was such a lazy play.”
The overtime tally was just one instance of a bad night all around for Fields. Despite riding a hot streak into the game, Fields was scored upon early and often. The star of the Beanpot only managed 11 saves on the night while allowing five goals. Coming into the game, Fields and BU had only allowed six goals in their previous six games.
“I think we had several players that didn’t show up tonight,” said Parker. “Individually, there were players that did not put in a strong effort, that did not come to play.”
“You aren’t going to win very many games while putting 15 shots on net,” said Pooley. “But we are more concerned about the win. There have been games where we’ve outshot teams 42-18 and lost. At this point in the season, getting the win is the most important thing.”
Providence’s Nolan Schaefer, despite the goals allowed, continued his superb play in net, including one stretch during a 5-on-3 in which he used every part of his body, including his helmet, to preserve the Friars’ lead.
Regardless of the score, the senior netminder carried his hot streak into the game and left with it as well. Schaefer was not beaten cleanly all night; he was superb on his angles and left very little out front in terms of rebounds. Overall, Schaefer stopped 26 of BU’s 30 shots, 10 of those saves coming on Terrier power-play attempts.
“Nolan was the key for us tonight, especially 5-on-3. He was absolutely incredible and won the game for us. They threw some pucks at the net, but I thought Nolan was outstanding,” said Pooley.
Despite the outcome, Parker remained optimistic that his team could takes the positives out of the third-period comeback.
“It’s not like we had lost the big lead in the third period. Even though we gave away a point in the overtime, I don’t think we’ll hang our heads.”
When all was said and done, the Friars walked away with win and two crucial points in the race for the fourth and final home-ice slot in Hockey East. Coming into the evening, Providence found itself two points behind BU in fifth place.
With the victory, the Friars not only tied the Terrier point total, but also cemented a victory in the season series, which would give Providence the tiebreaker should the teams finish with identical point totals.
Both teams will face off Saturday night at BU’s Walter Brown Arena in a continuation in the battle for home ice.