PROVIDENCE, R.I. — In many ways Providence senior winger Peter Zingoni is the face of the Friars this season. He’s never scored more than a dozen goals in a season, he’s been equal parts explosive and frustrated and he’s one of a myriad of Friars the coaching staff is banking on breaking out in 2003-04.
On Saturday night at Schneider Arena, it was as if Zingoni was trying to tell us all something.
The Newtown, Conn., product netted the second hat trick of his career, finishing his work only seconds into the second period, leading Providence to a 7-2 thumping of Sacred Heart in the Friars’ season opener. Zingoni’s only other collegiate hat trick came almost a year to the day prior, when he hit up Iona for three goals on Oct. 12, 2002.
“I’m excited about this year,” Zingoni said. “It’s time. This is it. I’ve been here three years, and I’m ready to go now and take this opportunity and run with it. I’ve been waiting for this opportunity, well, probably since my freshman year, to tell you the truth.”
Zingoni hadn’t scored since late last January for Providence, when he had the 12th of his junior season against Boston College. His last multi-goal output before Saturday’s hat trick was back on Jan. 3 — 20 games ago — when he lit the lamp twice in a victory over then top-ranked Maine.
That’s what’s made Zingoni such a curious case study. He’s been so good in key situations for the Friars that it’s incomprehensible he would be so invisible on other nights.
“I guess I just realize that it’s time to step up,” said Zingoni, who posted a game-high 10 shots against the Pioneers. “It was a long summer after losing those two games (to Boston University in the Hockey East quarterfinals) so quick. It’s a new start now.”
Providence head coach Paul Pooley liked what he saw from Zingoni in the debut.
“He was opportunistic,” Pooley said. “He shot the puck, and he was playing with confidence out there. But the biggest thing was that he made some opportunities for himself.”
Providence, which will complete its opening weekend on Sunday night by hosting RPI, scored four times in the opening stanza and three more times in the second frame.
Rookie Chase Watson opened things up 5:52 in with his first goal for the Friars, but the Pioneers (0-2-0) answered with a five-on-three power-play strike just under a minute and a half later, courtesy of Garrett Larson’s short-side one-timer from the top of the right circle.
Zingoni capped off some solid cycling work by tapping home a Cody Loughlean feed at the 10:18 mark, and Jonathan Goodwin made it a 3-1 hockey game 14 seconds later. Zingoni scored on the power play late in the period — and only a Marc-Andre Fournier tally with 1:15 left in the stanza kept Sacred Heart from being run out of the building.
It was all Providence the rest of the way, as Zingoni scored 23 seconds into the second period, before linemate Loughlean and Torry Gajda padded the lead.
Friar goalie Bobby Goepfert wasn’t overly busy in recording 22 saves to post the win, but he was called on, especially early, to turn in some first-rate stops. Freshman Jason Smith went the distance for the Pioneers in a Herculean 54-save collegiate debut.