PROVIDENCE, R.I. — No. 3 Maine got a highlight-reel goal from defenseman Prestin Ryan with 5:55 remaining in regulation to break a 2-2 tie as the Black Bears survived a road battle with Providence, 3-2.
The play was made by rookie Luciano Aquino, who received a breakaway pass at the offensive blueline from Colin Shields and skated in alone on Friars netminder David Cacciola (31 saves). Drawing Cacciola and the trailing defenders to the right post, Aquino slid a perfect pass back to Ryan for the game winner.
“[Aquino] had the presence of mind to recognize the situation,” said Maine head coach Tim Whitehead. “He had the composure to draw the goalie over and give a short backhand pass. It was just a great play.”
Taking the lead wasn’t the final highlight of the play for Maine as, during the celebration following, Providence winger Jonathan Goodwin punched Aquino in the back of the head and received a major penalty and game misconduct, giving the Black Bears the power play for most of the game’s balance.
“It was a poor decision and was unacceptable,” Providence head coach Paul Pooley said about Goodwin’s penalty that, while it didn’t result in a power-play goal, kept the Friars offense at bay until the final minute.
The major added to a long list of bad penalties that the Friars have taken in recent games. On Friday night, the Providence penalty kill allowed five goals in a 7-4 loss to No. 2 Boston College.
When asked what, if anything, Pooley can do to rectify the situation, he said that he would “do things internally,” such as “taking away ice time.”
Each team was playing the second game of its weekend and rested their Friday night starting goaltenders. Senior Frank Doyle started for the Black Bears making 25 saves, including a couple of key stops in the game’s closing minute. Cacciola started instead of No. 1 man Bobby Goepfert and looked impressive, particularly in the opening period.
The Friars got on the board first, scoring in the opening minute of the game. After Colin McDonald blocked a shot from the point, rookie Bill McCreary outraced the Maine defender to the loose puck and, skating 2-on-1, centered a pass that Tony Zancanaro buried through Doyle’s five hole for a 1-0 lead.
Maine, dominating the period and outshooting the Friars, 20-10, answered at 11:35. Fourth-line center Ben Murphy intercepted and one-timed an attempted clearing pass by Providence’s Jason Platt that seemed to fool Cacciola, evening the score at one.
It was the second consecutive game that Providence allowed 20 shots in the opening period, having been outshot, 20-2, Friday at BC.
That, though, doesn’t bother Pooley too much, since his club had faced the second- and third-ranked teams in the nation.
“[Maine] is a better club and we knew they could outshoot us,” said Pooley. “We just wanted to keep things simple and dump in, and see what we could make happen.”
The middle period, in fact, saw the Friars limit the Black Bears’ chances offensively, reducing the Maine advantage to 7-4 on the frame. Unfortunately for the Friars, the Black Bears scored the only goal.
On the power play, Shields’ blast from the left point was deflected by Greg Moore camped out in front. The redirect beat Cacciola blocker side just under the crossbar at 6:45 for the 2-1 lead.
The Friars came centimeters away from tying the game in the closing minute of the second. Defenseman James Pemberton pinched in from the point on a scramble in front of Doyle. The netminder had made the original save and was well out of position, leaving Pemberton the entire net. But Black Bear blueliner Mathew Deschamps dove from nowhere and pulled the puck out of the net, keeping the lead at 2-1 entering the third.
The goal light went on after the shot, but referee Conrad Hache conferred with his assistants and eventually ruled the puck did not cross the line.
“It was a crazy play,” said Whitehead. “I’m glad the officials made the correct call. The light did go on but that was a good call.”
Providence did tie the game in the third on the power play. After Ryan was forced to haul down Bill McCreary after turning the puck over, PC scored on the ensuing faceoff. Stephen Wood’s shot through traffic from the left point appeared to deflect off a Maine player over Doyle’s shoulder to knot the game at 5:42.
Then it was time for Aquino and Ryan to shine.
“It was such a great play,” continued Whitehead of the Aquino to Ryan pass. “It was one of those plays that if it didn’t work you’re saying, ‘What are you thinking?’ But it worked. He’s made some great plays this year.”
The Friars played Saturday without the services of leading scorer Peter Zingoni, who suffered a shoulder injury in the third period of Friday night’s BC game. He is listed as day-to-day. Goodwin, who was assessed a game disqualification along with his major, will miss Tuesday Mayor’s Cup game versus No. 15 Brown as a result.
The win improves Maine’s record to 10-2-1 (5-2-1 Hockey East) and moves the into a three-way tie for first with Massachusetts, which was idle on Saturday, and New Hampshire, a 5-2 winner over Northeastern. Providence drops to 6-5-2 (2-5-2).
The Friars’ Mayor’s Cup game will be the third game for PC in five days. Maine will be idle Thanksgiving weekend before traveling to Merrimack for a two-game set December 5 and 6.