PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Five days ago, Providence hit the low point of its season, a 6-1 loss to St. Cloud State in the finals of its own tournament — the Dunkin’ Donuts Holiday Classic — that left the Friars asking plenty of questions.
That answer was certainly found, though, Friday night when Quinnipiac came to town. One of the frontrunners in Atlantic Hockey, the Bobcats were thought as a possible threat to Providence, particularly having beaten Hockey East’s Merrimack a little more than a month ago. That was if the Friars dared to take the Bobcats lightly.
“We talked about Quinnipiac this morning before we showed the film,” said Providence head coach Paul Pooley. “We needed our guys to come out focused tonight, and I think they did.”
The result was a shooting gallery-type game for the Friars that saw them match their season high for goals, skating to a 7-1 rout of the Bobcats in front of 1,607 at Providence’s Schneider Arena.
When asked if it was simply that the Friars gave Quinnipiac respect and never overlooked them, Pooley’s answer was simple.
“Who are we?” quipped Pooley. “Who are we not to give respect? If we don’t go out and outwork teams we’re an average team too.”
The game versus Quinnipiac provided Pooley with good timing to start David Cacciola (27 saves) in net. Cacciola, so far this season, had made limited starts and collected a 0-3-2 record. That record, though, has not been indicative of his play, as the junior possessed a 1.76 goals against average entering the game and had got little to no offensive support.
But after starter Bobby Goepfert had a rough start last game against St. Cloud State, and because Quinnipiac was in town and statistically shouldn’t have posed much of a threat to the Friars, Friday was the perfect time to give Cacciola another start.
“Don’t be surprised to see him in net next Friday against [New Hampshire],” said Pooley. “He’s playing well and looks confident. He made a couple of nice saves.
“A win could be a huge breakthrough for him. He’s had good numbers, but not a win. He faced a lot of shots and got a lot of traffic in front so this win was big.”
Cacciola, himself, agrees that finally getting his first ‘W’ is a major confidence boast.
“I knew it was a matter of time before I got the win,” said Cacciola, who was replaced by third-stringer Mike Wolfe (one save) with 2:28 remaining to get the ovation from the PC faithful. “Still, it’s great to get.”
Anyone not in attendance would find it hard to believe that the early goings of the first period were actually quite even. The Bobcats kept up with the pace set by the Friars until the games first goal at 10:38.
On the power play, Jonathan Goodwin persistently pushed at a loose puck in front of Quinnipiac goaltender Jamie Holden (12 saves). After three whacks, the puck finally crept under Holden to give the Friars the 1-0 lead.
Though Quinnipiac’s penalized player returned to the ice after, it appeared as though the Friars remained on the power play for the rest of the period. For the remaining nine minutes, PC absolutely owned the Bobcats thanks to a tenacious forecheck and some QU miscues.
The first of those mistakes pushed the Friars lead to two when Tony Zancanaro, who finished the night with two goals for his first career multi-goal game, was allowed to roam free after an offensive zone draw. Zancanaro was given not one, not two, but three shots on Holden, eventually pushing the third shot five hole at 13:26.
Five minutes later, another defensive zone mistake, this time a turnover on the half boards, led to Cody Loughlean skating loose to unload a high wrister that beat Holden clean on the glove side to give the Friars a 3-0 lead.
A minute later, this time on the power play, it was a hard slapper by Stephen Wood that was deflected in front by Torry Gajda and beat Holden along the ice to give Providence a 4-0 lead through one. It also signaled the end of the night for Holden, who was replaced in the second period by Justin Eddy (22 saves).
“Providence just dominated us in the first period,” said Quinnipiac coach Rand Pecknold. “They were ready to play and were in better shape. They’re better conditioned athletes and we looked tired right out of the gates.”
From that point, though, the game became little more than a scrimmage. Each team notched a marker in the second. Providence first scored shorthanded when Chris Chaput beat Eddy high on the glove side at 12:28. Quinnipiac answered on the same power play, with Reid Cashman scoring on a wrister from the right point.
Providence added a Peter Zingoni goal early in the third, one of his four points on the night, and Zancanaro scored his second of the night in the closing minutes for the 7-1 final.
For the Bobcats, the six-goal loss was their worst of the season and largest margin of defeat since losing 6-0 to Mercyhurst in January 2001.
“It humbles you and brings you back to Earth that you’re not that good,” said Pecknold of the loss. “We have a strong team but we have to play hard every shift to equalize the lack of talent we have compared to last year.”
At 7-6-2, the Bobcats will continue nonleague play Tuesday night when they travel to No. 12 Ohio State. Providence (8-6-3) will remain idle until next weekend’s home-and-home series with No. 7 New Hampshire, beginning Friday in Providence.