CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. — In a program steeped with history, the No. 8 Boston College Eagles were glad on Saturday night not to be making any more.
Faced with going winless in its first three league games for the first time in the history of the program, the Eagles rallied behind a two-goal effort from senior Chris Collins and a 20-save performance from goaltender Cory Schneider.
“This was one of the most incredible wins I’ve had in my career here,” said Collins, who evened the game at one in the second period and gave the Eagles the lead early in the third. “We’ve been in battles for the last few games. To get the first home win and the first Hockey East win is big.”
Collins, as BC coach Jerry York described him, was the “best player on the ice,” not only for Saturday night but for the two-game home stand this weekend. Collins leads the Eagles with six goals and seven points total.
In Friday’s 2-1 loss at Maine, special team played a critical role for BC as the club allowed two-power play goals to the Black Bears while going scoreless in five power-play chances.
On Saturday, BC reversed things against the Friars, scoring once in seven opportunities on the power play, working the penalty kill to a perfect 6-for-6, and even adding a shorthanded tally.
“We took less penalties, and were better killing penalties tonight,” said York, noting that his club, which three times took penalties while already shorthanded on Friday, never got itself into a 5-on-3 situation against Providence. “We got the one [power-play] goal, but we’ve still got a long way to go there.”
For Providence, the difference in the game came in the middle 20 minutes. Providence took penalties early, including a five-minute major to Tony Zancanaro for hitting from behind, and, according to head coach Tim Army, used up a lot of its energy.
“I thought we ran out of gas with all of the penalties in the second period,” said Army. “I thought we played great in the first period and carried the play. Then we took nine minutes in penalties in the first half of the second and two things happened–you give their skill guys a chance to handle the puck and you zap strength out of some of your guys.”
As Army noted, Providence carried the play throughout the first period, outshooting BC 9-4 and taking a 1-0 lead into the locker room.
The lone goal came off the stick of rookie Kyle Laughlin, his first collegiate goal, when he blasted the rebound of a Zancanaro shot off the right post and into the net at 9:30 of the period.
The Friars threatened to extend the lead shorthanded when Dinos Stamoulis was sent in alone. He had a hard time handling the puck though with a BC defender on his back and fired a shot into the right pad of Schneider to keep the PC lead at one at intermission.
In the second, the Eagles took territorial control of the game and outshot the Friars 24-5. Still, BC could muster only one goal thanks to the play of Providence goaltender Tyler Sims (35 saves).
The Eagles goal came on the power play after Zancanaro was assessed the five-minute major. Collins redirected an Anthony Aiello shot at 11:48 to even the game at one through two periods.
Providence began the third period on the power play, but that helped little as Collins scored his second of the game at the 19 second mark, this one shorthanded. Collins picked up a loose puck in the neutral zone and flew down the left wing side. Given plenty of room by the Providence defense, he fired a shot that beat Sims glove side for a 2-1 BC lead.
That set off a wild couple of minutes and turned the tempo of the game up two notches.
Providence tied the game at 1:56 when Nate Meyers was wide open at the right post to bury a backdoor pass from Bryan Horan.
Twenty-seven seconds later, BC’s Brock Bradford scored his first career goal when his shot from the slot bounced along the ice and over Sims’ right pad to put the Eagles back in the lead at 3-2.
Providence would do its best to once again pull even, and Nick Mazzolini was robbed by a right pad save by Schneider. But as the period wore on it was clear the Boston College defense had the gas left in the tank to finish the Friars.
For the Friars, the loss was disappointing, but proved to the club that they’re strong enough to play with a top-notch team like BC.
“To be 3-1 as a team [in the league] at this point, we feel it’s been progress,” said Providence head coach Tim Army, noting still that his club was disappointed.
For Boston College, the critical win was a positive sign to York, who feels his club is heading in the right direction.
“Our effort has been consistently strong,” said York. “We’re such a different team that we were last year. You have to look at it as what can we become because we’re kind of starting all over. I like what we’re becoming. We’re a good team with its future all in front of us.”