BOSTON — You could write a few thousand words on all that went right for the Providence Friars tonight, but to record the bright spots for Boston University you’d only need a post-it note.
In the most lopsided loss in the young history of Agganis Arena, No. 13 Providence beat No. 20 BU 5-1 behind the strong goaltending of Tyler Sims, who stopped 32 of 33 Terrier shots. Jon Rheault added a goal and an assist for the Friars, but all four forward lines scored at least once for the visitors in front of a holiday break-depleted crowd of 5,233.
While the Friars displayed relentless defense and an opportunistic knack for capitalizing on some serious brain cramps by their opponents, all the Terriers can say is that they had a nice power-play goal, some nifty moves by Dan Spang, and strong skating for the first 15 minutes or so of play.
“They did come hard the first ten minutes, and you obviously expect that coming into their building,” Providence coach Tim Army said. “They have played since Christmas, and we haven’t, so I was a little concerned about how the first ten minutes would be. We’ve had four good days of practice since we’ve come back from Christmas, but there’s nothing like playing in a game. We took three penalties, and that put us on our heels.
“After the ten-minute mark-after our third penalty kill-we started to settle down, started to get our legs a little bit. We were able to get out five-and-five and get everybody into a rhythm. From that point on we were able to play with the kind of pace we want to play with.”
Terrier coach Jack Parker characterized the game as “the most disappointing game we’ve had” this season. “In general, other than the first 15 minutes of the game, I was really disappointed in our effort-our physical effort and mental effort, but most importantly our focus and our mental effort,” Parker said. “We got deflated after they scored late in the first; we got deflated after they scored late in the second.
“If we don’t just make unbelievable mental mistakes, they don’t get three out of their five goals.”
The Terriers’ best chance in their strong early stretch came on a power play at the eight-minute mark, when Spang made a nice move at the left point before driving to the net and setting up chances for John Laliberte and David Van der Gulik. The Terriers looked more creative than usual with the man advantage, and the game looked promising.
Providence began to muster good pressure on a power play in the period’s last minute. One Terrier clear would’ve enabled them to get to the intermission unscathed, but it never happened. Right wing Colin McDonald got the puck in the left-wing corner and skated out toward the right point before dishing it to Chase Watson in the right-wing faceoff circle. Watson tapped it right back to him, and McDonald beat sophomore goalie Karson Gillespie with a 30-foot shot. There were only 3.5 seconds left in the period.
Just after a four-on-four situation became a Terrier power play, BU surrendered a brutal shorthanded goal at 4:12 of period two. “Our left defenseman was playing their guy at the boards, watching their guy at the boards,” Parker said. “The puck went into the corner, top of their circle. Their right defenseman got the puck. Our fore checkers just completely turned: When they dumped it in, they didn’t dump it all the way. They thought it was going farther, and they turned to get off the ice.
“Our right defenseman got off the ice with them, so we all have is a left defenseman literally along the boards, and their guy took off up the middle-almost right by our three guys who went off to change. And there was nobody forechecking the guy with the puck, too, so he just passed it up the ice.” The result was the easiest 75-foot pass you’ll ever see to set up a breakaway: Matt Taormina set up Jamie Carroll, who raced in untouched for the shot and score.
BU looked both ugly and unlucky on the next Providence goal at 9:13. Skating into the PC zone with a potential four-on-two advantage, Laliberte attempted an abrupt drop pass to Spang, who proceeded to fall down. Only the hustle of David Van der Gulik turned a two-man breakaway into a two-on-one. Van der Gulik blocked the pass of freshman Pierce Norton, but it bounced right back to his stick. He shot and scored his first collegiate goal.
“We’re trying to play a transition game and a lot of things that we work on are creating a rush off a turnover,” Army said. “It’s a combination of getting a good first pass and getting guys in support positions where they can hit some holes with some speed. Then we’re trying to get numbers in transition and get people up the ice to create scoring opportunities. We’ve worked on it from day one.
“Our D are making good decisions, good passes; they’re getting involved in the rush. As a complement to that, our forwards are doing a good job of finding the holes and hitting the holes with speed. When you combine it all, when there is a turnover, we’re able to transition with good speed.”
The Terriers showed signs of life with a nice power-play goal at 16:25. Some tic-tac-toe passing from Kevin Schaeffer and Spang set up Laliberte for a one-timer with half of the net open, and he buried it.
However, Providence responded with what Parker called the “back-breaking goal” with just 25 seconds left in the period, thanks to an inexplicable turnover by freshman defenseman Matt Gilroy, who could have cleared the puck out of the zone but instead putted it into a crowd of players in his own end. “We win a faceoff and our defenseman has it, right where we want it,” Parker said. “The defenseman has no one on him, and he gives it up: They have a guy standing by the crease all by himself.”
Providence rounded out the scoring with a wrister by Jon Rheault at 5:13 of the third period. The shot beat Gillespie high on the glove side. After looking incredibly confident while posting amazing numbers in his first two starts this season, the sophomore looked shaky between the pipes. “He didn’t look anywhere near as good as he did in his first two games,” Parker acknowledged. “The first two games he was solid, blocking everything, pucks were hitting him.
“I can’t say we had bad goaltending tonight because he didn’t have a chance on some of those goals, but you also could say that he didn’t look sharp. Even on the saves he made he didn’t look sharp. But he hasn’t played for a while. He’ll be back in there; he played so well his first two games.”
Providence also can boast the second-most lopsided win for a road team at Agganis Arena, given that they beat BU 4-1 in game one of last season’s Hockey East quarterfinal series.
BU (7-8-2, 5-6-1 Hockey East) visits Northeastern on Saturday night, while Providence (12-6-1, 9-2-1 HE) hosts Boston College.