ORONO, Maine — Since 1986, the Providence Friars have had only one victory at Alfond Arena.
On Friday night, they doubled that win total.
Anchored by the superb play of netminder Tyler Sims who hauled in 20 saves, the Friars destroyed Maine 4-0 and earned their first shutout ever at Alfond.
In one of the worst home defeats of the Tim Whitehead era, Providence (13-8-1, 10-4-1) used a well-balanced attack and a commendable defense to shock the No. 12 Black Bears.
With both teams positioned low in the first Pair Wise Rankings of the year, the game carried with it extra importance.
“This sends a huge message for us,” said Sims. “We lost the last two games to Boston College and UMass-Lowell and I really think we needed to come back with a win. Otherwise people might start saying we were a fluke in the first half.”
“We know we are not a fluke and tonight we came out and proved it,” said Sims. For the Black Bears (14-9-0, 7-7-0), the pounding marked not only their third straight defeat but also their seventh straight against an opponent over .500.
“We didn’t play like a team that was desperate for the win,” said forward Maine Brent Shepheard. “If we don’t start playing hungrier hockey we are going to be getting a long summer vacation here soon. And none of us want that.”
The Friars, who were previously 1-20-1 at Alfond Arena, felt the win was a big statement from a national standpoint.
“One of the things people have been saying about us is that we don’t have quality wins on the road,” said Carroll. “Coming into Maine we thought hey ‘there’s no matter opportunity then to win two games in Maine,’ well, hopefully two.”
And, what about that lopsided record at Alfond? Well, according to Sims that didn’t matter this year.
“We just came out with a different strategy tonight then we have in years past,” said Sims. “Obviously we have our new coach, everybody has been talking about it, but he really led the charge and told us that we are going to play our game.”
Despite being outmanned and outplayed at times during the opening period, Providence was able to score the eventual game winner with just under a minute to go in the first. The goal, coming at 19:04, saw freshman Corey Wild smack in a rebound off a Torry Gadja shot from just above the hash marks. On the ensuing play Gadja broke free after eluding an overmatched Simon Danis-Pepin. With Gadja racing in alone on Maine netminder Matt Lundin, Danis-Pepin failed to get back and cover the open Wild.
“The game was kind of back and forth, we’re they came hard in the first 10 minutes and we kind of combated them,” said Providence captain Tony Zancanaro. “We came back and scored that gold late in the first period and that really got us going.”
“We knew Maine was going to come out hard in the first five minutes and try and get up by one or two, but we knew they would kind of wear down,” said Carroll. “We felt our legs and conditioning would come through for us.”
Maine forward Brent Shepheard felt the tally severed as a harbinger for the rest of the decision.
“The first period was a good example, we thought we outplayed them and felt pretty good and then they get a goal late,” said Shepheard. “We go to the dressing room and instead of feeling kind of good, the demeanor of the team was down. That goal played a really big part and it carried over into the second.”
Building off the first period goal, Providence began to take it to the Black Bears in every aspect and eventually doubled their lead. This time the mark came from Jamie Carroll, who registered his seventh of the year off a pass from Colin McDonald.
“It is something we work on all the time in practice,” said Carroll about the goal-scoring play. “On the play it went from high and low and Collin made a real nice pass. I didn’t think it was going to get through, the defenseman kind of got a stick on it, and put he made a nice hard pass and I was able to get it by the goalie.
“I tried to get it off quicker and catch him off guard. It seemed to work.”
Chase Watson recorded his 22 assist on the play.
Special teams continued to play a pivotal role for the rest of the period with Providence shutting down Maine twice on the power play.
“Our special teams were great,” said Sims. “I think in the third period they didn’t get any shots on their power play and in the second period they might have had one.”
The Friars eventually concluded the game 2-for-5 on the power play, using a successful strategy that saw two forwards drop below the red line and create open ice.
“We worked on that in practice this week, you know we had trouble last weekend controlling the puck down low,” said Zancanaro. “We did well tonight.”
Maine finished 0-for-4.
“We got outplayed pretty thoroughly in that game so it was a very embarrassing game for us,” said Whitehead. “To lose at home 4-0, I can’t remember the last time that has happened, so it’s pretty disappointing. They deserved to win and we deserved the loss.”
For Whitehead and the gang, the backbreaker came at 5:50 of the third period when Zancanaro pounced on a loose rebound off Lundin’s left leg pad. With not a defender in sight, Zancanaro ripped a mid-level shot into the back of the net.
“2-0 is the worst lead to have, so when you score that third and fourth goal you really put them on their heels,” said Zancanaro. “It was a big goal, but we kept going after the net.”
“The third goal was the biggest backbreaker of the game,” said Sims.
Ten minutes later, Providence added even more salt to the wounds of the Black Bears when Watson tapped in a give-go-pass from Carroll. The goal came at 15:44 of the third period. Dinos Stamoulis also registered an assist on the play.
En route to the victory Providence outshot Maine 27-20.
The squads meet again on Saturday at 7 p.m. for final game of the season series.