CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. — You can call Boston College’s 8-3 victory over Providence a drubbing. You can call it a slaughtering. You can call it an all-around butt-whopping.
What you can’t call it is a Beanpot letdown.
“We had talked about the Beanpot,” said BC head coach Jerry York. “But we’re locked in a pretty challenging race of the Hockey East championship. With Providence bringing its nationally-ranked team in here, it was good for us.”
Paced by Stephen Gionta’s first career hat trick and a 12-point outburst from BC’s top line, the Eagles proved that the only thing on their mind on Friday night is the Hockey East regular-season title, much to the delight of the 6,808 in attendance at BC’s Kelley Rink.
Gionta, who finished the night with four points, set a career high for both goals and points, while linemates Chris Collins (goal, three assists) and Brian Boyle (goal, three assists) both matched career bests.
“Things are working real well for us right now,” said Gionta of his line, which has now scored 50 points in the last eight games. “You just know where those guys are always going to be on the ice. It just seems to click every time you step out there.”
The hat trick for Gionta comes one night after his brother, Brian, a former Boston College standout, scored two goals – including the overtime game winner – across town at the TD Banknorth Garden as the New Jersey Devils beat the Boston Bruins 3-2. The younger Gionta bettered his brother on Friday and will look to continue his magic over at the Garden in Monday night’s Beanpot championship game against BU.
“He had a real solid game last night,” said Gionta of his brother. “He was really battling. I just tried to bring some of that tonight.”
The younger Gionta admits that brother has done a lot to mentor him and impart some wisdom.
“We talk three of four times a week,” said Gionta. “He’ll catch a few games and just give me a few pointers on where to be when other guys have the puck or when to take off to support someone.
“He’s done so well and made it to the next level and it just helps to know what you have to do to get there.”
For Providence, Friday night’s game was a nightmare almost from the start. Though the team got out of the gates well and was playing the Eagles tight for most of the opening period, two costly mistake by starting goaltender Tyler Sims (11 saves) late in the frame put the Friars in a 2-0 hole through one.
The first came as a Providence power play expired. Sims tried to catch the BC defense on a change and fired a long pass up the left wing side. Gionta, though, intercepted the pass and fed Boyle. Sims was at the top of the faceoff circles at the point, and, though Sims got back to his net to stop Boyle, Gionta was on the doorstep to bury the rebound at 17:59 for a 1-0 lead.
Just 34 seconds later, Collins made a nifty move to shake off a Friars defenseman and fired a shot that caught Sims playing deep in his net, beating the sophomore netminder far post.
That prompted Providence head coach Tim Army to pull Sims in favor of rookie Stephen Ritter (10 saves) at the beginning of the second period.
“I was upset with (Sims’ mental mistake),” said Army, who felt Sims was trying to do too much when he gave up the first goal. “You can’t be (making mistake) to give this team an advantage. Guys have had some individual success, and then they try to do more than they need to do and they forget what fits into the scheme of things.”
In the second, Providence pulled within a goal at 4:57 when Chase Watson buried his first of two goals on the night, only to see BC regain the two-goal cushion 24 seconds later when Matt Greene scored his first goal of the season.
The teams again traded goals midway through the period with BC’s Brock Bradford scoring on a partial breakaway at 11:19 and Providence’s Tony Zancanaro deflecting a shot from the point past BC netminder Cory Schneider (24 saves) at 12:10.
Brett Motherwell buried a Nathan Gerbe pass on a two-on-one at 15:01 of the second to give BC a 5-2 lead heading to the third.
If the Friars had any hope of a comeback, BC killed that when the top line combined for three goals in four minutes, 23 seconds midway through the third. Boyle scored the first, deflecting home a Gionta shot, then Gionta himself netted his second and third of the night to complete his hat trick.
With the game well in hand, York replaced Schneider with rookie Adam Reasoner (five saves), making his first career appearance in net. He surrendered just one goal, a Watson tally with 5:17 to play, to account for the 8-3 final.
Army admitted that Friday’s game was a painful one to stomach but said that he felt in the long run this was good for his team.
“It’s kind of like having the flu. Every team is going to go through it,” said Army of his team’s current slump in which it has just two wins in its last eight outings. “We needed this. We needed to bleed this out. This was a good thing for us.
“This will get us back on track to do the things we have to do to be successful.”
BC, on the other hand, seems to be back on track. After losing two out of three entering last Monday’s Beanpot opener, the Eagles have posted back-to-back decisive victories heading into this Monday’s Beanpot championship game against Boston University.
“Our championships are just like golf tournaments,” said York. “There are major tournaments and the Beanpot is the first of the majors.”
With Friday’s win in over Providence, York and his squad can now begin worrying about what it will take to win that first major, to start the road towards college hockey’s grand slam.