ORONO, Maine — There would be many who would have scoffed at the notion that Providence College, winners of just one of seven previous starts, could be competitive with No. 11 Maine.
However, Friday night, the Friars didn’t merely compete with the Black Bears; they all but dismantled them, torching Maine for three third period goals on its way to a stunning 6-2 thrashing of the Black Bears, much to the dismay of the sellout throng of 5,445 at Alfond Arena.
Defenseman Matt Taormina enjoyed a career night, notching five points (two goals, three assists) while Nick Mazzolini chipped in a goal and two assists.
“We go into every game thinking we are better,” said Taormina. “It’s kind of the mentality that you have to have. Our record (now 2-5-1, 2-2-1 HEA) obviously doesn’t show it, but it’s nice to get this win and show everybody in the hockey world that we’re up there.”
The Friars came out sky high, shocking their hosts by outshooting them 13-6 in the first period and outscoring them 2-1.
“We were coming off a sluggish loss to BU and we knew if we came out like that, we were going to get buried again,” said Mazzolini
Instead, it was the Friars attack that plowed Maine under the weight of a 39-17 shot disparity.
“It was just a good, old fashioned butt kicking in every aspect of the game,” said Black Bears’ coach Tim Whitehead. “I hate to say it, but we coaches kind of sensed it a little bit this week. In practice, I felt we were getting a little happy, so to speak.”
Pierce Norton and Jon Rheault gave the Friars a two goal lead before Maine freshman Andrew Sweetland cut the margin to one at 12:25.
Norton’s tally came at 3:58 when he wristed in his third goal of the season past Black Bears’ goalie Ben Bishop from the top of the right circle. Rheault followed at 10:53, scoring on a breakaway by roofing a 10-footer.
Sweetland halted the Black Bears’ slide when, standing untouched at the right post, he banged in his own rebound past Friars’ senior netminder Tyler Sims, who had re-emerged after spotty play put him on the bench for three straight games.
Sweetland got the equalizer too, rapping in Rob Bellamy’s cross ice feed on a power play to make it 2-2 at 9:36 of the second stanza.
However, the Friars rebounded quickly, regaining the lead just 1:11 later on Matt Taorminas short-handed goal. Taormina snuck in from the blue line and took a dish from Mazzolini, blasting it past Bishop.
Early in the third, Sims came up with the biggest of his 15 saves, stopping Simon Danis-Pepin’s backhander from the edge of the goal crease.
“It was a very easy read for me,” said Sims. “All I had to do is come over and drop into a nice butterfly. He actually had a good shot; he got it over my pad, but I was just able to tip it with the glove.
“I knew I needed to come in and play well for us to win. The biggest thing was just to give our team a chance to win, but you’re not going to win in this league unless guys score, especially on a goalie like Bishop.”
Less than a minute later, at 6:03, Mazzolini turned from playmaker to finisher, threading a slap shot through a screen to make it 4-2, and putting Bishop on the bench for the first time this season.
Providence popped in two more on backup goalie David Wilson to complete the rout.
“It never works out the way you plan,” joked Friars’ coach Tim Army. “But I think we’ve played better than our record would indicate. We were skating. We won a lot of battles, and that translated into some goals. If you do that any night, you give yourself a chance to have some success.”