PROVIDENCE, R.I. — His father’s voice echoing in his ears, Providence head coach Tim Army watched his Friars enjoy a rare shellacking of rival Brown.
Providence blew the 22nd Annual Mayor’s Cup contest open with five second-period goals, breezing to an 8-0 victory over the visiting Bears at Schneider Arena in a game that was every bit as one-sided as the final score indicates.
Freshman Kyle MacKinnon netted the first two goals of his college career to spark the rout, scoring both inside the opening four minutes of the second, and classmate Ian O’Connor added his first as a Friar later in the period as Providence (5-6-2) improved to 4-1-1 in its last six games and extended Brown’s winless streak to six with its second straight complete effort.
“We’ve got to find a way to do it every night,” Army said. “That’s doing the little things that you have to do as teammates. That was the challenge.”
Army was a player at Providence the last time the Friars enjoyed such a rout against the Bears, an identical 8-0 thumping on Feb. 12, 1983. Only once in the rivalry’s 87 contests has Providence won by more, a 9-0 shutout in 1961 that occurred not too long after Army’s father, Tom, wrapped up his own playing career with the Friars. Army has been subjected to a pregame phone call from his father before each of his three career games on the bench against Brown and the message is one that he has attempted to impart on his players.
“I just talked about the importance of the game from a city standpoint, from a state standpoint,” Army said. “For alumni and former players at both schools it means an awful lot. We’ve kind of preached the message for three years and I didn’t like the way we played last year.”
“You really feel how much people love this game and want to win this game,” Friars’ goalie Tyler Sims said. “When Coach Army came in my sophomore year he told us how important it was to the alumni. We didn’t really know that my freshman year.”
Sims made 18 saves to help the cause, notching his second straight shutout and his third of the season in 10 starts. The senior netminder now stands two clear of Mario Proulx with a program-record of seven career shutouts, snapping the tie with Proulx in his last outing with a 20-save performance in a 4-0 win at Vermont on Saturday. Sims needed to withstand a couple of late Brown power play chances on Tuesday to extend his personal scoreless string to 120 minutes.
“There are times in games when I feel myself losing my focus. That’s something that I’m really trying to work on,” Sims said. “This was a great game to do that.”
“That’s a hard game for a goalie but I think he was focusing on the puck very, very well,” Army said. “He wasn’t overplaying things. He was there nice and square and I think he’s finding a nice stability to his game right now.”
Providence held a 1-0 lead entering the second before MacKinnon started the onslaught, one-timing a pass from Jon Rheault on a 2-on-1 break for a pretty shorthanded goal 29 seconds in that doubled the lead. The Friars showed no mercy from there, outshooting Brown by a whopping 20-3 margin in the period and by a 55-18 count for the game.
“That was a great play by Jon Rheault and Kyle has great speed,” Army said. “He’s been close. He just hasn’t found the range.”
MacKinnon has immediately benefited from some shuffling of Providence’s lines, an attempt by Army to distribute experienced players throughout his lineup. Three of the Friars’ four lines have been retooled and the results are tangible already — 12 goals in two games and 10 points combined by Providence’s six freshmen regulars.
“A few of our freshmen — we’ve been a little snakebitten early in the year,” MacKinnon said. “We knew it was going to come sooner or later. I think coach saw that and just put the other guys in there for a little more experience — sometimes that clicks.”
Brown edged Providence, 2-1, in last year’s meeting behind 35 saves from goalie Dan Rosen, but the sophomore netminder wasn’t around to see the end of this year’s matchup. The Friars chased Rosen with a second-period barrage that included MacKinnon’s pair, O’Connor’s first goal of his career and the first of the season for sophomores John Cavanagh and Mark Fayne. O’Connor tipped home Matt Taormina’s blast from the left point at 12:34 to make it 5-0 and forced Brown head coach Roger Grillo to turn to his bench. Sophomore Tristan Favro came on for the first appearance of his career and allowed Cavanagh to sneak a shot inside the near post from the right faceoff circle at 19:13, the second of Providence’s three power play goals in the game, and the Friars finished with 20 more shots in the third period despite four Brown power plays.
“When you win anything it’s exciting for the team,” Sims said. “It helps the team come together a little bit. I think that’s going to be a great start for our team.”