PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Put the rest of Hockey East on notice. Jon Rheault is on his annual hot streak.
Providence Colleges explosive senior winger scored his second goal of the night just 46 seconds into overtime, a brilliant rush between two Massachusetts-Lowell defenders, to propel the Friars to a 4-3 win over the visiting River Hawks at Schneider Arena.
Rheault now has at least one goal in six of his last seven games and has scored twice in three of them, a personal tear coinciding nicely with Providences five wins in its last six games. The Friars (8-7-2, 5-3-2 Hockey East) are now 8-3-2 since dropping their first four games of the season and had to come from behind twice on Friday to snap No. 13 Lowells five-game winning streak.
We stayed with it and persevered, Rheault said. That says a lot about the team. Any team that can come from behind and win in overtime like that ” it says a lot about the team.
Providence erased deficits of 2-1 and 3-2 with key performances at critical times by its marquee players. Pierce Norton struck for his team-best fifth power play goal to tie the game late in the second period and Cody Wild, the Friars career leading scorer among active defensemen, netted the second equalizer 9:08 into the third period to allow Rheault the chance to provide his dazzling finisher.
You play well, you get everybody involved, everybody plays their game, and then in those situations you rely on your key people, Providence head coach Tim Army said. Thats why theyre your key people. They produce in certain situations.
Clearly the best team won tonight, Lowell head coach Blaise MacDonald said. We played a decent first half and it just got away from us in spurts in the second half.
Rheaults game winner is certainly in contention for the prettiest of his 12 goals this season. He collected Greg Collins clearing pass off the boards and used a move that he has been working on in practice to burn between a pair of River Hawks defenders. Rheault cut off the left wing at the blue line and sped toward the right circle, taking a couple of extra strides to create a better shooting angle before firing across Lowell goalie Carter Huttons crease and into the upper left corner.
Ive been working on that, Rheault said. Its been something (Army and Rheault have) talked about on video.
You try to give a little piece of advice and then you let a player like that do his thing, Army said. The natural ability and the skill of Jon Rheault that scored the goal.
It was Kelly Sullivan, Lowells lone senior in the lineup, who looked to be the likely hero early in the third period. The defenseman notched his first of the season and just the second goal in his 72 career games with the River Hawks to make it a 3-2 game, collecting a long rebound in the left circle and firing a shot just under the crossbar. Wild responded by picking up the rebound of his own blocked shot and slipping it past Hutton at 9:08, finishing off his rush down the right wing to force overtime.
Rheaults first of the night 3:17 into the first period gave the Friars an early lead and Providence looked to be still carrying the momentum that it gained by shocking defending national champion Michigan State, 5-3, in the consolation game of the Great Lakes Invitational.
Lowell (9-5-4, 4-5-4) brought Providence back down to earth when Kory Falite rang a drive off the left post on a 2-on-1 just two minutes later and the River Hawks turned to their sensational trio of freshman center Scott Campbell and junior wingers Mark Roebothan and Mike Potacco to erase their 1-0 deficit.
They delivered right on cue, as has been the case throughout most of Lowells recent hot streak.
Campbell forced a shot through Providence goalie Tyler Sims from the right circle to make it 1-1 at 10:51 and turned provider less than three minutes later when he sent a beautiful pass down the middle that sprung Roebothan for a breakaway and the go-ahead goal inside the right post.
Roebothan now enjoys an eight-game point streak (7-5-12) and his linemates have shared in the glory throughout, the three combining for 29 points in the nine games that they have played together.
They do all the little things that you need to do to score goals, MacDonald said. Theyre willing to compete like hell, they take a lot of pride in winning walls, keeping the puck secure, moving their feet and getting to the front of the net to get some dirty goals.
Providence was able to breach Lowells stingy shorthand unit (tops in Hockey East and fifth in the nation at 90 percent) for the tying goal late in the second period, a beautiful set-up out of the right corner by John Cavanagh that finished with Nortons one-timer from the near circle at 17:01.
Nortons ninth of the season gave the Friars 17 power play goals in 17 games for the year, one more than they scored in 36 games last season, and snapped Lowells remarkable string of 19 consecutive kills in the process.
Rheault piled up 10 points in his final three regular season games during Providences desperate finish last year, one that allowed the Friars to qualify for the league playoffs in the eighth and final spot. He exploded for 16 goals to earn the teams co-Most Valuable Player honors as a sophomore and his 12 goals in 17 games this year equal his total from last season. His current form suggests that the Friars might be able to ride his play up the league ladder, and Rheault is just fine with being a vehicle for their success.
It all comes from the team winning, Rheault said. Were playing great hockey and, obviously, individually you get rewarded. I just focused on that coming in.