PROVIDENCE, R.I. — The upcoming Hockey East playoffs are going to be very entertaining if they feature games like No. 19 Providence Colleges match-up with No. 8 Boston College on Saturday night.
The Friars and the Eagles hooked up in a pulsating 2-2 tie at Schneider Arena, finishing off a weekend of fast-paced hockey between the two clubs that has a chance to be repeated in two weeks during the conference quarterfinals.
The draw ensures that Providence (14-13-5, 11-9-5 Hockey East) and Boston College (16-10-8, 10-8-7 HE) will remain two of the four teams battling for Hockey Easts final three home-ice positions, with the Friars earning the edge over the Eagles in any potential tiebreaker thanks to their 2-0-1 mark against Boston College this season.
Providence has a home-and-home series next weekend with No. 16 Boston University and the Friars control their own destiny if they are able to sweep the Terriers, creating an unlikely scenario in which the Eagles will grudgingly transform themselves into Boston University fans while hoping that they can take care of business against another city rival, Northeastern.
We certainly want to achieve the highest position we can in the league, but more importantly we want to be playing well, Boston College coach Jerry York said. I think thats our objective, because whoever you play is going to be a pretty good opponent in that first round.
I wont spend much time looking at the standings until next Sunday morning, Providence coach Tim Army said. We just need to go play as well as we can play against a team (Boston University) that always plays its best hockey at this time of year.
Nick Mazzolinis power play goal 1:35 into the second period earned Providence a share of the points, blunting the momentum that Boston College built by scoring twice in the final seven minutes of the first. Mark Fayne netted the opener at 9:07 with a blast from the point that cleanly beat Boston College goalie John Muse, but the Eagles came roaring back to take the lead.
Benn Ferriero and Nathan Gerbe scored the Boston College goals, a good sign for the Eagles considering the prolonged slumps that some of their top offensive players have been enduring during their 1-4-1 stretch over their last six games. Gerbes 23rd of the season came on a breakaway at 15:48 of the opening period, his first goal since a 4-1 win over Massachusetts on Feb. 8.
Ferrieros deflected shot from the top of the left circle beat Providence goalie Tyler Sims to the glove side, snapping a three game scoreless drought dating back to the Eagles 5-2 victory over Massachusetts-Lowell on Feb. 16.
Its no coincidence that Boston College is 0-3-1 since its victory against the River Hawks with Gerbe, Ferriero, Joe Whitney (one point in his last four games) and Ben Smith (two points in his last four games) scuffling like they have been. The foursome brought a combined 152 points on the season into Saturdays game.
Its nice to see two of our leaders score goals tonight, York said. Theyve been struggling but they played through it and played hard. Hopefully now a lot will come in bunches.
Sims recovered from Ferrieros goal to make a handful of spectacular saves, none bigger than his breakaway stop against Gerbe with two minutes left in the first. Gerbe picked the pocket of Providence defenseman Cody Wild at his own blue line and walked in alone on Sims, shifting to the backhand and holding the puck for as long as he could before snapping a shot into Sims right pad.
The whole time down he was trying to get me to bite, Sims said. And I could tell. He was looking at me the whole time. He was faking a shot. He was slowing up. Hes a good player and he was doing all of those things to try to get me to bite. When he saw that I didnt bite I think he said, I might have gotten stuck.
(Sims has) been really focused, Army said. I think the save on Gerbe later on in the period after Cody turned it over showed his growth as a goalie and his maturity in the sense that you put it behind you and youve got to make the next stop. I thought he did a real good job.
Sims seemed to gain confidence from there, snuffing out Gerbes partial breakaway midway through the second period and gloving Ferrieros drive from the top of the slot with 2:09 left in regulation to help Providence kill off the last of Boston Colleges four power play chances. Sims made his final big stop of the night when he kicked out Dan Bertrams effort from the left circle with 1:23 to play, a chance set up by Pat Gannons pass from behind the net.
Were right in the thick of things, Sims said. All we need to do is come out here and play well. I definitely felt great this weekend.