PROVIDENCE , R.I. — Pete MacArthur took it upon himself Thursday night to make sure that No. 16 Boston University will open the Hockey East playoffs on home ice.
MacArthurs natural hat trick inside the opening 25 minutes set the tone for the Terriers 6-0 drubbing of No. 17 Providence College at Schneider Arena, a comprehensive beating that should serve as a warning for Boston University s potential opponents in next weekends quarterfinals.
The Terriers rebounded from a disappointing 5-1 loss at Massachusetts in their last outing, a stinker of a defeat that snapped Boston University s seven-game winning streak. MacArthurs power play goal 11:42 into the opening period on Thursday gave the Terriers the lead for good and goaltender Brett Bennett made 26 saves to recover from his worst performance in over a month and record his third shutout in his last six starts.
My individual effort wasnt good enough, the teams effort wasnt good enough [last game], and we were ready to go [tonight], Bennett said. That was tough luck for Providence.
We played a terrific hockey game I thought, Boston University coach Jack Parker said. All three zones, all three periods, it was as sharp as weve looked in a long time.
Boston University (16-15-4, 14-9-3 Hockey East) can clinch the No. 2 seed with another win on Friday night, shutting Vermont (12-8-5 HE) out of the equation thanks to a higher number of victories in league play. The Terriers are now a white-hot 12-3-2 in their last 17 league games, with two of those losses coming against No. 3 New Hampshire, the regular season champion, on Jan. 25-26.
Coming from where we were two months ago in the abyss of Hockey East, and now to have a chance at home ice and second place, its a really collective effort, MacArthur said. Weve worked our butts off all year to get to this point.
Providence (14-14-5, 11-10-5 HE) no longer controls its own destiny in the fight for the final Hockey East home-ice position. The Friars slipped two points behind idle Boston College (10-8-7 HE) and will need the 10th-ranked Eagles to lose one of their two games in a home-and-home series with Northeastern this weekend to start the postseason at Schneider.
Thats assuming that the Friars can beat Boston University in Friday nights rematch at Agganis Arena, something that doesnt look very likely based on Providence s effort in the first half of the home-and-home series and its 5-2 loss to the Terriers back on Nov. 1. The six-goal defeat on Senior Night matched the Friars worst of the season, an identical 6-0 shutout against No. 2 Michigan at the Great Lakes Invitational on Dec. 28, and Providence could slide as low as sixth in the league standings by ending its season with back-to-back losses.
They just were more determined than we were, Providence coach Tim Army said. It was a good lesson on why teams like Boston University are so good at this time of year, because they continue to pound away at you.
Bennetts recent run of form might just be the most encouraging sign for Boston University s upcoming postseason run. The sophomore goaltender had posted a 1.75 goals against average and a .916 save percentage in his last eight games coming into Thursday, and he didnt do anything against Providence to hurt those numbers. The Minutemen roughed up Bennett for four goals on 14 shots on Saturday, but he was sharp when he had to be behind his teammates dominant performance.
We left him out to dry on Saturday night at [Massachusetts], Parker said. I didnt think we played well at all. He had some tough saves tonight.
Providence tested Bennett early, generating its best chances to get on the board inside the opening eight minutes. Bennett turned aside bids from the slot by Greg Collins and Pierce Norton and stuffed Ian OConnors two shots from the right post on the power play before Boston University settled in and began dictating the play.
Its always good to get tested early in the game, especially after the Senior Night ceremony, Bennett said. It takes a little while to get going.
MacArthur teamed with linemates Chris Higgins and Bryan Ewing to roll up nine points and terrorize Providences defense on virtually every shift. Higgins (concussion) was sidelined in Saturdays loss to the Minutemen but made his presence known 11:46 in when he set up MacArthur for a tap-in at the right post on the power play that made it 1-0.
Higgins and MacArthur combined again just over six minutes later for what proved to be the backbreaker. Higgins spotted MacArthur breaking out of the Terriers zone and zipped a cross-ice pass behind Providence defenseman Cody Wild, who got caught up in the play and allowed MacArthur to race in on a partial breakaway. MacArthurs initial shot was stopped but he deposited his own rebound past Providence goalie Tyler Sims to double Boston University s lead.
MacArthur needed just 4:22 of the second period to complete his second career hat trick, cleaning up Higgins rebound in front by roofing a shot under the crossbar and earning himself chants of Captain Pete from the vocal traveling members of the Terriers Dog Pound. MacArthurs previous hat trick was also the last by a Boston University player, that coming in a 6-5 win at Maine on Jan. 12, 2007, and he felt like he was on his way to what could have an even bigger evening.
I thought I was going to get six, MacArthur said. It was weird. I was just hanging out, Higgins made a move and (the puck) was right on my stick. I didnt have to do anything. It was nice.
Ryan Simpson replaced Sims to start the third period, the sophomores first action since a 4-2 loss against the Catamounts on Nov. 11, 2006 . He was helped from the ice after suffering a groin injury in the opening period of that game and has battled groin and ankle injuries since then that have kept him out of action. Simpson wasnt spared from Thursdays carnage, surrendering John McCarthys fourth of the season 9:02 into the third, and Army stressed that Sims, the programs all-time leader in games played by a goaltender, would remain Providence s No. 1 option going forward.
It was a good opportunity to get Ryan in, Army said. He hasnt played all year. We got him in for 20 minutes, got him to feel the puck and got him some playing time, nothing beyond that.