BOSTON, Mass. — This weekend Boston University literally zeroed in on second place in Hockey East.
One night after a 6-0 whitewash over Providence by BU sophomore Brett Bennett, Terrier senior Karson Gillespie made 33 saves in his first game since an early January ankle injury to lead BU to a 2-0 win in front of 5,532 on Senior Night at Agganis Arena. It was BUs fourth shutout in their last seven games.
Freshmen Joe Pereira and Nick Bonino scored the goals for the Terrriers, who clinched the second seed in the Hockey East quarterfinals with the victory. Friar sophomore Ryan Simpson stopped all seven shots that he faced after senior Tyler Sims was pulled for the second night in a row.
That was a turnaround from last nights game, thats for sure, Terrier coach Jack Parker said. I dont think we played anywhere near the way I like to see us play. Youve got to give Providence a lot of credit: It seemed like once they changed their goalie, their energy picked up. The number one rule for our team is dont beat yourself, and we took way too many stupid penalties.
I thought tonight that Gillespie was very, very good; he made some really good stops, Providence coach Tim Army said. It was really a tight game. We settled down and had two real good periods the last two periods. He made some really good stops. We just couldnt find the back of the net.
Jason Lawrence almost gave the Terriers a 1-0 lead at the one minute mark, nearly tucking in a backhander on the stick side of Friar goalie Tyler Sims. A minute later, the Friars fourth line of Matt Germain, Chris Eppich, and Jordan Kremyr took it to BU pretty well with extended puck possession in the Terrier end.
Gillespie faced his first test since returning from injury at 4:20, when Jon Rheault carried the puck up on the right wing with Kyle MacKinnon flanking him for a shorthanded two-on-one. Rheault passed, and Gillespie was equal to the test on MacKinnons subsequent 15-footer.
BU struck first at 6:28. From the left-wing faceoff circle, Lawrence flipped a backhanded pass to freshman Joe Pereira crashing the net. Pereira unleashed a slick backhander against the grain that beat Sims high on the glove side.
Terrier first line forwards Chris Higgins and Peter MacArthur had pretty good chances from tight quarters around halfway through the period. The Friars countered with strong possession on a power play at 14:41 with a decent chance or two. Nonetheless, the score remained 1-0 through the end of the period.
Providence actually outshot BU by a 13-8 margin in the second period, but the outcome on the scoreboard matched the first frame. On a power play early in the period, BU initially struggled just to keep possession in the attacking zone. Suddenly, though, Matt Gilroy fired a pass from the right point to Nick Bonino on the goal line. Bonino fought off a defender, stickhandled into the shot, and beat Sims short side with a 12-foot wrister.
Sims was then pulled for the second time in two nights after a great effort against BC last weekend.
Sophomore Ryan Simpson played well in relief, stoning Chris Higgins with a skate save after Bryan Ewing teed up a shot for him at 3:00. Terrier junior John McCarthy had another great chance on a rebound of Ryan Westons shot at 9:10, but Simpson stopped that one, too.
Though Sims has played the lions share of the minutes between the pipes, Army indicated that Simpson is under consideration to play in the Hockey East quarterfinals. Im going to play the goalie that I feel most comfortable with, yeah, Army said. Theres no guarantee that Simsy will be the goalie. I think hes played well this year overall; he was okay this weekend. Were going in to win the series and Ill play the guy who gives us the best chance to win the series. Ill determine that probably by Thursday. Anythings possible.
The Friars counterattacked with Rheault and Ian OConnor coming in on two-on-one a minute later, but Rheaults shot glanced off Gillespies glove. The Friars had good pressure on a power play later in the period but couldnt score.
Another Friar power play starting at 3:04 of the third led to all kinds of chances but still no goal. The best bid was a point blank shot by right winger Pierce Norton, but Gillespie split to make the great pad save at 4:50.
Gillespie topped himself a few minutes later, falling to the ice with a lunging glove save to stop Norton once again. And it really didnt seem to be Providences night when Joe Lavin somehow shot the puck over a half-empty net from just outside the crease at 13:50.
Still, it was an uninspiring third period by the Terriers, thanks to BU taking a cavalcade of well-deserved penalties. The shots ended up at a lopsided 15-1 for the period and 33-17 for the game in favor of the Friars.
Ninety-nine percent of the time when you see a team getting 61 attempted shots to 33 attempted shots, its BU doing that, Parker said. Providence certainly bombed us in that third period to make it quite a show I dont think that theres any question that the star of the game tonight was our senior goaltender. He played absolutely great.
Parker went on to acknowledge that Gillespie deserved another chance to play this year but also indicated that it wont be at Bennetts expense either.
Gillespie certainly wasnt counting on getting another opportunity after tonight. Bennys been playing so well that I kind of took it as I could be my last chance to play a game in a BU jersey, so I kind of went out there and let everything hang out, Gillespie said, who went on to praise trainer Larry Venis for helping him rehab after his injury.
BU (17-15-4; 15-9-3 Hockey East) will host either UMass-Lowell or Northeastern in the Hockey East Quarterfinals, starting on Friday. A Northeastern win or tie against BC on Saturday night — or a UMass-Lowell loss or tie at Maine — would mean that BU would play the River Hawks.
Providence (14-15-5; 11-11-5 Hockey East) is assured of being the No. 5 seed, as the Friars hold the tiebreaker over both Northeastern and BC. They will play at Northeastern next weekend if the Huskies beat BC again, but a BC win or tie will result in the Friars going to Chestnut Hill.