CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. — Boston College certainly has good timing.
After struggling to score goals — the Eagles potted just 11 in their last eight games — BC picked the perfect time to regain their offensive stride Friday night as juniors Nathan Gerbe and Benn Ferriero buried two goals apiece coupled with a 32 save by rookie John Muse to earn a 5-1 victory over Providence in the opening game of the best-of-three quarterfinal series.
The two teams will square off in game two Saturday night at 7 p.m.
A slow start plagued the Friars, who allowed two goals in the first 78 seconds, digging themselves an almost insurmountable hole.
Not a good start, said Providence head coach Tim Army. Youre not going to win many playoff games like that.
Pat Gannon got the Eagles on the board at the one minute mark of the first, banging home the rebound of Joe Whitneys shot from the left wing half boards. Off the ensuing faceoff, BC gained possession in its own zone and Anthony Aiello fired a 75-foot outlet pass to a streaking Ferriero who fired a low shot through Sims legs at 1:18.
You could feel the playoff-type atmosphere in our locker room, said BC head coach Jerry York of his teams quick start. Our ability to score two early goals kind of set the tone for the game.
The early tallies led Army to call his timeout at the 1:18 mark. He said after the game he actually consider pulling starting goaltender Tyler Sims (13 saves), but instead decided to hold off.
The timeout certainly settled the Friars and Sims down, but penalties then began to plague the club. Three straight minors gave the BC an extended power play. Providence was able to kill the penalties but being shorthanded prevented the Friars from generating much needed offense.
Early in the second, Ferriero extended the lead, blasting a shot from the right point that beat Sims cleanly. At that point, Army had seen enough of Sims and replaced him with sophomore Ryan Simpson. It was the third straight game Sims has been pulled.
I didnt think [Sims] looked sharp, said Army, who admitted that he questions his decision not to pull the senior netminder earlier. [The third goal] was kind of a direct shot, there was no traffic in front of him.
We wanted to get Ryan [Simpson] in there and see if we could get some stops.
Providence had its best chance to draw closer when Ferriero was whistled for a five-minute major for an elbow to the head of Providences Nick Mazzolini. But the Friars took back-to-back penalties yet again, putting the Eagles on the power play where Gerbe cashed in for his 25th goal of the year at 12:04.
A Matt Taormina goal with 1:43 remaining in the second got the Friars on the board, but BC entered the third with the comfortable three-goal lead.
Gerbe added his second goal of the game at 13:47, this one on a breakaway, to reach the fifty-point plateau for the first time in his career at BC and account for the 5-1 final. More importantly it returned Gerbe to his goal-scoring self, after struggling – like his team has – to put pucks in the net of late.
When youve got your best players scoring goal like they this, were a pretty dominant team, said York. But were mature enough to know this isnt over yet.
While the Eagles can simply return Saturday night with a similar game plan looking to close out the series, Providence must go back to the drawing board. That starts with goaltending as Army will be forced to choose between a struggling senior in Sims or a somewhat inexperienced Simpson. Its a decision that Army was not prepared to make on Friday evening.
I dont know what Im going to do, said Army. Ill take the night and sleep on it.
[The players are] in good spirits. Youve got to win two. No one wins the series tonight; you have to come back tomorrow night. We have to bottle up what we did well for 15 minutes tonight and have that effort right off the start from the opening faceoff.