CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. — Facing a three-game losing streak entering Tuesday night’s game against the Providence Friars, Boston College knew the best solution to its problem would be a quick start.
Getting just that, the Eagles dominated the Friars in the opening frame and withstood a near comeback, skating to a 4-1 victory in front of 3,162 at BC’s Kelley Rink.
BC took advantage of a Friars team that hadn’t played in a month. That layoff showed early, as BC held a 22-1 advantage in shots in the opening period.
“We really got the jump on them,” said BC coach Jerry York. “They were lacking game shape. That early start for us was the key to the game.”
Providence coach Tim Army refused to use the 31-day layoff as an excuse for his team’s slow start.
“We haven’t played in a while,” said Army. “But that doesn’t excuse things like not getting pucks out.”
Army felt his team didn’t win a single battle in the opening period. The Friars were sour from the start, icing the puck immediately after winning the opening faceoff. After withstanding three shots on the ensuing draw, Providence broke out on a two-on-one, but poor passing and receiving kept the Friars from mustering a shot.
The road from there only got longer.
Besides being on the wrong end of the lopsided shot advantage, BC scored two goals before the Friars had their only shot and, if it wasn’t for some incredible stops by Alex Beaudry, who finished the frame with 20 saves and made 41 total in the game, the score could’ve easily been much worse.
“[BC] was just that much better,” said Army. “If it wasn’t for Alex [Beaudry], it would’ve been 15 [goals allowed].”
Instead, the Eagles held a 2-0 lead, thanks to two picture perfect passing plays by the Brian Gibbons-Joe Whitney-Cam Atkinson line.
At the one minute mark, a broken play turned into a BC goal when Whitney gathered a loose puck and made a beautiful no-look pass over to an unmarked Atkinson for a 1-0 lead.
“At first, I was going to take a shot,” said Whitney of the play. “I saw [Atkinson] out of the corner of my eye. I didn’t think the goalie saw me, but I slid the puck over and he did a great job of burying that one.”
The goal was Atkinson’s team-leading 11th of the season.
BC doubled the advantage at 9:11. This time Atkinson gave the puck to Whitney on the left wing, who found a wide open Gibbons at the right post for the 2-0 lead.
Providence’s only shot didn’t come until 13:47, and that was a simple floater from the left half boards that BC goaltender Parker Milner (16 saves) easily turned aside.
In the second, the Eagles again came out like a house of fire, forcing Beaudry to stand strong. As so often happens, the lopsided game swung in the opposite direction, allowing the Friars to claw back.
On its first sustained pressure, Providence got a flurry of shots to the net, one of which came from Matt Bergland’s stick and trickled past Milner. The puck had just enough momentum to cross the goal line before the BC defenders could clear it, pulling the Friars within a goal at 2-1 at the 4:03 mark.
From then on, the ice finally was balanced, and the Friars and Eagles both had ample opportunities to score. Providence had its chances to tie the game, namely two power-play opportunities. The inability to do so, though, further frustrated Army.
“We get to 2-1 and had some opportunities to tie it on the power play,” said Army. “And we didn’t compete. We didn’t do the work on the power play.”
In the third, Boston College returned to its dominance of the opening frame, outshooting the Friars, 13-5, scoring twice while holding Providence scoreless. Whitney snapped home a rebound of a blocked shot at 2:40 for the two-goal cushion and Matt Lombardi scored his first goal of the season on a third rebound at 7:36 to account for the 4-1 final.
The win snaps a three-game losing streak for the Eagles (11-6-2, 8-4-2 Hockey East), who will host Maine on Friday.
The loss extended the Friars’ (7-10-1, 2-8-1 Hockey East) losing streak to six games. Providence hasn’t won a game since upsetting Massachusetts-Lowell, 4-2, on November 24, a span of 43 days, and now will host the defending national champions, Boston University, on Friday.
For Army, he’s hoping his team can rebound and return to the form in which they began the year, going 6-3-0 to start.
“I just want us to play well,” said Army. “If we play well, we’ve got a chance to get things going and win some games. I was upset with [the team] tonight but that’s behind us now.”