CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. — If anyone worried that the No. 14 Boston College Eagles might be looking past a last place Providence team in anticipation of Mondays Beanpot matchup with cross-town rival Harvard, nerves were calmed early.
The Eagles used an explosive, five goal opening period and dominated the Friars territorially to skate to a 5-2 victory in front of 5,832 at BCs Kelley Rink.
Our captains did a great job of keeping us focused, said junior forward Joe Whitney, who scored a goal and two assists for his third multiple-point game in the last five outings. We know the Beanpot is coming up but we just had to focus on tonight and not look too far forward.
Whitneys line led the charge on Friday and continued their torrid scoring pace. Linemates Cam Atkinson added two goals and Brian Gibbons added two assists. That line, since being put five games ago has registered 25 points (10 goals, 15 assists) for the Eagles.
They really are a dynamic line, said BC head coach Jerry York. Even in the two losses to BU and to Lowell [last weekend] they werent at the top of their game but they still were factors. Theyve had five games together and well expect them to be even better as the year goes on.
The slow start for the Friars made have been a bit of a dj vu. The last time Providence came to Kelley Rink, BC welcomed the team by outshooting them, 22-1, in the opening period. That night the score was 2-0 though one in what turned out to be a 4-1 BC victory.
On Friday, BC was a bit more generous in the opening frame, allowing Providence seven shot and a David Cavanaugh goal just 1:23 into the game.
That goal, though, was simply an equalizer to Barry Almeidas fluke tally of a PC defenderss skate at 1:02, and the Eagles scored four more times before the end of the period to open a lopsided 5-1 edge through twenty minutes.
Joe Whitney gave BC the lead at 5:36 wristing home a nifty cross-seam pass from Brian Gibbons.
Whitneys younger brother, Steven, then set up a goal on a shot that hit Atkinsons shin and deflected in at 11:53 and then fired a second shot that nearly went through the net it was so powerful at 15:16.
Atkinson finished the offensive outburst for BC at 17:47, finishing off an end to end rush. It capped off BCs first five-goal period since November 15, 2008 when the Eagles defeated New Hampshire, 8-6.
Providence started the second period by changing goaltenders, putting sophomore Justin Gates in front of the BC firing squad. Gates, though, aptly stood tall, stopping all 14 shots. Unfortunately, at the other end of the ice, his Friars generated little to nothing in the way of offense and BC carried the four-goal lead to the third.
Asked if Gates performance on Friday will change Providence coach Tim Armys view on which of his two goaltenders is number one, the Friars bench boss said no.
Alex [Beaudry] will start tomorrow night, said Army. We didnt do a lot to help him. It was a good chance to get him out. Hes played a lot of minutes lately. But Alex will go tomorrow night against UMass.
In the third, Providences Rob Maloney scored the periods only goal with 4:10 remaining but at that point is was far too little, too late.
The victory is well-timed for the Eagles (13-8-2 overall, 10-6-2 in Hockey East) as it comes on the same night that first-place New Hampshire and Massachusetts, which began the night tied for second with BC, both lost. BC climbs within three points of the Wildcats and opens a two point lead over the Minutemen.
I think we are playing well, said York, whose club is 3-2-0 in its last five games including a pair of losses last weekend where York felt his team played very well. We dont try to make excuses for losses. But I thought we played well in those losses last week.
I think our team is ready to go after a Beanpot. Its important to us.
For the Friars, things become more dire with the loss. Beginning the night, Providence (9-14-1, 4-12-1) was four points out of the final playoff spot. But with both eighth place Northeastern and ninth place Merrimack both winning, Providence is six points from the eighth and final playoff spot with just 10 league games remaining.
We have to think about the playoffs, said Army. If you give up on that, youve given up on everything. There are a lot of points left to play for. If anything, the games become more important to us.