PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Behind Alex Beaudry’s first career shutout the Providence Friars shutout the Merrimack Warriors 2-0 on Friday night at Schneider Arena. Tim Schaller and Ian O’Connor both scored for host Providence in the win.
The matchup between the Hockey East teams went scoreless through most of the first two periods before Schaller picked up his second goal of the season for Providence. Meanwhile, Beaudry made 26 saves to pick up his third win of the season. O’Connor added the empty-net goal with four seconds left to seal the Friar victory.
“It was really tight,” said Providence head coach Tim Army. “I thought it could have gone both ways. After the goal that made it 1-0 I thought we got back on our heels a little bit, but we pushed back well in the third.”
Late in the second period, Chris Rooney helped generate the chance for Schaller on a Providence rush. Rooney avoided a hit along the dashers before finding Schaller who put the puck home at 14:37 to give the Friars the lead.
After the go-ahead goal, a boarding penalty to Providence’s Myles Harvey gave Merrimack another power-play chance. And as the Warriors turned up the pressure on the man advantage the Friars barely escaped the period with the lead.
With just a few ticks left in the second period Merrimack scored, what seemed to be, the tying goal with tenths of a second remaining. But after the on-ice officials called for a video review the decision was overturned, taking the goal from Merrimack and preserving the lead for the Friars.
The chances for Merrimack to tie continued into the third where they had a pair of power-play chances, including one with under four minutes remaining. The Warriors, however, managed only one shot and could not capitalize on these chances, going 0-for-5 in the game.
“That is such a misleading stat,” said Merrimack head coach Mark Dennehy. “You can be on the power-play for one second and it goes down as 0-for-1. I wish we could get some sabermetric guy in here to come up with a new stat.”
The Friars fared no better on the man advantage, also going scoreless on five tries but recording seven shots.
“I thought our power play was really good,” added Army. “We had some real good possession time but we couldn’t capitalize.”
Out of the gate, the Friars controlled play in the Merrimack zone and had a couple early chances, attributed to Providence’s aggressive forecheck and physical play in all three zones.
The Warriors responded with their own physical play and were able to skate with the Friars more as the game progressed.
“We want to be aggressive on our forecheck,” said Army on the Friars aggressiveness. “No matter who we play. We want to apply pressure and not give them as much time and space coming up ice.”
In the scoreless first period, both teams traded power-play chances. Merrimack went on the power play first with a tripping call mid-way through the period. The Friars were whistled for a second tripping penalty giving Merrimack a 5-on-3 power-play. Despite the extended special teams situation the Warriors only managed two shots on the two-man advantage.
“We turned pucks over like it was our job,” said Dennehy. “We were unwilling to do what we needed to do, which was to grind it out. This was not going to be a pretty hockey game. We didn’t play hard until the third, and didn’t match their intensity.”
Entering the game, Merrimack’s power-play was 18.5%, good for third in Hockey East, and the team was coming off a 4-2 upset win over, then, second-ranked Boston College on October 30 in North Andover.
The Warriors started Joe Cannata in goal, 2-1-2 starting all five games. Cannata entered the game with a 2.44 goals against average and .931 save percentage. Meanwhile, the team’s leading scorer Stephane Da Costa, eight points on the season, was held to only one shot.
The Friars were looking to stay perfect at home as they continued a three-game home stand that began last week with a 3-2 win over the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. O’Connor’s goal was his seventh point of the season and propelled him to the team lead.