BOSTON — Boston University rebounded from its disappointing fourth-place Beanpot finish with a 2-1 win over Providence that was equal parts dominating and lackluster.
The Terriers controlled play throughout the first period and much of the second while earning a 2-0 lead that could have been much more but let the Friars climb back into the game in the third.
An Ian O’Connor goal with 1:26 left in regulation put the Friars in the position of pulling goaltender Alex Beaudry for the equalizer but took a penalty 28 seconds later, handcuffing that chance.
Kieran Millan stopped 36-of-37 shots for the win. Beaudry stopped 32-of-34. BU freshmen Matt Nieto and Adam Clendening led the Terrier scoring.
BU (15-9-7 overall, 12-5-5 in Hockey East) is now 5-0-1 in its last six league games. (The Terriers’ loss to Boston College in the Beanpot semifinal is considered a nonconference contest.) They remain in fourth place in Hockey East, five points out of first and two points behind Merrimack for third place.
“I thought we played great the first half of the game and really looked sharp,” BU head coach Jack Parker said. “Then we just drifted away from what we were supposed to do. We took some stupid penalties in the end and gave them a chance to get back in the game, just like the last time [we played them.] If it wasn’t for Kieran Millan once again, we would have lost that game.
“[In the fast half] we not only had a territorial advantage shot-wise, it was a huge territorial advantage possession-wise. We had the puck almost the whole time. I was on the bench saying, ‘Guys, it’s a 1-0 game. It’s not 5-0. It looks like it’s 5-0, but it’s not.’”
The Terriers outshot Providence, 18-13, in the first period, a figure that doesn’t do justice to the dominance displayed, but were outshot 15-8 in the third. Undisciplined penalties and the resilient Friars both played a big part.
“It’s either selfish or stupid,” a disgusted Parker said. “Guys want to get their goal. ‘It’s 2-0, now I’ve got to get <i>my</i> goal.’
“Then we take the stupid penalties. [Wade] Megan and [Alex] Chiasson’s penalties were absolutely as dumb as it gets.”
Providence (7-15-7, 3-13-6) extended an unenviable winless streak in league games that now dates back to Nov. 5. The Friars, who had tied two of their last four contests, outshot BU in the end, 37-34, but failed to get the equalizer. As a result, they remain two points behind eighth place Vermont in the quest for a playoff berth. Vermont lost to New Hampshire, 6-1.
“We’ve just got to keep plugging and pushing,” PC head coach Tim Army said. “If we keep working and doing things right, at some point a bounce or something is going to happen. One of these games has got to break our way.
“We’re keeping an eye on the scores around the league and we’ve got five games to go. We’re just focused on being a good team tomorrow night.”
The Terriers dominated the first period to an extent belied by their mere 1-0 lead and 18-13 shot advantage. They established a decisive territorial advantage from the first drop of the puck.
That paid immediate dividends at 4:34 when Chiasson got half a step on his defender behind the net and fed Nieto, alone in the low slot. The freshman buried the opportunity for his seventh goal.
Their linemate, Corey Trivino, set up Chiasson soon after for another grade A chance but Beaudry made that stop. Megan then continued the pressure but hit the post.
The Terriers went on the power play at 9:22 but despite crisp puck movement couldn’t convert.
Providence’s best chance of the period came with four minutes left in the period when Matt Bergland couldn’t convert a rebound of his own shot in front.
Although the Friars closed the territorial gap in the second, BU took a 2-0 lead on the power play at 9:38. Clendening wristed a shot from the right point into the top of the net, glove side with Chiasson screening. Trevino assisted, extending his point streak to five games.
Providence came out strong in the third and generated quality chances early by Andy Balysky and then Chris Rooney on the doorstep but Millan remained up to the challenge, holding off the Friars until O’Connor’s late power-play goal.
The two teams complete their home-and-home series at Providence on Saturday.