PROVIDENCE — It was a sweet return to the win column for Providence College on Friday night. After a two-game scoring drought, every scoring chance on Friday night was seen as an opportunity to vanquish the demons of the last two weeks. The Friars did just that, taking advantage of a dazed Northeastern team that fell flat early in the second period, leading to a dominating 6-2 rout at Schneider Arena.
Perhaps the biggest beneficiary of the offensive onslaught was junior Derek Army, who scored his first career hat trick in the process.
“Tonight, our guys made great plays,” Army said with a wide smile on his face, “We went two games without scoring goals, so it was nice tonight to see the back of the net and get a bit of confidence back. Hopefully we can run with that.”
Even with Army’s career night, Providence coach Nate Leaman noted that his freshman goalie Jon Gillies (22 saves) continued to impress, even on a night where he wasn’t tested all that often.
“We got some puck luck tonight; Jon GIllies was the difference in the game,” Leaman said, “I thought the chances were probably pretty close to being even, we finished on ours, and I thought Jon played really well.”
Two finished chances, in particular, came in the first 2:51 of the second period, when Providence scored back-to back-goals within about a minute to put the Friars in control.
The first of those two goals came from Chris Rooney at 1:41, who took advantage of two Northeastern miscues on the play. The puck was given away in the corner, with other Huskies skaters looking up ice anticipating a clearing pass, allowing Rooney to walk toward the goal and shoot. While the first shot was saved by Chris Rawlings, the rebound was sprayed right back to Rooney, who knocked it past to put the Friars up 2-0.
Just over a minute later, Army started his hat trick bid. Army carved through a flat-footed Northeastern defense after gaining the blue line and backhanded a shot to Rawlings’ blocker side, sneaking it into the back of the net to give the Friars a 3-0 lead.
Despite having more than 37 minutes remaining in the game, it was undoubtedly the turning point. Northeastern coach Jim Madigan called his timeout, pulled Rawlings (13 saves) and replaced him with Clay Witt, seeing his first ice time of the year after sitting out the first month with an injury.
Asked about the early second period goals after the game, Madigan stated bluntly, “Plain and simple, they can’t go in. Three of the first four goals, we should have stopped or prevented,” adding that there was plenty of blame to go around “whether it be by the goaltenders or lapses of play from the defensemen or forwards.”
The rout was just fine for Army, who completed the hat trick in the third period with back-to-back strikes. At 4:44, John Gilmour shot toward the left side of the net, but as it was going wide, Army was wide open on the back door to deflect it home. Less than four minutes later, Ross Mauermann fought for the puck behind the net, and jabbed it out in front where Army was waiting to punch it in.
“We needed upperclassmen to be really good for us,” Leaman said, praising the efforts of both Tim Schaller (one goal, one assist) and Army. “Derek is effective when he’s around the net. He scores goals around the net, and I think that’s where he needs to be. It’s good to see him get back to that area.”
While both of Northeastern’s goals came when the game was well out of hand, it broke up Gillies’ shutout bid. The freshman racked up 22 saves on 24 shots, but was visibly disappointed with the late power-play tallies for Cody Ferriero and Vinny Saponari, both of which were preventable.
In the end, the lopsided score helped restore confidence for the Friars, who return to nonconference play on Tuesday versus Quinnipiac, while it sent the Huskies scrambling back to the drawing board before another road game at Vermont on Sunday.