PROVIDENCE, R.I. — While both teams could take solace from a hard-fought draw, Friday night’s 2-2 tie between No. 9 Providence and No. 20 Notre Dame at Schneider Arena highlighted the challenge each squad has faced lately: scoring has come at a premium.
“I thought it was playoff hockey, to be honest,” Providence coach Nate Leaman said. “I told that to the guys after the game.”
While the pace certainly felt like a playoff contest in the third period and overtime, the game took a while to rumble to life.
Both clubs entered the night averaging two or fewer goals in each of their last four games and continued to display trouble finishing close-range chances.
Credit for the tight game was also due to good goaltending, as Jon Gillies bounced back from a rough performance against Connecticut on Tuesday to deliver 26 saves in the draw. His performance, while much improved from Tuesday, received additional assistance from a Friar defense that racked up 29 blocks on 69 Notre Dame shot attempts.
Outshining Gillies was Irish goalie Steven Summerhays, who turned in an impressive 47 saves, despite a few hiccups with rebound control during the game.
Each coach seemed tepidly encouraged by the outcome.
“I thought we played a pretty good, gritty road game,” Notre Dame coach Jeff Jackson remarked. “I don’t think we did a good enough job of getting pucks to the net, but they [Providence] do a good job of blocking shots. They probably had a high number of blocked shots – we hesitate, then they’re in the shooting lane and we don’t get pucks through.”
“We were hungrier to get off the perimeter,” Leaman noted. “Against UConn, we stayed on the perimeter too much. We had the puck too much that game and ended up content with being on the perimeter and not getting second chances.”
Providence opened up the scoring in the final 90 seconds of the first period.
After a long spell in the offensive zone, Friars’ defenseman John Gilmour fluttered a rising shot to net that slipped through deflection attempts by both Trevor Mingoia and Mark Jankowski, distracting Summerhays enough for the puck to float by for Gilmour’s fifth goal of the season.
Four minutes into the second period, T.J. Tynan made matters worse, penalized for holding Anthony Florentino in Notre Dame’s first stint in the offensive zone.
But the Irish and Tynan made the best of the situation, first killing the penalty then responding in the best way possible.
At 6:04, Vince Hinostroza found a streaking Tynan out of the box in the neutral zone for a breakaway. Tynan made easy work of it, burying his eighth goal of the season to tie the score 1-1.
Despite the tying goal, the Friars continued to romp in the Notre Dame zone, piling up 33 shots on goal through two periods.
And yet, the Irish soldiered on, unfazed, thanks in large part to the performance from Summerhays, who clamped down after some early skittishness.
The teams traded goals again in the third period, this time just 70 seconds apart.
At 12:38, Sam Herr threw a wrist shot from the high slot through a screen in front to give the Irish a 2-1 lead, but the lead proved to be fleeting.
Just over a minute later, Steven Shamanski carved his way to the middle of the slot in the Irish zone, fired low on Summerhays, who spilled the rebound to a waiting Nick Saracino, who buried the puck five-hole to knot the score once again.
“[The Friars] create a lot of traffic around the net, that’s how they scored the tying goal,” Jackson lamented. “We’ve got to do a better job helping [Summerhays] out in those situations.”
“I was really proud of the way we responded,” Leaman said. “We could have easily felt sorry for ourselves. The bench was quiet for a moment there, but we bounced back.”
The tie stopped a four-game road losing streak for Notre Dame in Hockey East play, while Providence remained stuck on two wins in the new year, now 2-5-3 in 2014.