The Providence Friars faced somewhat of a litmus test on Friday night when they traveled to Boston College to face the third ranked Eagles. Providence exceeded expectations of many in the first half of the season, posting a 7-6-5 mark despite being picked dead last in preseason polls.
Unfortunately for the Friars, Friday proved this team might not yet be ready for primetime as the Eagles used balanced scoring and strong goaltending from John Muse to skate to an easy, 4-1 victory in front of 7,884 at Kelley Rink. The two clubs will face off in the back end of the home-and-home series Saturday at Schneider Arena.
Each of BC’s four lines recorded a goal in the game and 10 of the 18 BC skaters recorded points. At the same time, goaltender John Muse continued his strong play, stopping 33 of the 34 shots he faced, including a highlight reel stop on Matt Germain early in the game.
“We’ve got a lot of good players. We don’t have to just depend on Gibby’s (Brian Gibbons) line,” said BC head coach Jerry York. “I didn’t realize that [all four lines scored]. That’s pretty good.”
The Eagles returned three players from the recent IIHF Under-20 World Championship, needed additions with Patch Alber out of the line up with a broken jaw. Chris Kreider, Patrick Wey and Brian Domoulin were feted before the game for their role in Team USA’s bronze medal performance in the tournament.
Two of the three were factors on the scoresheet with Kreider netting BC’s third goal of the game, a crucial tally after the Friars had pulled within a goal, and Dumoulin adding two assists.
“I thought the addition of the three players from the World Juniors really gave us a good jump to our game,” said York. “They were instrumental in securing the victory tonight.”
“It kind of felt fresh [being back with BC],” said Kreider. “Even though we played a couple of days ago [with Team USA], it’s always good to get back to the team and get back with the guys you feel comfortable around.”
Boston College started fast, outshooting the Friars, 19-8, in the opening 20 minutes and, in doing so, took a 2-0 lead.
Bill Arnold poked home a rebound of a Barry Almeida shot that had gone wide and bounced off the kick plate past Providence goaltender Alex Beaudry (32 saves in 40 minutes). And Cam Atkinson notched his team-best 16th goal of the season firing home the rebound of his own blocked shot with 1:28 remaining.
“I was disappointed with the way we played in the first period,” said Providence head coach Tim Army. “I just thought we were standing around and that’s not a good team to stand around with.”
Sandwiched between the goals was possibly one of the saves of the year from Muse.
Providence’s Germain was sent in alone and the senior made a nifty shoulder fake to make Muse think he was going left. Instead, he pulled the puck right and using his backhanded lifted a shot that seemingly was headed top shelf until Muse snatched it with his glove.
Credit to Providence, it hung with the Eagles in the second. After killing an early penalty, junior Andy Balysky scored his third goal of the season, one-timing a feed from Tim Schaller high blocker side on Muse to pull the Friars within a goal at 6:54.
The Friars continued to apply pressure but couldn’t draw even and at 13:18 the Eagles reopened the two-goal lead. Kreider tapped a Tommy Cross shot-pass into the open net at 13:18 for the 3-1 lead.
BC expended that cushion in the final minute of the second when Paul Carey netted his ninth goal of the season, lifting a rebound over Beaudry with 25.1 seconds remaining in the frame. That spelled the end of the night for Beaudry, who was replaced by Justin Gates (six saves) to start the third.
Providence got into penalty trouble in the final frame and, despite BC’s inability to capitalize with the man advantage, the Friars couldn’t muster a comeback.
The loss drops Providence to .500 overall (7-7-5 overall, 3-5-4 in Hockey East), just a point ahead of Northeastern, a 5-3 winner at Massachusetts on Friday, for sixth place in Hockey East. They’ll try to regroup before Saturday night’s rematch with BC.
“I said to the team that I liked the last 40 minutes,” said Army. “If we do that and lose the game, we lose the game. They’re a really good team. [BC] earned it, don’t get me wrong. I just thought we could’ve competed harder [in the first period].”
Boston College improves to 14-5-0 overall (10-4-0 in Hockey East) and remained tied atop the standings with New Hampshire, a 5-2 winner of Massachusetts-Lowell on Friday. The Wildcats have two games in hand on the Eagles.
“It was good to secure two points in Hockey East,” said York. “We’ve been out of league for a while here so the two points to start the weekend are a real good feeling for our locker room.”