Providence, R.I. – Providence trailed Minnesota-Duluth 1-0 after two periods and 2-1 late in the third Saturday night, but battled back to force a 2-2 tie with the defending national champs. Redshirt freshman Damian Cross scored the Friars’ first goal (his first collegiate goal) and senior Matt Bergland forced overtime when he scored with 2:21 left in regulation. Senior netminder Alex Beaudry stopped 32 of the 34 shots he faced one night after giving up five goals in a 5-2 loss to the Bulldogs.
What I saw
-The Friars played much better in the third period than they did on Friday. They trailed by a goal entering the third in both games, but on Friday, they allowed a Minnesota-Duluth goal just 57 seconds in and it was all downhill from there. The Bulldogs scored again later in the period and wound up outshooting Providence 13-5 in the frame. The Friars turned the tables on Saturday, though. They found the back of the net twice, outshot UMD 12-7 and won the majority of the 1-on-1 battles. Showing that resiliency against a talented team like Minnesota-Duluth is obviously a promising sign for the young Friars.
-Alex Beaudry showed just how good of a goalie he can be on any given night. He almost single-handedly kept the game scoreless in the first, as the Bulldogs controlled play for the vast majority of the period and registered seven shots on goal from below the faceoff dots. He made several more key saves in the second and third, and he couldn’t have done a whole lot on either UMD goal. As has been the case throughout Beaudry’s college career, though, the question remains of whether or not he can be that kind of goalie every night. He wasn’t that kind of goalie on Friday night.
What I thought
-The Friars have some talented freshmen to build around. The all-freshman line of Cross, Ross Mauermann and Stefan Demopoulos was their best line Saturday night and has been their best line this season. In four games, they’ve combined for three goals, nine assists and a plus-6 rating. On the blue line, Barrett Kaib looks like a solid all-around defenseman who moves the puck and doesn’t make many mistakes in his own end. He leads the team with a plus-4 rating to go along with three assists. The Friars might still be a year away from making any real noise, but they’re certainly on the right path.
-Providence’s defense got out-muscled and outworked in the first period of Saturday’s game. They repeatedly lost battles for the puck and failed to clear the zone or set up any sort of breakout. That led to the numerous quality chances for Minnesota-Duluth mentioned above. The Friars’ defensive play improved as the game went on, but they certainly still have plenty of work to do. They can’t always rely on Beaudry to bail them out like he did Saturday.
What they said
“Just everyone’s attitude. Everyone wants to be here. Everyone is hungrier. It was a good change. Everyone’s reacting to it the way they should, and everything’s going well.” -Assistant captain Tim Schaller on the biggest change under new coach Nate Leaman
A 2-1-1 start that includes a win over Boston University and a tie against Minnesota-Duluth is certainly a good start for Leaman at Providence. Of course, it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that last year’s Spencer Penrose Award winner has raised the Friars’ level of commitment. He exceeded expectations at Union by taking the Dutchmen to the NCAA tournament last year, and now he hopes to bring Providence back to those heights.
What they didn’t say
In this story on Damian Cross, I detailed his return from a season-ending knee injury last year. Although Cross talked about playing another four games after suffering the injury and talked about his recovery, he wouldn’t say exactly what the injury was, which seemed a little odd. Usually players and coaches have no problem disclosing details of an injury after-the-fact. That Cross continued to play after injuring the knee could mean there was some sort of misdiagnosis, but Cross wasn’t going to share any such information.