BOSTON — The puck came to Matt Nieto with a shade fewer than 3 seconds left in overtime. The gifted winger quickly fired on Providence goaltender Jon Gillies as the final moments of overtime disappeared. The puck did the same, sailing into Gillies’ pads just as the buzzer sound. Boston University 3, Providence 3. After the game, Nieto expressed frustration with his inability to steal an extra point for his team. In the end, BU coach Jack Parker was pleased with the result. PC skipper Nate Leaman, similarly, seemed happy with the point.
The Terriers found themselves down, 3-2, early in the third period. Shane Luke scored 39 seconds into the final regulation period to give PC the lead. Danny O’Regan tied the game at 13:21 of the third period on a controversial goal that officials initially waived off. BU winger Ryan Santana was in the crease, however, a replay determined a Providence defender prevented Santana from exiting the crease when the puck first left. O’Regan picked up the puck to Gillies’ left and wrapped it around the net and into the goal. Santana and the PC defender prevented Gillies from making the save, which initially warranted the call on the ice.
O’Regan finished the night with a goal and an assist on Nieto’s second period goal.
What I Saw
- BU’s problems with puck management continued on Saturday night. The Friars played like most teams have against the Terriers in the last few weeks. An aggressive, two-person forecheck led to BU turnovers and scoring chances for the Friars. This trend is alarming for BU coach Jack Parker, and, despite his best efforts, the problem hasn’t gone away. Not one BU defenseman is guiltless in this issue. Even Garrett Noonan, who missed the weekend due to suspension, has experienced his issues with giveaways in the second half. The Friars’ second goal came directly after a BU giveaway in its own zone. Matt O’Connor bailed his teammates out a few times, as he and Sean Maguire have done frequently. Still, this issue needs to become a thing of the past for BU to collect any hardware this season.
- The aggression of Providence’s forwards wasn’t exclusive to its forecheck. The Friars were relentless on puck carriers throughout the rink. Moreover, the BU turnovers didn’t only come in the BU defensive zone. PC halted even successful breakouts with strong play through the neutral zone and turned odd-man rushes back their way with strong back-checking. PC coach Nate Leaman prides his team on bottling more aggressive play for the times it can pay off. With the Terriers’ ongoing issues with puck management, Saturday was the perfect time.
- Officials made the right decision on O’Regan’s goal after reviewing the call. There is no doubt that Santana prevented Gillies from making a save. However, initially entered the crease legal to chase a loose puck that eventually left the crease. He attempted to leave, but a Providence defender seemed unaware that the puck left the crease, so he continued to battle with Santana. When O’Regan tucked the puck into the goal, Santana was still impeded by the defender, which, under the rules, is a good goal. (Nate Leaman’s thoughts later.)
What I Thought
- Two players who stood especially were Providence freshman Paul de Jersey and BU freshman Matt Lane. They have served different roles for their clubs this season, but both Leaman and Parker are happy with the play of their rookies. Lane has featured mostly in a bottom six capacity for BU, while de Jersey has seen more important minutes for the Friars. Lane’s aggressive play led directly to the first BU goal, when his shot off a rush led to a rebound Ben Rosen easily deflected home. de Jersey didn’t pick up a point in the game, but his imprint was all over the game. With the best part of the college hockey season just under way, it’s hard to look forward to the future. Lane and de Jersey will be a big part of it, though.
- Both freshman goaltenders looked sharp in the game and helped their team overcome stretches of poor defensive play. Gillies ended the game with 28 saves to O’Connor’s 26, and his last one was his most important. Nieto, one of Hockey East’s best snipers, doesn’t usually miss from point blank range. The 6-foot-5 Gillies played the shot perfectly, moving out to the top of his crease and giving Nieto even less to shoot at. On the end, O’Connor made a series of key saves as well. Both players are serious contenders for Hockey East’s Fresh of the Year award, but they landed in the league through two very different routes. Gillies, the highly regarded prospect and draft of the Calgary Flames, originally planned to attend Northeastern before decommiting and finding his place with Providence. O’Connor is typical late bloomer, entering college hockey as a 20-year-old. Despite different paths, both players have helped their teams contend in the league this season.
- The Terriers need to make a change and fast in terms of their breakouts. The puck and skating skills of the group got them through the earlier portion of the schedule. However, Hockey East has adjusted and the turnovers just keep piling up for BU. Saturday night was more of the same as turnovers from defensemen on bad passes and forwards skating themselves into corners led to chance after chance for Providence. Most notably, a second period giveaway from freshman Sam Kurker led directly to a Steven McParland goal that put Providence up 2-1 at the time.
What They Said
“I looked at (O’Regan’s goal) afterwards. What I’m frustrated with is that we scored a goal in the first period, and (officials) wouldn’t review it. That’s what I’m upset about. I watched it on tape. I think (O’Regan’s) goal was the right call. I think it was a good call. I watched the first one between periods, and I don’t understand why they didn’t (review it). We have video replay for a reason.” — Providence coach Nate Leaman
So, Leaman agrees with the decision officials made regarding BU’s game-tying goal. However, he certainly has a point with the issue he raised. In the first period, the Friars poked one past O’Connor. The ruling on the ice was that the whistle blew prior to the puck crossing the line. This seemed like the correct assessment. Regardless, it was close enough to warrant a second look. At times this season, coaches have expressed similar frustration regarding officials’ decisions not to review certain calls, but then looking at others. There’s no telling if the first decision would’ve swung the game or even led to a good goal in Providence’s favor. Instant replay is there, though, and it seems dumb not to utilize it.
What They Didn’t Say
Leaman didn’t speak much on the impact of this weekend on his team’s current position within Hockey East. The Friars entered the weekend level with BU for third place in Hockey East, as they seek a home ice spot. Now, after dropping three of four points, PC is in fourth place, just one point clear of Massachusetts-Lowell and Merrimack.
What Else You Should Know
- Providence heads to Maine on Friday night for the final game of the season between the clubs. PC swept Maine in Providence in October.
- Boston University travels to Amherst for its third and final regular-season meeting with Massachusetts. The Terriers swept the Minutemen in a weekend, home-and-home pair earlier this year.
- Most Hockey East teams play just one game next weekend with BU, Boston College and Northeastern set to play in the Beanpot’s first round on Feb. 4 at the TD Garden.
- This weekend’s win and tie put BU 11th in the Pairwise. Providence is currently 28th.