CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. — Providence scored four goals in fewer than four minutes to start the third period, rolling to a 5-1 win over Boston College at Conte Forum on Saturday. Noel Acciari’s first-period strike gave PC a 1-0 lead that held up until the third period, when the Friars erupted.
Nick Saracino started the scoring in the third at 1 minute, 42 seconds of the period. Tom Parisi and Chris Rooney quickly added two more before Acciari capped the scoring for the Friars.
Providence goaltender Jon Gillies made 20 saves before Quinn Smith ended his shutout with 1:20 left in regulation.
The win lifts PC back into first place, tied with BC and Massachusetts-Lowell. In terms of the Pairwise, BC falls all the way to No. 9 with the loss after starting the day at No. 4, with the rest of Saturday’s games still to be played.
What I Saw
- Whether the cause was the commercials or frequent stops, there was very little flow on Saturday afternoon. This played into the Friars’ hands to an extent. BC doesn’t need rhythm or lengthy possessions to create offense, but it doesn’t hurt when they get it. Keeping BC from establishing much below the circles, though, can take away a part of their game. The Friars also kept the Eagles shifty forwards from generating much off the rush. It wasn’t a perfect game for PC, but it’s about as well as a club can expect a road game to go.
- Mike Matheson still hasn’t adjusted to college hockey in terms of playing physically without taking penalties. There really isn’t much about the defenseman’s game that could be called a weakness. His physical presence is generally a positive. As he matures, he’ll only become more effective in using his body to punish opponents. But he needs to find the line between being strong and shorthanding his team. He took three minor penalties on Saturday, and his 47 penalty minutes are the most on the Eagles. This isn’t an especially large total. However, he has taken two game misconducts for questionable hits. Matheson is one of the league’s best defensemen despite not even finishing his first season in college hockey. He’ll improve in every regard by next season. Adding some discipline would be a good start.
- Jon Gillies managed the few mistakes his club made with ease. He also prevented BC from adding anything following some breaks that went the Eagles’ way. In his first year with the Friars, Gillies has established himself as one of the best goaltenders in Hockey East. BC didn’t test Gillies too heavily. He made the saves he had to, though, just as he has all season.
What I Thought
- Steven Whitney left the game midway through the first period, and BC couldn’t get much going from that point forward. Most conversations about the Eagles’ vaunted offense begin with Johnny Gaudreau. Whitney just may be the most important player on this BC team. His 21 goals and 16 assists are good enough for second on the team and points. Beyond his scoring, he creates chances with a wrist shot that requires about an inch of space to become a goal. He runs the point on the Eagles’ top power play united, and he even plays defense on the penalty kill. Whitney does everything for BC. On Saturday, they could’ve used some of it.
- Even with Whitney in the lineup, BC still doesn’t have the depth it’s featured in the past. Kevin Hayes is out for the season, and Destry Straight hasn’t provided the offense most expected him to in his second season in Chestnut Hill. Injuries play a role in this. But even with a completely healthy roster, the Eagles aren’t quite as deep as they were a season ago. Last year, BC had three dominant scoring lines. This year’s freshman class hasn’t replaced much of the scoring it lost from the graduation of Paul Carey and Barry Almeida and Chris Kreider’s decision to turn pro. The Eagles can still score, but they just don’t have the level of fire power they did a season ago.
- Opportunistic offense led the way for Providence, and the Friars can ride that formula to a Hockey East championship. They play good defense in front of Gillies, and they frustrated BC all day. The run of four goals in 3:52 came because the Friars’ took advantage of the mistakes borne from the frustration they created for BC. Bad turnovers, poor coverage on the weak side of the ice: these are things BC just doesn’t usually exhibit. They did on Saturday, and the Friars were more than happy to take advantage.
What They Said
“I’m proud of all of our freshmen. We dressed 10 freshmen tonight, and we have been for most of the semester. There are a lot of growing pains when you’re playing 10 freshmen. We saw a lot of that (Friday) night. We saw a lot of immaturity. I thought we were a little overly emotional. I thought we got run around.” — Providence coach Nate Leaman
Some inexperience is inevitable on a college hockey team, but the Friars rely on freshmen in certain roles coaches would opt for some experience. Aside from Gillies, PC’s rookies are in on the power play and penalty kill, as well as even strength situations that often dictate the outcome of a game. Leaman knew this coming into the season and some injuries problems have compounded those issues even further.
What They Didn’t Say
BC coach Jerry York didn’t discuss his penalty kill in too much detail. However, the Eagles haven’t been quite as effective a man down as they usually are. Saturday, Providence was 2 for 7 on the man advantage. On the year, BC is just over 84 percent, which is still a very good rate for any team at any level of hockey. It’s strange, if for no other reason, than BC is usually at a different level than most other teams in terms of killing penalties. Their current percentage would be the worst in the last five seasons. Again, BC’s penalty kill is still better than most, but, like so many other aspects of this BC team, it just doesn’t look as good as it usually is.
What Else You Should Know
- BC ends the regular season next weekend with a pair of games in Burlington, Vt., against Vermont.
- Providence ends its regular season with a home-and-home series against Massachusetts-Lowell, which begins next Friday in Lowell.
- BC senior defenseman Patrick Wey missed the game with a lower-body injury. He is day-to-day. Whitney is also day-to-day after leaving the game in the first period. Patch Alber is expected to begin skating soon and could be back for the playoffs.
- Leaman said that both Myles Harvey and Shane Luke are questionable for next weekend’s series with Lowell.