Providence took on the consensus No. 1 team in the country, the Boston College Eagles, and played them tough, even holding a 2-1 lead early in the first period. In the end, though, BC did what No. 1 teams typically do, namely overcome early deficits and put away teams they’re supposed to beat.
BC defeated Providence 4-2 on Friday in the Hockey East semifinals, ending the Friars’ season. The last three years, however, the Friars failed to qualify for the Hockey East playoffs at all. To have not only qualified but also advanced to the TD Garden equates to a huge step forward for the program.
“You have to take it as a learning experience,” said PC coach Nate Leaman after the loss. “There’s no doubt that we didn’t execute as well as we would have liked tonight.
“A lot of that was the environment. BC has been in this situation 10 or 11 times between Beanpots and Hockey East [tournament] games. I thought we showed a lot of maturity last weekend [defeating Massachusetts-Lowell in the quarterfinals], but tonight we probably showed immaturity.
“But the big thing going forward is we’ve put ourselves in this position. Now we have to get back to this position and have success with it.”
Leaman was hired during the offseason following eight years at Union that culminated in him winning the Spencer Penrose Award as the national coach of the year. Season after season, his Union teams made incremental improvements. To start that process off on the right foot at Providence, Leaman needed to bring in new talent but also get contributions from a senior class that had yet to participate in a single playoff game.
“The seniors led by example on and off the ice,” said Ross Mauermann, a freshman who became the team’s leading scorer. “Just seeing what they went through the last three years, not making the playoffs, and the excitement they had this year when we made it [was great].
“They’ve been dreaming of getting here for three years. We wanted to get them here and get the program back here.
“My hat’s off to the seniors. We played our hearts out but came up short.”
So while the loss to BC amounted to the end of the road for those seniors, they could recognize that getting this far was a major accomplishment and a potential steppingstone for even better things in future years.
“It’s a proud moment for the program,” said senior co-captain Danny New. “We’re the class that got it back on track [along] with a good team of younger guys, too. Obviously, our goal was to go further than tonight but I think for the program, the alums, and all the people at the school, we made a lot of people proud. We got ourselves back on track here.”
One road ends. Another begins.