The Providence Friars began the 2002-03 campaign 7-0-0, the best start in the history of the program. When then-No. 1 Boston College came to town on November 12, the Friars had moved to 8-1-0, setting up a much-anticipated matchup.
That night, though, the Eagles routed the Friars at Schneider Arena, beginning a five-game winless skid for the Friars and providing a tailspin back to reality.
So when the two clubs rematched on Friday night, more than two months after that fateful night, the Friars had one mission: revenge.
Consider the mission accomplished.
Thanks to a balanced scoring that saw each of the Friars’ top three lines net goals, including a two-tally effort by senior Doug Wright, Providence ended BC’s four-game winning streak with a 4-1 win in front of a sold-out and disgruntled Conte Forum crowd of 7,884.
“We got embarrassed in our building, so we’re going to try to do the same to them,” said Wright, who entered the night with only one goal on the season but matched his output two-fold in one game. “The first time we played them, we were kind of in awe of [the Eagles].
“But we’ve come a long way since then and we’re playing more like a team. We’re almost unstoppable when we play like that.”
Maybe that’s why despite entering the game in seventh place and facing the first-place Eagles, the Friars never skipped a beat. From the drop of the puck Providence controlled the flow of the game, one in which both coaches agreed the score could have easily been much more lopsided.
“We could’ve been up three or four [goals] easy,” said Pooley about his team’s early jump that created numerous odd-man rushes. “We were getting frustrated because their goaltender kept making the saves.”
Boston College head coach Jerry York agreed.
“If it wasn’t for [goaltender] Matti [Kaltiainen’s] play, it would have been a much more lopsided score,” said York. “As it was, he kept us in it at 3-1 and we tried to get that goal to make it a one-goal game.”
Providence itself got a decent goaltending performance from rookie Bobby Goepfert (24 saves). For him, it was redemption for a mediocre performance last week.
“I wasn’t as sharp last Saturday against St. Cloud as I like to be,” said Goepfert, who led the United States to the semifinals of this year’s World Junior Championships earlier in the month. “I got another chance tonight and knew I had to be sharp against Boston College.
“I’ve been preparing for the last two days and feel fortunate to come out with a victory.”
The Friars, losers of three straight entering the night, came out with the obvious intent on ending their losing skid. Early odd-man rushes gave the Friars control of the play. And at 3:35, they made the most of their chances.
After Jon DiSalvatore broke past the BC defense and mustered a one-handed shot on Kaltiainen (17 saves), Wright was in the right place to clean up the rebound and give the Friars a 1-0 lead.
At 10:44, they extended that lead. Devin Rask’s shot deflected multiple times in front and beat a well-screened Kaltiainen far side inside the post for the quick 2-0 lead.
The Friars had ample chance to extend the lead, mustering a total of six odd-man rushes in the opening period. But, as so often is the case, the Friars’ lack of capitalization turned in BC’s favor.
The Friars made one of their few defensive mistakes late in the period, turning the puck over to J.D. Forrest inside the PC blue line. Forrest made the Friars pay for the mistake, firing a quick pass to Tony Voce that found the PC defenseman flat-footed, allowing Voce to fire the puck over the Goepfert’s left shoulder to pull the Eagles within a goal.
In the closing seconds, PC’s Jason Platt was whistled for hooking, allowing for an in-zone faceoff with 4.2 seconds remaining. After the draw was won to Forrest, he fired a pass to Ryan Shannon at the left post. Facing an open net, he pulled the shot wide of the net, ending the period with a 2-1 Providence lead.
In the second, the Friars looked to extend the lead when Nate Meyers found a loose puck at center ice after coming out of the penalty box. He broke in alone and tried to stuff the puck five-hole on Kaltiainen, but the sophomore goaltender quickly closed his pads to hold the deficit to one.
At 11:39, though, Kaltiainen wasn’t as lucky. He got caught moving the wrong way when Mike Lucci cut to the middle and simultaneously uncorked a low, hard wrist shot that beat the BC tender to his right for a 3-1 Friar lead.
The third period saw the Eagles unable to muster much offense, thanks in large part to four consecutive penalties that left BC killing man-advantages much of the time. A lone BC power play late in the game gave the Eagles a final opportunity, but DiSalvatore blocked a BC shot, Wright went in alone to score his second of the night into the empty net with 48 ticks left.
The win improves Providence’s record to 12-10-1 (6-7-1 Hockey East) and propels the club into sixth place over Merrimack, which played a nonleague game against Holy Cross on Friday.
The BC loss keeps the Eagles (14-6-3, 10-4-1 Hockey East) from moving into sole possession of first place with New Hampshire idle on the night — and in fact, combined with Maine’s 3-2 win over Massachusetts-Lowell, allows the Black Bears to catapult into first place for the first time all season.
The two teams will face off in the second game of the home-and-home in Providence on Saturday.