Even in hockey, three of a kind beats a pair.

Although Friar forward Jon DiSalvatore potted two goals in a losing effort, Terrier junior Kenny Magowan notched his first career hat trick to help Boston University beat Providence, 5-4, in game one of the best-of-three Hockey East quarterfinals before 2,437 fans at Schneider Arena.

In one of the most exciting league games of the season, BU defenseman Bryan Miller scored the game-winner just over eight minutes into overtime, spoiling a 41-save effort by Friar goalie Nolan Schaefer.

“I had just got onto the ice,” Miller said. “Somehow the puck went up in the air, and John Laliberte caught it, drew two guys to him, and gave a little drop pass back to me. It just kind of opened up down the middle — some kid came diving out at me, and I just tried to get a shot on net, hoping for a rebound with a couple of guys down low. Fortunately the rebound came right back to me, and the goalie was out of the net, so I put it in the open net.”

Magowan was quick to point out that he was the beneficiary of his teammates peppering the net with shots all night.

“It feels great,” Magowan said of the hat trick. “My teammates were just doing a great job of throwing the puck on the net — I have to attribute it to them. They were putting them on net, and I was getting lucky.”

For Terrier coach Jack Parker, the game marked a stylistic improvement as well as a better outcome in comparison to the three previous meetings between the teams this year. “I thought that this was a much better game; both teams played extremely well,” Parker said. “They did exactly what they wanted to do, and we did exactly what we wanted to do as well. So I was real pleased.

“Obviously the penalty killing really hurt us tonight,” added Parker, referring to the fact that BU surrendered three man-advantage goals on just four opportunities. “We’ve got to solve that problem.

“In overtime, it’s just ‘flip a coin,'” concluded Parker. “Maybe it was just our turn tonight. Ironic it was 5-4, given that it was 5-4 them the last time [in overtime] down here.”

Friar coach Paul Pooley was philosophical in defeat, especially given that DiSalvatore came within a post of winning it in the last two minutes of regulation.

“Typical overtime game,” said Pooley. “Except they came out on top this time … Jonny had a chance at the end of the third [and] hit the post in a scramble situation.

“Nolan obviously kept us in the game and gave us an opportunity to win, and our power play was very good tonight. Transition was big tonight because it wasn’t a slow game — it was a very, very fast game.”

Indeed, the two teams wasted no time getting into the action. Just 22 seconds into the game, Friar defenseman Shawn Weiman hauled down David VanderGulik. BU had a few good chances on the power play.

The power play expired, but the Terriers’ momentum continued. At 2:56, it paid off when Magowan redirected Justin Maiser’s left-point slapshot past Schaefer. In an apparent retaliatory gesture, BU freshman Brad Zancanaro slashed a Friar during the goal celebration, and the Terriers paid dearly for the bad penalty. Stephen Wood set up Jon DiSalvatore for a high wrist shot and the tying goal at 4:03.

The teams traded chances until Magowan lit the lamp for the second time in the period. Zancanaro took a shot from the right point, and Magowan picked up the rebound in very tight quarters with Schaefer. Somehow he managed to knock the puck down and work it around the goalie and in to make it 2-1 at 12:35.

Once again, though, the Terriers took a penalty within a minute of the goal and suffered the consequences. Peter Fregoe got the puck alone low in the right faceoff circle and took a long look at the net before beating Sean Fields on a beautiful high wrister.

In the second period. BU survived a lengthy four-on-three nicely in the early going — in fact, the Terriers came close to a shorthanded goal when Mark Mullen just missed Freddy Meyer on a pass concluding a two-on-one.

Once again capitalizing on a Terrier penalty, the Friars took their first lead of the night at 7:30. Wood kept the puck in at the right point and fed Jonathan Goodwin low on the same side before Goodwin slid it across the slot for a Chris Chaput tap-in.

The Terriers seemed a little deflated but survived long enough to regain momentum and tie it 3-3 at 12:48. On a suddenly developing two-on-one, Meyer hit Frantisek Skladany for the one-timer and his team-leading 12th goal. BU followed that up with a fantastic power play late in the period, as Brian Collins and John Sabo had excellent chances, only to be thwarted by Schaefer.

Just 48 seconds into the third, the Friars took the 4-3 lead on a great individual effort by DiSalvatore, who drove around a Terrier defender with the puck on his backhand before getting off a shot and knocking his own rebound home after Fields made the initial pad save.

Just when things were starting to look worrisome for the Terriers, Magowan got his hat trick on a highlight-reel goal at 4:35. Coming from behind the net on Schaefer’s stick side on an apparent wraparound bid, Magowan surprised everyone with a nearly blind backhander that zipped past the goalie’s shoulder and in.

“I pushed off the wall; when I came across the goal line, I had my man isolated on the wrong side of me, and I tried to put it upstairs,” Magowan said. “I had to spin around a little to get some leverage on it.”

“He’s played really well since I benched him,” said Parker with a chuckle.

Incredibly, Magowan almost got his fourth of the night on his next shift, as Schaefer stopped him on a one-timer off a nice Zancanaro feed from behind the goal line.

The teams seemed either tired or cautious for the next several minutes, but Providence had a flurry with 1:30 left and very nearly got the game-winner. A DiSalvatore redirection hit the post and kicked high in the slot with Fields down and out, but the Friars couldn’t get to the tantalizing rebound soon enough. Thus the teams went to overtime for the fourth time in their four games this season.

The Terriers (22-12-3) and Friars (19-13-3) face off again on Saturday night in game two.