Time was dwindling on a Boston College power play when sophomore defenseman Michael Matheson swept around Providence goalie John Gillies’ net and whipped a pass to Kevin Hayes at the point. Hayes, with an assist on the night already, fired a shot into traffic. Glancing off Patrick Brown, Hayes’ shot flew past a helpless Gillies and into the net, setting off the blaring red light and sending Conte Forum into jubilation.
Following a video review, BC’s game-winning goal would stand—and fittingly so. In a game where shifts came and went with barely a connected pass nearly entire periods were left devoid of any sort of offensive rhythm, and the Eagles and Friars combined for 10 penalties, Brown’s power play goal was the sloppybut hard foughtwinner of a sloppybut hard fought60 minutes of hockey that saw the emergence of BC’s long-ineffective power play unit.
The Friday night contest between powerhouses BC and Providence didn’t begin as a mess, though. With their skate edges back on Kelley Rink’s reassuringly non-crumbling ice once again, the Eagles came out roaring against Providence, peppering Gillies with shots in the first period and playing fast-paced electric hockey.
“I didn’t think we came out of the gates,” Providence head coach Nate Leaman said after the game. “I thought we gave them too much respect coming out of the gates. I was a little disappointed in that.”
Brown looked dangerous from puck dropnearly scoring early onbut Gillies was all over the captain’s first two rips on net, turning them harmlessly aside.
Just after seven minutes into the second though, Gillies was left stranded on his right post, and Providence paid with a goal. Receiving the puck with nothing but empty net in front of him, Johnny Gaudreau banged a through-traffic pass from Hayes into the net to put the Eagles up one.
BC dominated the opening period, but a defensive lapse allowed a Providence equalizer with less than five minutes remaining in the first. Spying a breakdown in man coverage, Friars forward Ross Mauermann slipped Shane Luke the puck from behind the net for an easy smash-in past Eagles goaltender Brian Billett.
Going into the second period, BC led Providence 13-7 in shots. The second period quickly devolved into a penalty-filled mire of missed passes, tough defense, escaped opportunities, and rhythm less play for both teams.
Scoreless until 13:51, Providence right-winger Derek Army broke the deadlock as time expired on the Friars’ power play. BC’s defense was suspect again, as Army was wide open in the slot and easily slapped Nick Saracino’s pass home.
Less than three minutes later, the Eagles struck to level the game with a power play goal from Bill Arnold. They never looked back.
“The last week or so it [the power play] just seems to have clicked,” head coach Jerry York said.“That’s part of our offense that we really have to depend on as the year goes on. We’ve gone away from it a little bit but right now [assistant coach Greg Brown’s] got them going very, very well. He’s changed some alignments around, he’s put four forwards and one defenseman in one unit, and four forwards and one defenseman in the other unit. I really like what happened today on the PP.
While both teams struggled to find rhythm throughout the game and suffered from lapses in concentration on defense, it was Providence that was ultimately undone by a mistake.
With 2:10 remaining in the third period and a goal in hand thanks to Brown’s redirection, Gaudreau picked the Providence defense’s pocket on the blue line and tore off on a breakaway. Streaking toward the net, Gaudreau took Gillies on 1-on-1, dangled his fellow Calgary Flames draft pick, and slipped the puck home five hole to put the Eagles up by two.
With time to stage a possible comeback quickly evaporating, the Friars pulled Gillies, but it was Hayes who benefited, firing home an empty netter to bury Providence by three goals.
BC’s 5-2 victory wasn’t pretty, and the Eagles certainly weren’t perfect, but in the end, the Eagles did what they needed to do against a top-tier opponent in a huge Hockey East matchup—they found a way to win.
“We’ve been pretty solid during the course of the year, but I think this 60-minute effort was our best,” York said. “And we had to be with the way Providence played as strong as they did.”