BOSTON -- It wasn't a must win game, but early in the season and off to a tough start, Providence was eager to begin moving in the right direction. The Friars did just that with a hard fought 2-1 road win over Boston University in front of 4,648 at Agganis Arena on Saturday night.
"I just think it's pretty gutsy for our team. We were about as bad as we've been since I've been the head coach last night. For the guys to bounce back and put in a gutsy performance on the road and find a way to win a game, I'm pretty proud of them," said Providence head coach Nate Leaman.
The game was one of ebbs and flows. Providence territorially dominated the first period, outshooting the Terriers, 17-5. The third period was almost exactly the opposite with BU holding an 18-6 edge in shots on goal.
"I thought it was a pretty even hockey game. I thought the first period we really controlled. The third period they really controlled and the second period was pretty even," said Leaman.
David Quinn echoed Leaman's sentiment about the way the game shook out territorially. "I cannot say I was surprised with what happened in the first period. I thought as the second period went on we started pushing back and establishing a little bit of offensive zone time. Basically I felt we played 30 minutes of hockey. In this league you can't do that especially against a team like that."
"I wasn't surprised at [Providence's] start, their tenacity and their determination," said BU head coach David Quinn. "They won every loose puck battle. There was zero push back from us."
In the first period Providence played like a team desperately needing a win. The Friars came out flying and playing with an edge. The aggressive style took BU out of its game and forced the Terriers into sloppy passes and having to take penalties to slow the Friars down.
Providence capitalized on the second of three first period power plays at the 8:57 mark. After receiving a pass from Anthony Florentino, Mark Jankowski drove towards the net. His initial shot was blocked, but BU's Nick Roberto failed on the clearing attempt and the puck came right back to Jankowski who pushed home the loose puck.
The Friar lead easily could have been more if it wasn't for the heroics of BU goaltender Matt O'Connor who turned aside 16 shots in the opening 20 minutes.
"I thought O'Connor was excellent in the first period. I kind of took a gulp between periods because I thought we maybe should be up 3-0," said Leaman.
The Friars' intense forecheck continued to cause BU trouble in the second period. With Noel Acciari applying pressure on defenseman Brandon Hickey, the freshman turned the puck over right on the stick of Shane Luke. He took one step in before sniping a rocket into the far corner over the glove of BU goaltender Matt O'Connor.
"It's nice to get Shane on the board," said Leaman.
Just 4:38 into the third period the Terriers came alive with a power play goal of their own. With BU moving the puck around the outside Eichel fired the puck to Matt Grzelcyk on the right circle. The captain took the pass and quickly whipped it on net, but it was blocked. A mad scramble ensued before a falling Danny O'Regan got his stick on the puck and swept it in the net.
After not being tested too much over the first two periods Providence goaltender Jon Gillies was terrific in the third period. The junior made 17 of his 37 saves in the final 20 minutes including two in the last five minutes where he had to go post to post to stop a J.J. Picchinich blast and a Nikolas Olsson attempt.
"I thought he was excellent especially in the third period," Leaman commented after the game. "Jonny had to make [big saves] in the third because BU probably deserved three goals in the third. It's terrific to see Jonny back," added Leaman.
Boston University (4-1-0) will look to bounce back next Friday at archrival Boston College. "[The players] are frustrated. I think they understand that we've got to put this behind us, learn from it and get ready to play next Friday night," said Quinn.
With a home-and-home series against Merrimack next weekend Providence (2-3-1) will aim for its first winning streak of the season.
Jeff Cox covers college, junior and high school hockey, NCAA recruiting and NHL Draft prospects. Follow him on Twitter @JeffCoxSports.