CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. -- With Providence's Jon Gillies and Boston College's Thatcher Demko tending the goals, all the pieces were in place for Friday night's big Hockey East clash to be a defensive struggle.
It looked as if that would be the case in the first half of the game, but a pair of third-period goals lifted the No. 14 Eagles to a 3-2 win over the Friars in Friday night's final test before the Beanpot.
"I thought it was a really important game for our team," BC head coach Jerry York said. "We talked about during the stretch that there's been no Beanpot look ahead to when we play a team like Providence. We knew this was a real pivotal game in our season."
The Eagles were in control for much of the first period, holding a 9-5 shots on goal advantage, but quality chances were few and far between as Demko and Gillies stood tall at each end of the ice.
It was much of the same in BC's favor in what turned out to be a penalty-filled second period, but the shot count ticked higher in its favor. Freshman Alex Tuch put the Eagles up 1-0 at the 2:36 mark just as an early penalty kill came to an end.
After a look at the replay, it certainly seemed to be a goal Gillies would like to have back as Tuch beat him with a wrister while in stride from the left wing. Sophomore Adam Gilmour had the only assist, setting him up with a pass to make the move.
Just as he has done all season long, Demko came up big when the Eagles needed him most in the second. With six minutes left, junior Nick Saracino ran out of real estate on Demko's left side as linemates Noel Acciari and Brandon Tanev rolled into the offensive zone on a 3-on-1.
"It was a funny game with all the penalties in the second period," PC head coach Nate Leaman said following a game in which his team went 0-for-5 on the power play after scoring five man-up goals in last weekend's Hockey East sweep of UMass Lowell.
The pace picked up in the third as the teams traded goals in the fifth and sixth minutes of the final frame. "It really felt like you were either on the power play or penalty kill (in the second)," Leaman commented, "and then in the third period there were no penalties. ... It was 5-on-5 and the game got going a little bit."
BC scored the first of that pair, at 4:24, to take a 2-0 lead. Freshman defenseman Noah Hanifin snuck one five-hole on Gillies after collecting a bouncing puck while skating through the slot.
Providence cut its deficit in half at 5:08 as sophomore defenseman Kyle McKenzie took a long shot from the left point that trickled its way through traffic. At 8:01, senior Shane Luke knotted the score for the first time on the evening as he fed a shot from just outside the left wing circle through Demko's legs.
"I thought our team played well. What jumps out at me the most is that we get ahead 2-0 and they come right back and respond," York said. "They had a great pushback from that side. All of a sudden, it's 2-2 and momentum has swung."
As York said, the Eagles stayed calm, cool and collected and were able to jump back ahead for the winning goal off the stick of freshman Zach Sanford at 10:52.
It was the fifth goal of the season for the Capitals draft pick out of Auburn, N.H. as he cleaned up a loose rebound in front of an outstretched Gillies. Gilmour had the initial shot on goal for his second primary helper of the night.
Demko made 12 of his 23 saves in the third, making it the third straight game he faced less than that many shots.
BC enters Monday night's Beanpot semifinal against Northeastern with a 9-1-1 mark in its last 11 games. York is very happy with his team's recent play as it enters a rematch of last year's championship battle for city bragging rights.
"We played what I call 'kids' hockey' early in the season and now we're playing a man's game. That's been the difference," York said. "I think our team's getting better but we still have a long way to go. We're on the right path here and I like how we're playing."