By Joshua Kummins
CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. – Two of the nation’s best and the top two teams in the Hockey East standings met Friday night at Conte Forum.
No. 4 Boston College scored three times in the third period to beat No. 6 Providence 5-2 score in the first meeting of the season between the two teams.
Junior Johnny Gaudreau scored twice and added a pair of assists, while senior Kevin Hayes (Dorchester, Mass.) posted one with two assists to pace the Eagles (14-4-2, 8-1-1).
“We got some really good play out of our top line,” BC head coach Jerry York said. “Right down through all four lines, I thought we competed hard. They weathered the storm early. I thought we had some really good chances in there, but the game was right to the wire.”
Providence fell to 13-5-4 and 6-4-1 in Hockey East, four points back of the first-place Eagles.
The Eagles took a 1-0 lead at the 7:29 mark of the first period as Gaudreau extended his career-best point streak to 15 games with a nice one-timer from the center of the faceoff circle off a Hayes feed.
“When we decided to put Johnny (Gaudreau), Billy (Arnold), and Kevin together, we needed some improvement and cohesive play from the other three lines. Really, they’ve picked up the games immensely.”
BC’s defense was hurt by a rare breakdown 15:31 in when junior Shane Luke pulled in a centering pass just outside Brian Billett’s (Brunwsick, Maine) goal crease for his seventh goal of the year.
Providence took a 2-1 lead at 13:51 of the second period as sophomore Nick Saracino provided a beautiful set-up to senior assistant captain Derek Army (North Kingstown, R.I.) just as a Friar power play had expired, but surrendered another equalizing goal about three minutes later on a Gaudreau centering pass to senior Bill Arnold (Needham, Mass.) for his 50th-career goal.
Arnold’s goal was the first of two consecutive for an Eagle power play, which finished 2-for-6 and recorded 11 shots on goal.
“I thought their power play was the difference tonight,” PC head coach Nate Leaman said. “We didn’t get the job done on the penalty kill tonight. … If you’re going to win a road game in our league, you have to get it done on specialty teams.”
BC found the back of the net just 37 seconds into the third as senior Patrick Brown made his 100th career game a memorable one, scoring a go-ahead goal on a redirected point shot.
Gaudreau scored his second of the game and 19th of the season on an unassisted breakaway at 17:50, before Hayes sealed it with an empty-netter with 59 seconds remaining.
Providence sophomore Jon Gillies (South Portland, Maine) and BC junior Brian Billett (Brunswick, Maine) made 26 saves apiece. Billett, a New Hampshire Junior Monarchs product, earned his fifth win in as many games dating back to a Dec. 6 win against New Hampshire.
Quinnipiac 2, Union 1
Two more Top 10 teams clashed at High Point Solutions Arena with Quinnipiac senior Jordan Samuels-Thomas (West Hartford, Conn.) scoring a goal and an assist to lift the No. 7 Bobcats (16-3-5, 7-2-3 ECAC Hockey) over the No. 4 Dutchmen (12-4-3, 8-2-0). Junior Bryce Van Brabant’s game-winner at 4:57 of the third period was the difference, lifting QU into the top spot of the ECAC standings. Second-year Michael Garteig registered 27 saves for his national-best 16th win. It also snapped Union’s ten-game unbeaten streak.
Clarkson 3, Merrimack 2
The Warriors (4-10-3) put up a valiant comeback effort but goals from sophomore Brian Christie and junior Josh Myers were not enough for a victory against the 11th-ranked Golden Knights (13-6-2) at Cheel Arena in Potsdam, N.Y. In a battle of Finnish-born netminders, Merrimack junior Rasmus Tirronen stopped 18 of the 21 shots he faced.
American International 6, Niagara 2
Senior Jon Puskar scored four goals, including a natural hat trick in the final 14 minutes of the first period, and freshman Hunter Leisner made 27 saves as the Yellow Jackets (5-13-0, 5-7-0 Atlantic Hockey) rolled to a road win over the Purple Eagles (4-12-3, 4-5-3) at Dwyer Arena.
Bentley 8, RIT 2
The Falcons (10-8-2, 8-3-2 Atlantic Hockey) used junior Alex Grieve’s second hat trick of the season and senior Brett Gensler scored twice while adding three assists in a rout of the league rival Tigers (6-10-3, 5-6-1) at John A. Ryan Skating Arena. Grieve finished the three-goal job before the second period was completed and also dished out a helper for four points. Gensler broke out the school record books once again, becoming the Bentley program’s all-time goal scoring leader (64 goals) during the game.
Mercyhurst 1, Holy Cross 0
Junior Matt Ginn made 25 saves, but it was one too few as the Crusaders (4-14-2, 3-8-2 Atlantic Hockey) fell to the league-leading Lakers (12-9-2, 10-1-1) by a 1-0 count at Hart Center. Holy Cross recorded 51 shots on goal in the loss which opened a two-game series in Worcester.
Robert Morris 6, Connecticut 1
Sophomore Kyle Huson scored the only goal of the game for the Huskies (10-7-2, 8-4-1 Atlantic Hockey) at Freitas Ice Forum as the Colonials (5-13-2, 5-6-2) came back to salvage the back half of a weekend set.
UMass’ (6-14-3) single non-conference game at Cornell (8-4-3) was canceled due to poor ice conditions at Lynah Rink in Ithaca, N.Y. The Minutemen return home to Amherst for an exhibition game with the U.S. Under-18 Team on Sunday afternoon at 12:30 p.m.