By Tim Healey/DFP Staff
PROVIDENCE, R.I. — A win is a win, especially the way the No. 10/11 Boston University men’s hockey team has played of late, but this one hurts a little more than victories usually do.
The Terriers (13-9, 10-6 Hockey East) overcame an early 2-0 deficit to beat Providence College, 3-2, at Schneider Arena Friday night. Junior forward Sahir Gill scored the game-winning goal in the third period moments after sophomore forward Evan Rodrigues, who scored BU’s first two goals, left the game holding his left hand after being hit hard into the boards.
“Against a team that’s really hard to play against because they paly so hard, I felt we real competed from the goaltender on out,” said BU coach Jack Parker. “The whole core of defensemen and the forward lines really, really came to play tonight. And as the game progressed I thought we played better and better.”
Providence forward Noel Acciari checked Rodrigues into the glass behind the Friar (10-10-3, 8-6-3 Hockey East) goal. Rodrigues lost his stick and a glove on the play and sat on the ice for a couple minutes before skating away with a trainer.
He did not return to the game. Parker said Rodrigues would get x-rays Friday night and that the hand may be broken. Senior forward Ryan Santana replaced him as second-line right wing for the rest of the game, and Parker indicated it would stay that way Saturday when BU hosts Providence.
“You never like to see that. He’s a good player for our team and when someone goes down like that, you know it gets everyone a little more competitive, a little more fire in their step,” Gill said. “I think it showed.”
Without BU’s most impressive player on the night, that extra fire may have shown the most in Gill. He avoided a stickless PC defender and finished with a wraparound goal to put BU up 3-2 at 7:14 in the third.
Play got even more chippy after the tally and resulted in a skirmish near BU’s net at the final buzzer after the Terrier defensive corps bore down and held on for the win.
BU’s win — just its third of the month — didn’t come without its difficulties, though.
The first period was an ugly one for the Terriers, who fell behind 2-0 at 16:48.
First Providence’s leading scorer, sophomore Ross Mauermann, put the Friars up 1-0 at 7:52 by deflecting a long pass seconds after a turnover from freshman forward Sam Kurker in the neutral zone.
PC freshman Brandon Tanev doubled the lead 10 minutes later before Rodrigues got one back for BU in the final minute of the frame.
Junior forward Matt Nieto collected his seventh point in five games on the play by setting up Rodrigues’ low wrist shot with a drop pass.
“The way the game went, you go down 2-0 and things are starting to get a little familiar,’ Gill said. “You might get a little nervous, ‘here we go again.’ Getting that one, especially late in the first period, it’s big. That gives us momentum going into the second period.”
Momentum in hand, BU came out faster and stronger to start the second.
Rodrigues tied it up 5:52 in the second, this time thanks to assists from freshman defenseman Matt Grzelcyk and freshman forward Danny O’Regan. After Grzelcyk’s initial shot, Rodrigues banged home the rebound from between the crease and the right circle before getting knocked backward.
The Terriers played stronger overall in the second, partly due to three Friar penalties. In the final two minutes of the frame senior captain Wade Megan and Grzelcyk came flying down the left wing on separate occasions, only to have their respective shots be saved or go off the pipe.
After Gill’s eventual game-winner the Friars continued to test freshman goaltender Sean Maguire, peppering him with a number of shots in the final minutes. He made 13 saves in the third — including a toe save on rebound by freshman Paul de Jersey — and 32 overall, an important return to form after giving up six goals his last time out
“Sean gave us just what we need: a real backstop, a real ‘Go ahead boys, I’ll take care of some stuff for you,’” Parker said. “And he did it to the nines.”
Parker was also impressed with his defensemen overall, mentioning sophomore Alexx Privitera, senior Sean Escobedo and Grzelcyk by name.
The team will look for more improvement Saturday at Agganis Arena when BU hosts the Friars, two of four teams separated by just two points in the top half of the Hockey East standings.
“Close isn’t good enough this time of year,” Gill said. “It’s not trying to find yourself as a team or as a player. You either show up or you don’t, and you’re either in the playoffs or you’re not.
“So I think it was a good win for us, at least a good game to stop the bleeding a little, and just have focus and we’ve got another game against them tomorrow night. That’s where our focus is now.”