By Mitch Fink
Boston University men’s hockey head coach Jay Pandolfo drew back to a fourth line combination — Jamie Armstrong, Sam Stevens and Devin Kaplan — he hadn’t dialed up since early January on Saturday night.
It paid off. Stevens and Armstrong scored twice for BU (24-10-0, 18-6-0 Hockey East) in a 2-0 win over Providence College (14-13-7, 9-9-6 HE) at Schneider Arena. Meanwhile, Drew Commesso dazzled in net with a 39-save shutout — his most complete performance in recent memory.
The win doesn’t mean much for BU’s Hockey East endeavors since the Terriers clinched the conference regular season title Friday night. But, it bolsters BU’s PairWise standing and — more importantly — gets the Terriers rolling into the Hockey East playoffs with renewed confidence.
Saturday’s win was a sharp contrast from Friday’s 6-4 barnburner at Agganis Arena. The Friars keyed in on upping the physicality against BU to slow down the Terriers’ potent offense and, to some extent, it worked.
After conceding 33 shots on goal to BU on Friday night, Providence limited the Terriers to just 18 on Saturday. All things considered, the Friars succeeded at hemming BU into its own zone and clogging the open ice the Terriers thrive in.
In the end, it didn’t really matter. After BU found a lead on Armstrong’s goal late in the first period, Commesso locked down the house in dominant fashion. Tonight, BU proved it could win a tight, low-scoring hockey game just as it can win a fast-paced, free-flowing hockey game.
Once Stevens doubled the lead at 4:36 of the third period on a wrister from the right circle, the game felt out of reach given how well Commesso was seeing the puck.
BU’s power play submitted another subpar performance, this time going 0-for-4 on the man-advantage. But that blemish felt less relevant Saturday given the low-scoring nature of the game. Plus, Providence also posted an 0-for-4 mark on the power play.
Besides the fourth-line changes, Pandolfo made additional adjustments. BU slotted Jeremy Wilmer and Quinn Hutson onto the first line with Wilmer Skoog, and Ethan Phillips into Wilmer’s old slot on the third line.
BU, the top seed in the Hockey East tournament, will face the lowest-seeded team to emerge from the first round of the playoffs next Saturday in the quarterfinals at Agganis Arena. If the Terriers win that game, they’ll return to TD Garden with a chance to avenge a disappointing showing in the Beanpot.
The Boston Hockey Blog will have full coverage of the quarterfinals so be sure to follow along on Twitter @BosHockeyBlog and Instagram @boston.hockey.blog