Saturday, April 11, 2015

Terriers, Friars Play For National Title

So it all comes down to tonight. BU and Providence play in an all Hockey East showdown in the National Championship game. It's the first time since 1999 that Hockey East had two teams in the final and that year, Maine topped UNH in overtime out in Anaheim.
BU-Miami in the 2009 National Championship Game
(Photo by Matt Dresens) 
Providence, after losing two out of three at home in the Hockey East playoffs to New Hampshire, just barely snuck into the NCCA tournament. In fact, they were the last at-large team to make the field. Clearly that means nothing. Just ask Yale in 2013. They were in a very similar position and ran the table in the NCAA tournament and won the National Championship. If Providence wins tonight, it will be the second time in three years that the last team in won the tournament.

In the regionals, the Friars dropped Miami in the tournament's craziest game so far. PC was up 6-2 with around 11 minutes left when Miami pulled their goalie and scored three extra attacker goals, before Providence eventually sealed the deal with an empty netter in the closing minute.

In the regional final vs Denver, PC was aided when they were handed a five minute power play with inside ten minutes to play. DU's Joey LaLeggia came across the middle and blew up play and caught a Friar with his head down. LaLeggia made contact with his head and was shown the gate. Late in the power play and with only 5:00 left in the game, Tom Parisi scored to put PC up 2-1. The Friars would add two empty net goals to round out the scoring.

Two nights ago, PC dropped Nebraska Omaha in decisive fashion 4-1 to advance to their first championship game since 1985.

Scouting the Friars 
Nick Saracino leads the team in scoring with 38 points, 14 goals and 24 assists in 39 games played. Noel Acciari, who scored the first PC goals against Omaha on Thursday and Shane Luke both have 31 points on the year. Acciari leads the team in goals scored at 15 and has also added 16 assists. Luke has 13 goals and 18 assists. Other players to watch are are Mark Jankowski, Ross Mauermann and Trevor Mingoia.

Goaltending is easily Providence's best asset. John Gillies, a South Portland, Maine native has a 23-13-3 record on the year. Gillies is a big reason Providence has the 4th best defense in the nation, allowing just 2.02 goals a game. For personal stats, Gillies boasts a .930 save percentage (7th in the country) and a 1.98 goals against average.

PC is not nearly as fast at Duluth and North Dakota and instead opt to play a much grittier and grinding type of game. This and their stingy defense was on display the last time these two teams met, way back in October. BU won the first game 4-1 going away at Schneider Arena, but the next night, BU got down 2-0 and could not come all the way back as PC's defense bowed their neck and held on to win 2-1 at Agganis.

BU and Providence have an extensive history in the Hockey East tournament, but only have met once in the NCAA tournament. That was 1978. BU won 5-3 in the opening round of the tournament at Schneider on their way to the program's 3rd National Championship. Earlier, Providence handed BU one of only two losses that season, a 5-1 drubbing in the ECAC semis. A strange quirk in the NCAA tournament selection allowed BU to even get in. Generally, the four league winners would play in the final four, but since BU had such a strong record compared to the field, six teams made it and BU was the lowest seed having to play at Providence.        

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