When the NCAA Tournament field is set in March, Providence College might look back on Saturday night’s 2-1 OT win over Northeastern as the biggest win of the regular season. A loss would have put the 17-8-3 Friars in a precarious spot on the NCAA bubble. Instead, thanks to freshman Greg Printz’s tally, the Friars finished the weekend at No. 9 in the PairWise. All things considered, that’s not a bad place to be with six games to go.
Here are three thoughts from Saturday night.
— TOUGHING IT OUT
Mental toughness – or lack thereof – has been a recurring issue for Nate Leaman’s young team all season.
If the Friars took a step back in that department on Friday night in allowing three third-period goals to Adam Gaudette, Dylan Sikura and the explosive Huskies, they took a couple of steps forward on Saturday.
“I really liked our push in the third period and overtime. We showed some great mental toughness there in the third and we stayed with it when we were down, 1-0. We stayed with it and we got rewarded,’’ said Leaman after Saturday’s win.
“We charted it this morning. Gaudette played 31 minutes last night. They weren’t going to have as much in the tank tonight. That’s just human nature. A lot of our guys played big minutes last night, too. That’s where the mental toughness came in. It’s going to be a battle of wills in the third period.’’
And the Friars came out on top.
— FRESHMEN COME THROUGH
Printz scored the winning goal with fellow freshman Jason O’Neil getting the primary assist. It capped a good game for Printz, who had a couple of glittering chances among his four shots. Ben Mirageas, who seems to improve with every game, had 5 shots. Bailey Conger had a good game.
“We kind of challenged our freshmen this week, Conger, O’Neill, Printz,’’ Leaman said. “We need secondary scoring. We need those guys. They’re more than capable. Conger had a great third period. He’s struggled with his confidence a little bit. He finally went out there and felt comfortable making plays, was after the puck. He gave us a great third period. Then O’Neill and Printz give us the game-winner.
“That’s how a young team grows. We need to be more than a two-line team. We have to have secondary scoring.”
This is the time of year when you hear coaches say something like, “They’re not really freshmen anymore.’’
PC’s youngsters didn’t play like freshmen on Saturday night.
THE ROAD AHEAD
PC’s path to a fifth straight trip to the NCAA Tournament is clear.
The Friars have six games left: two at Vermont, a home and home with Lowell, a home game against Maine and a road game at UMass.
Maine is 21st in the PairWise, while Lowell is 26th. Much farther back are UMass (37) and Vermont (55).
So, if the Friars win all six, they are in. Losing a few could make things dicey.
Their fate is in their own hands. That’s a good position to be in at this point in the season.