ORONO, Maine — The Providence College Friars picked a perfect time to snap a seven-game winless streak Friday night at Alfond Arena.
Senior right wing Derek Army had three assists and the Friars never trailed en route to a crucial 4-2 victory over the Black Bears at Alfond Arena.
Providence outworked Maine and moved ahead of the Black Bears in the Hockey East standings with its first win at Alfond Arena since 2007. Maine had been 5-0-2 in the last seven meetings in Orono.
“This was the first time this year I’ve been disappointed with the team,” said Maine coach Red Gendron. “I can live with losing. It’s part of the game. But our compete level and the effort weren’t there. We didn’t battle. The guys were a little tight under the collar. And we didn’t get what we needed from our best players.”
“It was one of our worst games of the year,” said Maine’s Devin Shore, who noted that the fact Providence blocked 15 shots to Maine’s one was a telling stat.
“We didn’t match their intensity all game,” added Shore, who had his five-game points streak snapped (1 goal, 7 assists).
Providence is 18-9-6 overall, 10-7-2 in Hockey East, while Maine fell to 15-12-4 and 9-7-3.
Entering Saturday night’s finale between the two, Providence and Northeastern are tied for third with 22 points each while Maine has 21. New Hampshire, a 4-2 loser to Merrimack, has 20 points.
Thanks to wins by Boston University over Northeastern (4-1) and Merrimack over New Hampshire (4-2), Maine can still finish third or fourth with a win over Providence on Saturday night.
The top five teams earn first-round byes and the top four earn home ice for the best-of-three quarterfinal series in two weekends.
South Portland’s Jon Gillies finished with 28 saves while Maine’s Martin Ouellette wound up with 24 stops.
Brandon Tanev’s first-period goal and Noel Acciari’s score just 30 seconds into the second period gave the Friars a 2-0 lead before Blaine Byron cut the lead in half at the 9:52 mark of the middle period.
But Providence’s Nick Saracino scored just 2:07 later on the power play with Maine captain Brice O’Connor serving a holding penalty to regain the momentum and deflate the crowd.
Trevor Mingoia added a third-period goal for the Friars before Jon Swavely scored for Maine with the extra attacker, Maine’s fifth extra-attacker goal this season.
“We knew we had to get off to good start because Maine’s a great team and this is a tough place to play,” said Army.
Tanev, who had a goal and three assists in a sweep of UMass last weekend, continued his hot streak at the 12:32 mark of the first period when he was able to find some open space at the outer edge of the left faceoff circle and wristed an Army pass that deflected off a stick over Martin Ouellette’s left shoulder.
The goal came six seconds after Jake Rutt had served an interference penalty.
Acciari expanded the lead on the opening shift of the second period when Army made a move out of the corner to the right of Ouellette and threaded the needle to Acciari, who got inside position on Dan Renouf and redirected the pass past the helpless Ouellette.
Byron gave the Black Bears some badly needed life with a terrific individual effort as he held off a Friar, who was draped all over him, and tucked a short backhander inside the far post after wheeling out of the corner.
But the Friars answered during a wild scramble on the power play as Saracino pounced on the pinballing puck and deposited it behind Ouellette from the edge of the crease.
Providence coach Nate Leaman said the goal was pivotal.
“We had a power play earlier in the period and hit the post with a chance to open up the lead [to 3-0]. Then they scored. They had all the momentum,” said Leaman.
The Black Bears couldn’t get any closer as the Friars protected the lead efficiently in the third period and Mingoia iced it by one-timing an Acciari pass behind Ouellette off a two-on-one.
Maine had some sequences of pressure in the Providence zone but Gillies came up with some timely saves and his mates were able to limit Maine’s second- and third-chance opportunities.