Is history repeating itself?
In 2015, the Providence Friars were one of the best teams in Hockey East all season, but an upset loss in the quarterfinals of the conference tournament put them on the NCAA tournament bubble and forced them to hope the results broke their way in the conference championships the following weekend.
They ultimately got in, got placed in the East Regional in Providence and got to play in front of a hometown crowd despite being a four-seed, won the regional to advance to the Frozen Four, and went on to win the program’s first national championship, beating Boston University in the title game.
This year, the Friars were one of the best teams in Hockey East all season, but an upset loss to Boston College in the conference quarterfinals put them on the NCAA tournament bubble and once again forced them to scoreboard watch and await their fate last weekend.
Once again they held on to one of the final at-large berths, and once again they got placed in the East Regional in -- you guessed it -- Providence and got to play in front of a hometown crowd despite being the lowest-seeded team in the regional.
And once again, the Friars won the regional to advance to their second Frozen Four, beating Minnesota State in the first round and blanking Cornell 4-0 in Sunday afternoon’s regional final.
The Friars getting to play in Providence despite being a four-seed and not being the host of the regional (meaning they aren’t automatically locked in to playing there) has been a topic of much debate in college hockey circles, but the selection committee values attendance and money and atmosphere, and with the regionals consistently being hit-or-miss on that front, having the Friars in Providence ensures there will at least be no issues there.
All that said, it would be disingenuous to argue the Friars won because of where they were playing this weekend. They won because they played by far the best hockey of the four teams there.
After falling behind 3-0 in the first period Saturday against Minnesota State, Providence dominated the rest of the game and scored six straight goals, including three in the third period, to come away with a 6-3 win.
On Sunday, Cornell looked completely overmatched. The Friars were in lockdown mode all afternoon, not only taking away offensive zone time and scoring chances, but taking away even the first pass on attempted breakouts.
Their forecheck frustrated Cornell so much that on multiple occasions the Big Red were forced to hold the puck behind their own net while waiting for something, anything to develop before settling for a hail mary pass into the neutral zone that was easily picked off.
The Friars held the Big Red to just 19 shots on goal in the game, with nine of those coming in the third period when the game was already out of reach.