PROVIDENCE — Playoff atmosphere? Check. Appropriate late-season disdain for one another? Check.
Complete determination on both sides? Check.
In the end, though, fourth-ranked Boston College took greater advantage of its opportunities Friday night on the way to a 3-2 victory over Providence College at Schneider Arena.
The win allowed the Eagles (19-9-3, 14-8-2) to retain a share of first place in Hockey East, along with UMass-Lowell, which beat Merrimack, 4-0, Friday night.
Eagles coach Jerry York said it was everything he expected it to be.
“That’s a game in late February or early March,” he said. “The intensity just ratchets up so much more.
“The grit on both sides, you think it’s probably there in October and November but it’s really evident when you get into this type of playoff race.’’
The only negative aspect was that senior defenseman Patrick Wey was cut in the back of the thigh by a skate in the late going. York said he didn’t yet know if Wey would be able to play Saturday afternoon in the rematch at Conte Forum.
The Friars (13-11-7, 11-7-6) came out very strong in the first period. For the first eight minutes, PC looked as if it was on the power play as the Friars hemmed in the Eagles in their own zone.
Through the first frame, the shots were fairly even with PC having a 9-8 edge.
The most surprising move of the period was York moving up sophomore Quinn Smith to the top line with center Pat Mullane and right wing Steven Whitney, dropping sophomore Johnny Gaudreau to the second line with center Billy Arnold and right wing Destry Straight.
Gaudreau didn’t register a shot in the first with the new combination.
The second period was extremely eventful with the Eagles scoring three times to take a 3-1 lead. Freshman defenseman Michael Matheson figured in all three goals.
Just 45 seconds in, Gaudreau was hit from behind by freshman defenseman John Gilmour, earning him a five-minute major and game misconduct.
At 2:30, the Eagles broke through on Mullane’s 15th tally of the season. He beat freshman goaltender Jon Gillies from the doorstep during the power play.
BC added a second goal on the man advantage at 3:48 when Matheson beat Gillies on a one-timer from the top of the right circle for his seventh of the season.
The Friars cut the deficit in half when they scored while shorthanded at 4:29. Sophomore center Ross Mauermann raced in on a breakaway and beat senior Parker Milner on a backhander from just outside the right post.
Providence nearly tied it with just over 12 minutes remaining when senior defenseman Alex Velischek raced up the left side, but his bid was denied by Milner, who charged out of the net and cut down the angle.
At 10:41, Arnold collected a long lead pass at the Providence blue line and skated in on Gillies. It appeared junior defenseman Kevin Hart had made a terrific defensive play to take away any daylight Arnold had, but Hart was called for hooking.
The Friars killed the penalty, but just seven seconds after it expired, the Eagles potted their third goal. This time it was by Whitney.
The Friars cashed in on a power play at 3:54 of the third, pulling to within 3-2.
Freshman left wing Nick Saracino raced up the left side and beat Milner for his sixth of the season.
Providence got a scare at 4:31 when Gillies went down after Mullane knocked sophomore left wing Stefan Demopoulos into the goalie.
Mullane was assessed an interference penalty, putting the Friars back on the power play. Gillies remained in the game.
Providence had a golden opportunity to tie it when defenseman Isaac MacLeod joined Mullane in the box for tripping, giving the Friars a two-man advantage for 1:14, but they couldn’t convert.
Both teams fought furiously for puck possession during the final five minutes, and even with Gillies at the bench with 1:36 remaining the Friars couldn’t produce the equalizer.
Providence coach Nate Leaman, despite how close the contest was, expressed disappointment in his team.
“I thought we showed a lot of immaturity tonight,’’ said Leaman, who was also dismayed by Mullane’s hit on Gillies and said the goaltender was being checked out by a doctor.
“I thought we were overemotional and we looked immature. We took some bad penalties. We didn’t execute our game really well and they really killed us on faceoffs.
“We missed the net with our best chances and that’s immaturity. That’s a focus, that is something that good teams don’t do. We’ve got to grow up within 24 hours.’’