Starting off our countdown of the top 7 moments in NCAA hockey postseason history is the unbelievable goaltending hot streak of Chris Terreri in 1985 for the Providence Friars. A good goaltender can make or break a team and in ‘85, Terreri took a middling Providence hockey team, threw them on his shoulders, and carried the Friars all the way to the national championship game.
In the inaugural Hockey East season, Providence did not put forth a bad campaign, but their results were nothing spectacular, as they garnered a 15-14-5 conference record, tacking on to their 8-3 non-conference record. In conference play, the Friars scored 119 goals compared to allowing 127. Providence earned a 3-seed in the Hockey East tournament, largely due to the ineptitude of the bottom half of the conference, as the four teams below them in the standings all posted at least 21 losses. However, with a top-5 team in the country in BC leading the pack, the Friars were considered longshots to win the tournament. With only four at-large bids available in the 8-team field, Providence absolutely needed to win the tournament to sneak into the NCAA Tournament.
Providence, and Terreri, got off to a relatively unassuming start to their postseason campaign, beating sixth-seeded Northeastern 3-2 in Game 1 of a best-of-three series. Even when Terreri shut out the Huskies in Game 2, 3-0, it was a relatively expected result, and Providence moved into the single elimination stage of the tournament. Providence took on second-seeded Boston University, who slaughtered UMaine in a two-game set, slapping eleven total goals on the scoreboard. However, Terreri, in his junior season, truly came into his own, largely shutting down the Terriers, while receiving an unexpected boost from the Providence offense. The Friars poured in five goals, which ended up being a postseason-high, and they upset BU, 5-2. That brought Providence into a David vs. Goliath championship game against Boston College, who had scored six goals in their semifinal victory.
Despite the daunting task, the Friars didn’t flinch, or at least, Terreri didn’t. Although the Providence defense had played well through the tournament, they struggled to stop BC’s potent offense from breaking through, but Terreri was nearly always there. Over the course of three periods and then two overtimes, Terreri stopped a stunning 65 shots and allowed just a single goal. BC goalie Scott Gordon matched him, albeit with a much smaller workload to handle, and the game took two overtimes to decide, but Providence notched a game-winner to secure a shocking berth into the NCAA Tournament as the #8 overall seed. BC would also qualify with an at-large bid.
The first round of the NCAA Tournament was played in a 2-game format, with aggregate score being used as the determining factor. As the lowest seed in the tournament, Providence drew #1 Michigan State in the opening round, and they were massive underdogs. The Spartans were 37-5 on the year and had been near or at the top of the rankings all year. However Terreri offered Providence an advantage with the aggregate score system, as with their goaltender playing the way he was, it was very difficult to blow out the Friars.
Michigan State, hosting the two-game set, found that out first-hand, as they hammered shots on net all night, but they rarely broke Terreri. The Spartans did win, 3-2 on a goal with 2:48 remaining in the game, but down just one in aggregate score, the door was open for Providence to stay alive. They did just that in Game 2, absolutely stunning the Spartans by racing out to a three-goal advantage in six minutes. The Friars led 4-1 into the third period, and they just needed to hold Michigan State to a goal or less to secure their spot in the semifinals. The Spartans notched one goal at the halfway point of the period, but they could not get another past Terreri, who made 83 saves over the two games to help Providence advance, including fifty in the clincher.
Facing BC in a Hockey East championship rematch, this time with a chance to play for the national title on the line, Terreri unleashed his inner beast once more, putting on a goaltending clinic in what was probably the best Frozen Four performance by a goalie in NCAA Hockey history. Providence stunned the Eagles by jumping to a 3-0 lead by scoring three times in a 2 minute, 15 second span, but it was virtually the only offense that the Friars mustered. BC got one back near the end of the first period, but trailed 3-1 entering the third, as Terreri turned away shot after shot to bail out Providence. BC did manage to tie the game, however, as they pretty much were setting up camp in the offensive zone, and Terreri couldn’t hold them off forever. The Eagles finished off a pair of rushes to beat the Providence backstop twice from in close, knotting the score at 3 early in the third period. However, all the goals did was extend Terreri’s legendary performance.
The two teams headed to overtime, and Terreri had made 49 saves, while Providence had mustered just 15 shots on net, but he wasn’t done yet. One overtime period passed, and Providence managed few offensive chances, but Terreri frustrated the Eagles multiple times. The second overtime elapsed, but BC still could not slip a game-winner past Chris Terreri. And finally, 33 seconds into the third overtime, Providence defender Paul Cavallini fired in a wrist shot from the left boards. Gordon made the save, but junior winger Art Yeomelakis buried the rebound, putting the exclamation mark on a 4-3, triple-overtime thriller. Terreri made 62 saves, many of them coming during the 4.5 period gap between Providence goals. Against many goalies, BC would have probably won by five or six goals. Against good goalies, the Eagles would still win virtually every time with the offensive onslaught they put on display. But against Terreri, it just wasn’t enough and the Cinderella-story Friars moved onto the title game.
Providence’s miracle run came to an end in the national championship, which is the only reason this game didn’t make it higher onto our list. The title-game loss was not at all due to Terreri, who posted another 40-save performance and had to work against seven power-plays by the second overall seed, Rensselaer. Rennsselaer got goals early in the first and second period, but they were denied on their final twenty efforts on goal, as Providence attempted to engineer a rally. Cavallini scored with ten minutes remaining, but that was all the offense the Friars had, as their miracle journey fell just short of a fairytale ending.
Terreri’s 2.14 Goals-Against-Average and sparkling .949 save percentage were almost unheard of numbers in an era where most teams scored four goals per game or more. His effort earned him Tournament MVP, becoming the first player on the losing team to garner these honors since 1960. After playing his senior year, Terreri went on to play in the NHL for parts of 14 seasons, eleven of those coming with the New Jersey Devils. He played 406 career games, posting a 3.07 GAA. Behind New Jersey legend Martin Brodeur, Terreri became one of the best backups in the league and won two Stanley Cups.
As for Providence, the Friars didn’t exactly use their ‘85 miracle run as a leapfrog into consistent contention, as head coach Steve Stirling left the program, and Providence struggled to recover. They didn’t post a winning record until 1989, and they appeared in only four tournaments from ‘85-2013. In 2014, Providence returned to the NCAA quarterfinals, and in 2015, the Friars finally achieved what they had nearly done in 1985, completing a miracle run as one of the lowest seeds in the tournament to win it all, beating Boston University in the championship. They have appeared in every NCAA Tournament since 2014, and they are 3-4 in the big dance since their national championship.