Monday, December 31, 2007

Men's Hockey Log: Friars Leave GLI With Something To Build On

Even if the shifting paper-based implications of their come-from-behind 5-3 overhaul of Michigan State are hitting them, the Friars continue to refrain from explicit elation. But when they addressed the media, they were apt to label their high-ranking holiday excursion an opportunity to freeze and push along some momentum when their Hockey East schedule hits its January fast-track next weekend.

Leading up to around the halfway mark of Saturday’s Great Lakes Invitational consolation game, Providence had thrust a never-before-seen ambitious offense against the #1 (Michigan) and #5 (Michigan State) teams in the nation, but what wholly fettered on the scoreboard through their first eighty-plus minutes of action.

But after senior captain Jon Rheault knotted the game at 6:42 of Saturday’s middle frame, the Friars thawed out at a glacial pace to nick the defending NCAA champion and forge a .500 (7-7-2) transcript to take back to the coast for the New Year.

The GLI offered a rather hefty statistical upgrade in PC’s last regular season dose of interconference play. For all the intriguing anarchy that defined the first hunk of the Hockey East schedule –which on PC’s part included an uplifting road sweep of a ranked Maine team in November- the CCHA is understandably the talk of the nation.

And on Day 1, the almighty Michigan Wolverines took that to Tim Army’s corps firsthand, dishing out a 6-0 rout, despite the Friar ability to charge up a bewildering inverse shooting edge of 50-21.

In another twenty-four hours, though, Providence acclimated with enough straightforward steadiness to force-feed some vinegar to a Spartan team that closed out its magical 2007 on an 0-2 GLI finish.

Said Army, “I think what we learned is –and we see it in Hockey East- but when you play against good-quality teams, you need to make sure you stay with your program, stay with your game, and we did that.”

Other than the core category –the scoresheet- little was different between the two chapters of Friartown Meets Hockeytown. Right after dumping their largest bushel of shots of the season on Michigan stopper Billy Sauer –who went on to win tournament MVP honors through a double-overtime shutout of Michigan Tech in the championship tilt- the Friars made an exponential climb towards outshooting Michigan State 45-30 on Saturday, increasing their output by six shots by the period.

The no-duh difference on that front was their swift return to effective offensive interruptions. For the third time in the month of December (dating all the way back to the pre-exams tangles with Brown and Union), Providence registered a four-goal period in an earthquake of a third period, outshooting the Spartans 21-12 and outscoring 4-2 in that window.

Additionally, the inherent underdog jitters that came with both matchups failed to shred the Friars disciplinary record. They paid a mere four trips to the sin bin against Michigan –two of those elbowing minors to Greg Collins well after the game had been wrested away- and two against Michigan State. They remained perfectly regimented against the Wolverines until 11:44 of the middle frame and the following afternoon, from the 1:03 mark of the second period onward, their behavioral slate stayed unscratched.

“That’s really important against any team you play,” said Army. “You want to play hard, skate hard, be physical, but you also want to do things with discipline, with composure, especially on the road –I really consider these road games.

“If you give teams (like that) too many power play opportunities, they’re gonna take advantage of it, so by nature we try to stay out of the box, and I think we did a generally good job of that.”

Whatever ultimate grade may be liable given the wild dynamics of their ice-based term exam and their response to it, the Friars were contented enough with the progressed they signified.

Rheault, who acknowledged that he “had never played in an NHL rink before,” will soon lead his associates into a remaining two-thirds of their Hockey East slate in palpable hopes of soon visiting another vibrant building –the TD Banknorth Garden- come late March. If officially commences January 11 with a home-and-home tangle with UMass-Lowell.

When asked if the Skating Friar is at least a little bolder as it looks to that next task, the co-captain said with a sort of low-profile, take-it-in-stride tone, “I think we made our statement, playing against two top teams like that.

“I think (against Michigan) we were a little intimidated, but we know we can play with them, and we proved that against some of the best teams in the country, so when we get back to our Hockey East games, we’ll have that confidence.”

This article originally appeared in the Friartown Free Press

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Men's Hockey 5, Michigan State 3: Friars Rally To Bump Spartans In 3rd Period

DETROIT- At 13:18 of the second period, on its 65th shot of the tournament, Providence College broke its weekend-long goose egg. Freshman Kyle MacKinnon guided a blocked shot by Cody Wild out of his own end and broke for a two-on-one with senior captain Jon Rheault.
McKinnon’s snapper from the near circle wiped the near post and plopped onto the back half of the crease, where Rheault arrived to bury his team-leading ninth strike of the season and knot the Friars with Michigan State, 1-1.
Later, two minutes after John Cavanagh re-knotted the game, Rheault kindled a go-ahead goal that effectively paced his associates to a cathartic 5-3 triumph in the consolation game of the Great Lakes Invitational.
MacKinnon, one of Rheault’s fast-blossoming understudies, joined him in the multi-goal club when he tossed in the eventual winner and an empty netter.
“I was proud of the way we responded from last night,” said Rheault. “We played well last night, had some good chances, but we didn’t really stick with it. Tonight, that was different. We stuck with it the whole game this time."
Goaltender Tyler Sims, despite taking the bulk of Friday’s 6-0 Michigan scorching, got the nod once more Saturday. MSU would be less constricted breaking into his property, but found a generally more alert crease custodian than the Wolverines had.
The Spartans, somewhat drained from their 4-1 arm wrestling falter to Michigan Tech in Friday’s nightcap, authorized an early shooting edge for the Friars. PC toned down the rabidity it had displayed against Michigan, but nonetheless sculpted a 9-4 shooting edge by the seventeenth minute of Saturday’s action and eased Sims into the action more consistently.
Citing the three-week deceleration for exams, head coach Tim Army said, “For a goalie, it’s most difficult for them, so it was a little bit of rust for Tyler, and for a goalie it’s difficult not to see a lot of action.
“He came right back tonight, managed the game really well, and gave us all a chance to get back on track."
But at first, shortly after Wild’s adventurous near-miss in the MSU slot, PC’s last bid of the period, the seasoned, ring-bearing Spartans broke out –visually and statistically. They sprinkled six unanswered stabs within the final 3:30 of the opening frame and seized the upper hand at the 19:04 mark.
Finally able to settle an attack, far side pointman Ryan Turek tapped a lateral feed to his defensive associate Justin Johnston.
Johnston’s subsequent boomer rang the boards and landed in the clutch of winger Chris Mueller, who laced it around the cage to Dustin Gazley.
Gazley, who one shift previous had a close shave similar to Wild’s, dropped a simple flicker over the head-spun Sims’ mitt.
Sims fused his borders to resist four bullets on a penalty kill early in the second, after which the Friars authorized four more Spartan shots whilst whittling away at mighty mite stopper Jeff Lerg with comparably more bite. By their second adjournment to the locker room, they held a 24-18 edge on that front and had pulled even in key category.
Returning to yet another fresh sheet, though, MSU flipped the tables once more to regain the edge at 1:11 of the third. Matt Schepke froze a loose clearing attempt at the far outer has marks and shipped it to Michael Ratchuk at the center point. Ratchuk’s trickling attempt was guided home by a screening Nick Sucharski.
A blinding salvo –at least for the contesting stoppers- ensued. Providence outshot the Spartans 21-12 through the closing stanza and gave its petite contingent of fans another round of CPR with 12:11 remaining.
Off a draw to the right of Lerg, PC’s Austin Mayer tapped the disc back to Matt Taormina at the far point. Monitoring Taormina’s nimble blast to the cage, Cavanagh was stationed at the backdoor to lob home a backhander.
“What we did better tonight was we stayed with our game a little bit more,” said Army. “Even when we fell behind late in the first, we came out in the second a lot more poised composed and kept at it.
“Jon’s goal got us on track. You could feel it really lifted our bench. And even when we fell behind again in the third we just stuck to what we need to do well and we got rewarded with the tying goal (again)."
With 10:12 remaining, Rheault accepted Wild’s breakout feed and bolted down the near alley to the MSU goal line. Reaching that depth, he turned to the slot to find Greg Collins, whose rebound skipped past Lerg before Rheault polished the play.
With little more than four minutes left, MacKinnon extracted the puck from a scrum and hustled loose on an end-to-end rush with Pierce Norton hanging back. A quick back-and-forth exchange resulted in a 4-2 edge.
Such an effort proved vital in the final minute when Matchuk and Schepke recollaborated to cut their deficit. Matchuk beamed down the Broadway lane to insert a diving tip-in of Schepke’s feed. But PC stifled MSU’s six-pack attack thereafter before MacKinnon made the facile insurance strike in the game’s waning seconds.
This article originally appeared in the Friartown Free Press

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Michigan 6, Men's Hockey 0: Sauer Taste For Friars Offense

DETROIT- The Providence College Friars turned their backs for split seconds at a time –six times, specifically- and the ever-potent Michigan Wolverines pulled the match away.
Despite owning each frame in the area of shots –ultimately treating Michigan junior Billy Sauer to a game total 50, the bulkiest sweat of his career- PC swallowed a fatal load of brusque meltdowns in its own end and dropped a 6-0 decision in the Great Lakes Invitational semi-final.
The Maize and Blue –second in the latest USCHO poll and at the top of the USA Today rankings- distributed an uncharacteristic twenty-one whacks of their own, but weaved that into a team-high six-goal output for the fourth time this season. Meanwhile, every Providence skater, save for Ben Farrer, broke their personal SOG column –Nick Mazzolini leading the way with seven- but never applied the lamplighting seal.
“They’ve got some opportunistic players,” acknowledged Friars coach Tim Army. “We made some mistakes, and they cashed in.
“I thought we played really well, did a lot of good things, over the whole sixty minutes. We had a lot of opportunities, but we got caught back on our heels, turned the puck over, and that’s how they scored the first goal.”

It only took the radiant Wolverine offense 62 ticks to toss out a morsel of its salsa-based rubber. On his first swift end-to-end rush, forward Tim Miller moved in on starting defender Joe Lavin in the far corner and forwarded a lateral pass to Louis Caporusso in the slot. Caporusso’s ice-bound bid looped around Tyler Sims’ right skate and dripped home.
On one hand, that perked up the Friars as though no other vibrant element around Joe Louis Arena had since their arrival here. They proceeded to sprinkle 13 unanswered shots (period total of 16) over the next fourteen minutes.
On the other hand, none of those stabs came in first-shot-rebound pairs or groups and the Wolverines (3 first period shots) subsisted on nimble clearances before they crashed Sims’ territory again thirty seconds prior to intermission.
Forward Aaron Palushaj jumped a loose puck on his own blue line and quickly forwarded it to Brian Lebler for a two-on-one. Palushaj scurried down the center alley and waited to one-time Lebler’s return feed off of a sprawling Sims’ skate and in.
“That’s why they’re in college,” mused Army in reference to his own students. “They’re young players. We did a lot of good things, but at times we tried to take matters into our own hands. We tried to do too much in situations where we didn’t need to, and I think that’s the general inclination of young players.”
A smattering of key elements took little time to thaw out in the middle period. The Wolverines, while Sauer resisted yet another 16-shot serving, thawed out well enough to test Sims eleven times.
Additionally, the unblemished discipline on both started breaking out in hives at 5:45 when Michigan’s Anthony Ciraulo went off for interference.
But the Friars could not spark on either of their first two power plays, and melted down further when the likes of Kevin Porter –the nation’s leading gunslinger- woke up. Shortly after the halfway mark, Porter broke out with Ciraulo for a shorthanded two-on-one, offering a quick saucer for Ciraulo to put in the roof for the 3-0 lead.
On the subsequent play, Marc Fayne smeared PC’s clean slate when he went off for tripping to set up a thirty-second 4-on-4 sequence. Once Michigan regained full strength, a fresh-out-the-box Palushaj clamped the puck behind the Friar net and zipped it to far point patroller Chad Langlais. Langlais in turn fed Porter, who drilled a low rider from the circle-top to the right of Sims with 6:41 remaining.
Freshman Ben Winnett gave Michigan a quick 5-0 stranglehold with 2:22 left in the frame, collecting a wild-running puck right in front of the cage and tossing in another roofer.
The overcooked Sims (game total 11 saves) took a seat for the third period, giving Chris Mannix his first go-around since November 1. Mannix –who eventually turned away six of seven shots faced while his mates dumped another 18 on Sauer- would have but 4:10 and two far-between shots to acclimate before letting the sixth Wolverine strike through.
After a comparatively lengthy, feisty Friar attack, Michigan’s Travis Turnbull accepted a quick breakout tap from Brandon Naurato and singlehandedly zipped down the near alley to snap the disc through Mannix’s legs.

This article originally appeared in the Friartown Free Press

Friday, December 28, 2007

Wolverines, Spartans, Huskies, Oh My: Friars To Be Flanked With Ranked Competition At GLI

Like the quirky title character in the NBC prime time series, My Name Is Earl, the 2007-08 Michigan Wolverines were briefly at the top of their world, only to have a blindside strike reassign them to their original state.

Ranked No. 11 in the nation over their first of three game-free weeks, the PC Men’s fast-coming adversary watched their CCHA rival Miami Redhawks reclaim the weekly throne through its sweeping impression at 16th-rated Rensselaer last weekend.

The fact of the matter is, though, this is still the Maize and Blue we’re talking about. The Big Blue M (sounds almost like a local insectan icon, does it not?), the football-famous winged helmets, the Yost Nasties, the works.

At this weekend’s Great Lakes Invitational, together with arch-rival Michigan State –a rigid fifth in the NCAA pool- and the WCHA’s resurgent Michigan Tech Huskies, the Wolverines happen to be inviting the Friars into a vat of some of college hockey’s choppiest western waters in years. Puckheads along the coast may have been missing it due to the hot-enough molecular activity in Hockey East, but the best of the CCHA this season are kilning a CCCP type of impression.

The 2007 Spartans’ startling Frozen Four overhaul of a luckless Boston College team snapped a nine-year national title drought for CCHA tenants, which took effect after Red Berenson’s pupils claimed the 1998 crown against the same Eagle franchise.

With that pothole out of the way, the likes of the Wolverines, Spartans, Redhawks, #6 Notre Dame, and even #19 Bowling Green State are all calling upon the frozen rain spirits to shuffle the glory away from the hegemonic WCHA and ever-feisty Hockey East bigwigs.

More to the point at hand, there is a more personal burden weighing on the Wolverines as Friday’s 4:30 face-off at Joe Louis Arena looms. Michigan, after jealously guarding the GLI title for a nine-year stretch up until 1996, has not won the hailed holiday tourney since. Over the past ten years, while Michigan Tech sat in a rather comatose, forgotten state, first-place has gone to either the Spartans or the at-large invitee.

Whew. Quite a bit for Tim Army’s corps to be digesting in its own block of sharpening for this tournament. What’s the ultimate angle from Schneider?

Start with the educated guess that The Joe will likely live up to its occasional “Yost East” pet name as up to 10,000 tireless “Hail to the Victors” songsters make the leap from Ann Arbor. The Friars have done the better chunk of their clotting on unchartered ponds this season –their last three invaluable conference victories date back to excursions to Vermont and Maine.

Still, Army acknowledges “We haven’t confronted that number, but we have played some difficult road games though the buildings don’t seat that kind of capacity (as that of Joe Louis Arena).
“We’ve been able to play well in some difficult places. Obviously there will be more people, it is Michigan…but our focus is to be ready to play and not to play on our heels but to play on our toes.”
An alleged culprit as to Michigan’s GLI spell has been its generous offering to the coinciding World Junior tournament. This season, the Wolverines will be without freshmen forwards Carl Hegelin of Sweden and Matt Rust and Max Pacioretty of Team USA and the latter two’s countryman blueliner, Chris Summers.

The other skate may drop on Friar Fanatic forecasters in that the nation’s top gun, Michigan senior Kevin Porter (18-11-29 totals through 18 games) and not-too-distant classmate Chad Kolarik (12-12-24) are still hanging about. Even with that to the side, Army cautioned, “They’re really deep. They’ve obviously got some good kids who will be at World Juniors, but you can’t be #1 without a deep roster.
“(For them) it’ll be an opportunity for other players who ordinarily don’t see as much ice time. They certainly will want to step up, so I expect that we will see the very best that Michigan has to offer.”
Additionally, whatever transpires on Friday and whatever its effect on Saturday’s slate may be, it will pose an opportunity for the ambitious Friars, particularly junior defender Matt Taormina.

Taormina, native to the Detroit suburb of Washington Township, has timed his precision puckslinging rather well leading up to his holiday homecoming. His 16 points have knotted him with senior captain Jon Rheault atop the Friars scoring charts, virtually matched his frosh-soph aggregate of 18, and make him the most consistent scoring backliner in the nation.

Now he has a chance to, with the rest of his Ocean State colleagues, test his new two-way trend against some alien big boys in his one-time backyard.
“I think it’s great for Matt,” Army bluntly noted, adding “because we’re a Hockey East team, and because one our seven non-conference games is always against Brown, it’s difficult for our kids from the Midwest to play in their hometown. So for Matt, he’ll have a lot of family and friends in the stands and it’ll be a great opportunity to illustrate how much he has progressed in his two-plus years here.”

Vaguely Familiar Settings
The largest one-sided hostile mass that the Friars confronted happens to date back to the previous holiday break when they visited the Badger Showdown. There, they submitted to the then-defending champion Badgers, 5-0, in the third-place game before a record 14,784 at Kohl Center.

Citing the rarely encountered circumstances, which he may be in for again should PC tangle with Michigan State, Army said “We didn’t initiate a great deal of play that game, so especially for the guys who are returning this year, we’ll try to draw on that.”
One day prior to that Badger beating, the aforementioned Taormina inserted the Friars’ lone offensive highlight of that experience, scoring in a 2-1 falter to yet another Michigan tenant, Lake Superior State.

PC’s last post-Christmas cheer came as a first-place finish in third, and most likely last, Dunkin Coffee Pot in 2005.

Making a fair case
In defense of its national crown, Michigan State is subsisting on a propitious bushel of disciplined veterans that has helped it to a respectable fourth place in its conference (with a few games in hand, mind you) and an overall 12-3-2 transcript. Four of the Spartans’ junior forwards –top gun Tim Kennedy, Justin Abdelkader, Tim Crowder, Nick Sucharski- have all charged up at least 13 points through 17 games played while having yet to hatch the goose egg in their respective penalty minutes column. Another three hefty heat gun bearers –seniors Bryan Lerg and Daniel Vukovic and junior Matt Schepke- have done time for a mere eight minutes apiece this season.
With precisely half of their regular season agenda over with, the Spartans, backed by mighty mite netminder Jeff Lerg, are on pace to enter the post-season with 24 wins –six more than what they had at the beginning of last March.
Going into the specifics of this weekend, though, MSU is seeking its fifth consecutive berth in the GLI title game and its third crowning achievement in four years.

Technologically revived
There was a time when the legendary John MacInnes –the namesake for the GLI’s championship trophy- was coaching the Michigan Tech Huskies to the same level of reverence as Herb Brooks’ Minnesota program and the earliest versions of Professor Parker’s Pupils at Boston University.

But the co-founders of the 43-year-old tournament from Yooper Country are now without a sip from their late godfather’s cup since 1980. The modernized, hard-luck Huskies have not so much as won a single GLI game since 2000.

Only recently, though, fifth-year coach Jamie Russell has brought MTU back into the frame of recognition, helping it to an appearance at last year’s WCHA Final 5. Only a recent 0-1-1 upshot in a two-game series with regional rival Northern Michigan has docked the Huskies from the national polls as they make their always-treasured Motown excursion.

The freshest USCHO assessment has both the Huskies and Friars with honorable mentions, holding 15 and 5 votes respectively.

Miscellany Rhode Island has twice previously been represented in the GLI. Brown University charged up fourth-place and third-place achievements in 1970 and 1976…With the Friars’ input, Hockey East will have had a Detroit holiday ambassador for the sixth time since the league’s inception, fifth in eight seasons, and fourth in six seasons. None of those invitees left Motown winless. Most recently, the Hub Hunks of BU and BC split championships in 2002 and 2003 before New Hampshire nabbed a consolation win over MTU in 2004…A smattering of GLI alums now with the Providence and/or Boston Bruins include: BC’s Andrew Alberts, Bobby Allen, and Chris Collins, Matt Hunwick of Michigan, and Mark Stuart of Colorado College in 2005…The Friars-Wolverines all-time series has but two chapters to speak of, both Michigan victories. Their previous meeting was at the Nebraska-Omaha-based Maverick Stampede on October 12, 2001…PC’s last encounter with Michigan State was during Army’s senior year in 1985, when a goal-total factor declared the Friars (6-5 differential) the winner of a two-game NCAA playoff round, sending them to their last Frozen Four, also at Joe Louis…The Providence franchise is 3-5-2 lifetime against MTU, last encountering the Huskies in the Upper Peninsula on January 28, 1989 and extracting a 5-2 triumph…Outside the action in Detroit, the rest of Hockey East’s holiday tournament activity reads as follows: Maine will pay its routine visit to Estero for the Florida Everblades College Classic, opposite UMass-Lowell; UMass-Amherst grinds in nearby Tampa at the Lightning College Classic; Northeastern partakes in the Badger Showdown; Boston College visits the Minneapolis-based Dodge Holiday Classic; Vermont hangs about its home pond for the Catamount Cup, inviting Holy Cross, Quinnipiac, and Western Michigan this season…League actions rekindles Sunday, December 30, when Merrimack visits BU.

This article originally appeared in the Friartown Free Press

Friday, December 14, 2007

Men's Hockey Log: Friars Grooming For The Great Lakes In Two Weeks

It will be hard to for anyone to blame Providence College coach Tim Army if, come December 27, he is preoccupied with 1985.
The Friars are meticulously spending a three-week, no-game gap physically retooling and strategically fostering in preparation for an excursion to the illustrious Great Lakes Invitational at Detroit’s Joe Louis Arena, the site where Army captained the Friars to their last of two Frozen Four appearances.
Though not one to divert too far from the task at hand, the coach admitted that this holiday treat means cracking open a class-of-its-own memory album.
“This will be an enjoyable trip for a lot of reasons,” he said Friday in a phone interview. “It does bring back some good memories for me as a player and a coach.”
Army proceeded to briefly recall his senior year as a PC puckster, when he personally bagged the inaugural Hockey East scoring title and successively piloted the Friars to Motown, where they fell short in the title tilt to RPI, 2-1. Additionally, Army has had some momentous brushes with the Red Wings, having been a sidekick skipper for the Anaheim Mighty Ducks in 1997 and the Cinderella Washington Capitals of 1998.
“That was a really great time for our franchise,” he said of both experiences, one wherein the Ducks won their first ever playoff round and the other when the Caps trekked to their first Stanley Cup Final before submitting to the dynastic pupils of Scotty Bowman.
Swooping back to the present, Army hopes to use the college game’s most popularly acclaimed holiday tournament to similarly advance the Friar Hockey tag.
“(Previous head coach) Paul Pooley had already received a commitment (to the GLI),” he recalls. “So when I took over in 2005 and was given the schedule, this was on the horizon. It’s obviously very exciting.”
But the short, simple truth of the matter is it won’t be easy. As of Monday's polls, all three GLI staples –Michigan, Michigan State, and Michigan Tech- are all in the spotlight. While Providence earned its first honorable mention of the year, receiving a cumulative 7 votes from the USCHO panel after its overriding home impressions against Brown and Union, Michigan Tech leads the unranked reckonables with 58 votes.
Meantime, the Wolverines, lined up with the Friars for Day 1 of the tournament, only recently usurped the top slot in the nation from CCHA rival Miami-Ohio. The defending national champion Spartans are rigidly clutching the #5 position.
Come what may, the third-year PC coach declared that he has finally adjusted comfortably to the college game’s customary December deceleration, which has been backed nicely by his team’s 3-0 transcript and 17-2 goal differential between Thanksgiving and exams.
Now, Army says, the forthcoming agenda –informal skates, a hefty helping of gym activity, a four-to-five-day home respite, “an intense practice” on Boxing Day, and a subsequent skate in Detroit- should effectively preserve the recent magic and warm up his squad to the unchartered, vibrant western pool.
“We’ll utilize our time effectively,” he said. “I feel really good with how we’re using our time.
“All three teams in that tournament are having great years, they’re very deep,” he observed. “Whoever you play is gonna be very good, and it’s a great challenge. It’s a great opportunity for our program to try and improve on a game-to-game basis.
“We will have had four formal practices (between now and then), but I think it will be a good break for us. It came at a really good time.”
This article originally appeared in the Friartown Free Press

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Harvard 4, Women's Hockey 1

For the better part of Saturday night’s first period, the Providence College Friars, forty-eight hours removed from a stinging setback to Yale, appeared refreshed and primed to convert their energy against a fiery Harvard team.

But for the second straight game, the second period defined another Friar falter. The nationally No. 2-ranked Crimson, fueled by their starting unit of Sarah Vallaincourt, Jenny Brine, and Liza Ryabnika, broke out for three goals to sculpt the eventual 4-1 final, PC’s first multi-goal defeat in a month.
With the win, the Crimson, who had not played a non-ECAC game before their drop-in at UConn on Friday, augmented their season log to 11-0. The Frias, meantime, continue to have their hard luck with non-conference and ranked rivals, withholding 2-7 and 1-4 transcripts in those respective situations.
Despite the overall array of positives that the Friars had exploited in their 4-1 run prior to hosting the still undefeated Crimson, coach Bob Deraney decided to tweak his formula Saturday. For the first time in the homestand, he did not start his blazing, seasoned line of Mari Peknonen, Sarah Feldman, and Katy Beach –who would concoct the lone home highlight of the night anyway.
Additionally, freshman goaltender Jennifer Smith (28 saves) got the nod for the first time since she compressed another poll-based Hub club –Boston College- at the tail-end of October. And at first, Smith was introduced to Harvard in undemanding 101 form while her associates whittled through the Crimson defense to ultimately lead in shots on goal 7-3 within the first 15:50 of play.
Within seconds of that mark, though, an interference call against Friars blueliner Colleen Martin perked up the Harvard power play for the icebreaker. Hastily regrouping after an immediate off-the-draw clear, Ryabkina shuffled through neutral ice and forwarded the puck to Vallaincourt, whose 22 points through her first ten games matched her linemates’ (11 each) aggregate.
Vallaincourt stepped to the high slot and turned to the far circle to find Caitlin Cahow, who one-timed an ice-kisser through Smith’s pads.
Up to about that point, Providence was faring most pucky dory with its perceptible short-shift strategy –a must when raging against machines such as Harvard- keeping the action virtually uninterrupted in the opening frame. But upon returning to a fresh sheet, the visitors deposited a hefty load of salt before the Friars to steal the momentum.
At 7:53 of the second, Ryabnika absorbed Brine’s feed and aroused a congested crash to the net with her shot, which Smith froze with her stick, but watched as Vallaincourt extracted the rebound and buried it in the gaping right half of the net.
The Friars, who kept enough pace to lather on sixteen shots in the first forty minutes, did cut the deficit on one of umpteen dusty attacking zone grinds at 13:03. Beach found herself a lone ranger to the left of stopper Christina Kessler while her linemates and point patroller Kathleen Smith barely kept the puck onside before the Friars bench. Breaking out into a little more air, Smith rolled the biscuit to the unguarded Beach, who painstakingly retained her balance whilst lacing it home around Kessler’s blades.
It only took another forty-five seconds, though, for a two-minute holding sentence to Jenna Keilch and anther collaboration by the glimmering Harvard strike force –who swept the game’s three-star selection- to restore the two-goal difference.
Vaillancourt, stationed at the far point, whooshed a magnetic parallel pass to Brine, who just as nimbly handed over to Ryabnika for a back-door tap-in.
Within the final three minutes of the second, Brine inserted what would be the final lamp-lighter just as her team was through eroding a mini-PC power play –instituted when Crimson skater Anna MacDonald got a high-sticking call during her own team’s power play. Brine ambushed PC blueliner Amber Yung, who was awaiting a round-the-boards feed from Pehknonen, and hustled away down the far lane to stuff in her third point of the period.
Harvard –though at their busiest in the closing stanza- let up in the scoring department over that span, coming up empty on thirteen sparsely distributed stabs at Smith. But they likewise kept draining the Friars’ tanks, allotting them a mere two shots.
PC’s game total of 18 shots was virtually half of what it had cooked up in each of its six previous games.
This article originally appeared in the Friartown Free Press

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Men's Hockey 5, Union 2: Providence Power Play Thaws Out In Third

Well in advance of his early December slate, Providence College coach Tim Army had expressed conviction that playing every three nights over a one-week period would be notably taxing for his increasingly evolving corps. And after two seemingly facile triumphs of Vermont and Brown, the Friars were indeed yanked down from cloud nine to start their tangle with a scurvy-stricken Union Dutchmen team.
Union, 1-5 in their six preceding games, jumped to an early shooting edge and lassoed the revamped Friars for a 1-1 tally that stood rigidly for more than thirty minutes of play.
But an ever-dreaded penalty plague ultimately came to haunt the Dutchmen early in the third period as PC busted the knot on its eighth man advantage of the evening via Kyle Laughlin with 17:59 to spare in regulation. Moments later, fellow captain Jon Rheault kept the newfound momentum rushing and the Friars paced themselves to a four-goal frame and 5-2 triumph in their last appearance at home this calendar year.
The Friars will now make a delicate effort to securely freeze this momentum in the three game-less weeks leading up to their year-end excursion to the Detroit-based Great Lakes Invitational.
The uplifting final stanza was a rushed reversal back to what has had Providence turning heads since returning from Thanksgiving break with a collectively resurfaced feeling. But the final product of what is now their lengthiest winning streak this season was nothing short of a gradual climb away from a storyline that defined their games before the rare holiday.
The Dutchmen barely withheld a 13-11 shooting edge at the first buzzer, neither team leading by more than three on that front, and they needed but 64 seconds to respond to the Friars icebreaker around the halfway mark of that period.
First, though, PC’s Greg Collins and Austin Mayer forked in a four-man scrum in the right corner of the Union zone, Mayer eventually pulling through and lacing a feed around the net intended for center Kyle MacKinnon, but which instead reached senior blueliner Trevor Ludwig. Ludwig, without a goal since his freshman campaign, gave the Friars a 1-0 edge with a blast over southpaw goaltender Justin Mrazek’s trapper.
The Dutchmen countered on their very next visit to Tyler Sims’ territory to snap his shutout streak at 130:37 worth of playing time. Off a draw in the far circle, winger Adam Presiniuk sent the PC stopper sprawling after his long-range bid. Center Mario Valery-Trabucco pounced to swipe home the rebound.
Union’s offensive output spiraled in the second to an infinitesimal three shot count. But Mrazek stood his ground against twenty smoothly distributed Friar stabs –eight of them on power plays- to keep the game tied through two.
In the waning stages of the middle frame, there were two abbreviated 5-on-3 sequences that favored the Friars (neither lasted more than 15 seconds). A two-minute hooking sentence to Michael Beynon that carried over to the third was itself 15 ticks from expiration when fellow defender Brendan Milnarrow was whistled for tripping, giving PC’s night-long arid power play unit yet another mulligan.
This time, they clicked as Laughlin, one of the few not to brush the scoresheet against Brown, charged up his seventh of the year.
In another 1:38, defender Matt Taormina hunted down a no-icing behind his own net and laced it around the near boards to Wild. Wild lobbed a neutral zone-length Hail Mary to Rheault at the opposite blue line and watched the captain stretch his multi-point streak to three games with a breakaway, bar-down strike at 3:39.
The Friars subsisted on the resultant 3-1 advantage for the next twelve minutes. Through that stretch, they chalked up another eight shots compared to Union’s four (the Dutchmen were allotted but one shot on their own back-to-back set of power plays), and ultimately sprinkled a pair of empty netters within the final five minutes.
While Collins was off for hitting from behind, Mrazek darted to the bench surprisingly early to afford the Dutchmen a six-pack attack. However, Nick Mazzolini quelled the attack and set Wild up at the other end with 4:14 on the board.
Three minutes later, Mazzolini performed an encore in his own end and helped himself to a leisurely breakaway conversion for the Friars fifth goal, more than enough for Sims and Co. to shrug off Union defender Mike Schreiber’s last-minute power play tally.
This article originally appeared in the Friartown Free Press

Friday, December 7, 2007

Yale 2, Women's Hockey 1

Thursday’s contesting teams were rolling in inverse directions at puck-drop: the host Providence College Friars subsisting on a four-game winning streak, the Yale Bulldogs 0-5-1 in their previous six outings. Yet the Dogs proved by far to be the most effectively resistant visitor during PC’s six-game homestand, which concludes Saturday against Harvard.
Whether those circumstances factored in the heat of the play or not, PC coach Bob Deraney acted on his inclination to throw a challenge flag when Yale shone in the middle frame to scurry ahead 2-1. On the equalizer at the 5:22 mark, Friars backliner Brittany Simpson had been chasing a fugitive puck off an attacking-zone face-off, seeking a routine regrouping session in neutral ice.
Instead, Simpson was entangled by Yale’s Caroline Murphy, who dropped on top of her at the far circle top of the Providence end. While the Friar faithful cried foul, alleging interference, Murphy’s fellow winger Kristin Stupay subsequently accepted Danielle Koslowski’s quick handover and snapped it bar down.
Four-and-a-half-minutes later, the officials agreed to go to the newfangled video booth when Helen Resor’s eventual winner was seemingly set up by a high-stick. The call nonetheless stood and the Friars, unable to recompense even in a 16-shot third period saw the 2-1 deficit solidify, and their hot streak vanquished.
Aside from the ultimately decisive, call-it-what-you-will second period, the revamped Providence team had all of its winning elements whirling through Thursday’s contest. Although, the conversely starved Bulldogs kept their borders considerably tighter than, say, the Maine Black Bears or Robert Morris Colonials before them.
The Friars were confined to a game total of 35 shots, their lowest since their last road excursion to Ohio State prior Thanksgiving and were barely outshot in the second by a 10-9 differential.
Nonetheless, they ran away with the shooting gallery for the first chunk of the opening frame, pouring out seven unanswered stabs to lead that category 8-1 by 7:04. But for the next eight minutes of play, the puck took a tour about as random as the footbag that a handful of Friars kick around an hour before each game, and neither team registered another shot until PC’s master puckslinger, Kathleen Smith, unleashed a slapper with 4:19 remaining.
Yale held the Friar strikers off for another lengthy stretch of hot potato in neutral ice before surrendering a wildly executed icebreaker with 1:05 till intermission.
In a sequence rather characteristic of the contest, an array of bodies tumbled in a scrum for the puck along the far red-line boards. When it squirted out, a fresh-off-the-bench Smith swooped in, darted into the Yale zone, and found Kelli Doolin scurrying down the middle alley. Doolin, flocked by backchecking Bulldogs, took her own tumble as she still managed to absorb Smith’s feed and tap it through goaltender Shivon Zilis before pulling off a full-body rollover to the right of the cage.
The Bulldogs, who mustered an infinitesimal two attempts at Friars stopper Danielle Ciarletta, remained hushed even through a power play in the wee minutes of the second period. But not long after that expired, Murray and Stupay caught their peculiar break on the team’s third shot.
Later, at 9:55 of that period, Kristi Howser took her own whack in a heavily congested area along the near post. Ciarletta tilted it over before the vacant left frame of the cage and Resor pounced to swat in the eventual winner.
Yale –which, the win aside, has now not surpassed two goals in its last seven games- looked to have a sufficient grip on its newfound momentum until precisely 90 ticks remained in the middle frame. It was then that defender Carlee Ness was flagged for checking PC’s Pamela McDevitt, seventy seconds before she was joined by Mandi Schwartz, caught tripping in the midst of the Friars growingly familiar power play swarm.
But the Bulldogs deprived the Friars of any shots on the two carry-over advantages, and even when her defending skaters melted and gave her the sweatiest period of the night, Zilis (game total: 34 saves) answered everything.
Providence, which has yet to fall by more than one goal on home ice, ran up five shots in the waning two minutes with six attackers, but could not sustain any prolonged buzzes as Yale cleared its zone three times.
This article originally appeared in the Friartown Free Press

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Men's Hockey 8, Brown 0: Friars Erupt To Reclaim Mayor's Cup

When five minutes remained in the first period Tuesday, Friars rookie Kyle MacKinnon and his bleacher-bound peers thought the still-acclimating forward had potted his first collegiate goal.
Hanging back in a two-on-one rush led by senior captain Jon Rheault, MacKinnon went gliding on his knees down the Broadway lane after a rebound, but only poked it through after a whistle. Providence therefore had to settle for a slim 1-0 edge through intermission.
But at the other end of that Zamboni tour, MacKinnon and Rheault re-collaborated, and this time converted at the 23-second mark. MacKinnon connected once more in another three minutes and his teammates followed up with a rampant 5-goal stanza that defined an 8-0 steamrolling of Brown University.
MacKinnon’s short story of personal redemption was a mere sideshow compared to PC’s starving-dog fight to reclaim the Mayor’s Cup. Going in, head coach Tim Army recalled last season, when the Bears had oppressed the Friars with a two-goal, 21-shot first period, and kept pace towards a 2-1 win over at Meehan Auditorium.
“They did it by overwhelming us in the first period last year,” he recalled. “We did not match their intensity, so the expectation is that we would come out with that approach tonight.”
That’s just what happened. Riding the waves of a decisive 4-0 triumph at Vermont on Saturday, and the urge to string together just their second winning streak all year, the Friars broke the ice on their first power play at 1:34.
Off first draw after Brown’s Matt Palmer was locked away, Matt Taormina absorbed a feed from Nick Mazzolini on the far side and forwarded it to point partner Cody Wild. Wild’s rebounded met up with Pierce Norton, who buried it instantly.
Providence proceeded to run up the shooting gallery, leading that category 16-4 by the first buzzer, though starting stopper Dan Rosen kept the Bears well afloat up to that point.
Not so in the second. In the first minute during a carry-over penalty kill, Rheault guided a blocked shot out of his zone and broke loose with MacKinnon, whom he lent a backhand pass for him to zip into the right shelf.
MacKinnon broke out the margin a tad more at 3:41, chasing Trevor Ludwig’s far-angle roller and stuffing it home along the near post.
The Bears, meantime, lashed out their sixth shot at Tyler Sims, who would need next to no time adding to his PC career shutout record, at 5:10 of the middle frame. Their seventh did not arrive until 16:38, and by then the Friars had pulled ahead 5-0 and sent an overcooked Rosen to the bench.
With 9:03 remaining in the period, defender Mark Fayne accepted Rheault’s close range handover and rolled out an ice-kisser through Rosen’s pads.
In another two-and-a-half minutes, Matt Germain pulled through in another mad mucking spree and forwarded the puck to a wide open Taormina, who drilled home a straightaway slapper.
Rosen’s successor, Tristan Favro, was more or less eased into his portion of the night, tilting aside two shots in his first six minutes played. But as bubbling emotions translated into a rash of penalties, the Friars converted on another power play –a 4-on-3 set-up at that- before curtaining the volcanic period.
All four PC skaters toured the puck through their box formation and left it up to John Cavanagh to finish the play off at the back door.
The Friars hardly let up in the third, though, throwing on another twenty shots (game total: 55). Wild snuck the seventh goal of the game, and third power play conversion, through a tightly guarded near post with 6:15 to go.
Rheault’s finishing tough in the final minute briefly interrupted the Friar Fanatic taunts of “Harvard rejects” and “Long walk to RIPTA” and aroused another cheering session as he unloaded a wrister that eluded Favro’s stick.
For a home crowd that was reduced to a reported 1,087 by the coinciding PC-URI hoops tilt and partially filled by the cross-town faithful, there was certainly enough buzz in the Friars’ first home win since the end of October. Does this mean the curious road cooking has come home?
“We need to,” said Army regarding home improvement, which his pupils will get another crack at Friday against Union. “We’ve been a much better team on the road this year.
“I think we play a more simple game on the road. We tend to get away from our identity at home. We get a little bit loose. It’s a tendency, when you’re in front of your own fans, you try to impress them too much and it takes you off your game a little bit, whereas on the road, you’re not trying to impress anybody.
“We need to bring all the elements (that have worked for us) and try to simplify that.”
This article originally appeared in the Friartown Free Press

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Men's Hockey Log: Renewed Friars Look To Strike Again

Their game comfortably resurfaced through two smooth blocks of practice sandwiching Thanksgiving break, the Providence College men’s hockey team translated the buildup well enough in their single-dip excursion to Vermont last weekend.

A tray of individual hors d’oeuvres signified a 4-0 pasting of the Vermont Catamounts Saturday night that saw, among other things, a personally revamping captain Jon Rheault pot two goals –both set up by linemates Ian O’Connor and Matt Germain- and Tyler Sims pace his way to career shutout No. 6, a franchise record.
Sims’ workload dwindled by the period while his associate strikers chased Catamount starter Joe Fallon out of his crease early in a riotous three-goal second period, and then put their first bid at back-up Mike Spillane turn into the first of Rheault’s two conversions.
Coming home, though, with but a single day’s worth of preparation for Tuesday’s Brown showdown, head coach Tim Army stresses the effort not to get drunk on the pleasure of what may have been the Friars’ best all-around performance, and most momentous Hockey East victory, to date.
“It was good for Saturday night, then we got ourselves re-organized to get ready for Brown tomorrow night,” the anti-negligent skipper offered. “But it was obviously, at that stage of the year, with exams looming and Christmas break, it was certainly nice to go into the holiday season with a win in our last Hockey East game, particularly on the road against a team that’s very strong at home.
“We put ourselves in a positive position as we head into the second half of the Hockey East schedule, with a solid position in the middle of the standings, and with an opportunity, with some games in hand, to close the gap.”
With a 4-3-2 conference transcript in the cooler for the next six weeks, PC is in a three-way points deadlock with the two UMass squads. However, the Lowell Riverhawks, who will be waiting for a home-and-home set when the Hockey East slate does finally resume, have already exhausted eleven games as opposed to the Friars’ nine. The same holds true for second-place Boston College, who only lead those crammed into fourth place by two points.
As for the immediate future, a pair of ECAC rivals in Brown and Union is in store, their respective visits pried apart by a slim three nights. Such circumstances effectively mold together to produce a smattering of yet-to-be-mastered tasks by this edition of the Friars.
Lacking a win out of three previous non-conference games and with anything but the luxurious load of preparation they had prior to the Vermont trip, Army let out his distinctive one-step-at-a-time philosophy.
“What we would like is to continue the play that we maintained at Vermont and start to develop that consistency in our game overall,” he said. “These non-conference games (this week) are very important, because we haven’t won a non-conference game this season."
The first foe, Mayor’s Cup rival Brown, can make the exact same proclamation. The Bears, who will shoot to renew Divine City bragging rights after their 2-1 squeeze at Meehan Auditorium last year, as well as fortify a plebeian 1-5-3 overall record, their only win coming against ECAC rival Colgate November 9. Their latest two outings –both Hockey East matches- saw them crumple before New Hampshire 5-2 and Northeastern 4-3.
Not that that budges the outlook from the PC bench. Nor does the fact that the other heralded intrastate rivalry, that being men’s basketball versus URI, tips off at the exact same time over in Kingston this year.
“It flies under our radar,” said Army rather simply, never one to divert from the task at hand. “We’ve gotta play with whoever’s here, however many people are here. Those are things that you can’t necessarily control.
“We’re at home, we’re in familiar surroundings. We need to establish the things that we do well as a hockey team and play an assertive game.”
Quick Feeds: Four current Friars have scoring credit in past Mayor’s Cup games. Junior defenseman Cody Wild has charged up an assist in each of his first two experiences, the more recent when he collaborated with John Cavanagh to set up since graduated Colin MacDonald’s lone Friar goal last year. Rheault collected a pair of helpers in the 2005-06 edition, aiding the Friars to a sound 5-1 home victory, while Nick Mazzolini chipped in an assist of his own…Senior netminder Sims has started every Brown game possible in his career, currently withholding a 1-2 log…Perhaps the only arid aspect to PC’s game at Vermont was the fact that it came up empty on four power play opportunities. On the other hand, the Friars penalty kill was equally unyielding and has now completely starved the opposition through four consecutive games…In Tuesday’s clash, freshman defenseman Eric Baier will have his first –and, most likely, only- collegiate encounter with his older brother, Paul. The elder son of the North Kingstown family is a senior bouncer at Brown with 2-1-3 totals through nine games this season.

This article originally appeared in the Friartown Free Press

Monday, December 3, 2007

Women's Hockey 4, Maine 0: Early Pounces Pave Win For Friars

A slim 3:40 had left the first period playing clock before the Maine Black Bears had inscribed four unfavorable entries on the scoresheet.
Precisely thirty ticks removed from slipping behind the Friars, 2-0, Maine forward Abby Barton overdid her counterattack, plowing right into goaltender Danielle Ciarletta’s face and receiving a two-minute penalty box sentence. Off the subsequent draw, Vanessa Vani blew PC’s Katy Beach to the ice, allotting the already flying Friars a whopping 1:56 of 5-on-3 play.
Though Providence did not add any layers to their lead right away, or for the rest of the period, they clamped down and ultimately squeezed out a 4-0 triumph, the team’s first shutout of the season, for a sweep of the Black Bears and a four-for-four transcript over consecutive home weekends.
The Friars have effectively boosted themselves to a 4-2-1 conference transcript, and will have another two-thirds of their Hockey East schedule still waiting in the cooler after New Year’s. The blunderstruck Black Bears, meantime, are still without a win in the last two months.
Maine did not simply succumb to their early lesions by any means. However badly shagged out she may have been from her second heaviest sweat of the season twenty-four hours previous, Genevieve Turgeon got the starting nod for the Black Bears again Sunday, and her defensive corps held the Friars off much better than on Saturday (36 total shots faced).
Furthermore, the visiting skaters unhesitatingly reached out when they had their chances against Ciarletta, including two lengthy two-player stretches of their own.
But Ciarletta, making her eighth consecutive start, stood firm to withstand a total distribution of twenty-three shots, more than half of those coming in a heated first period, and earn her second career shutout as a Friar.
Before she needed to answer any urgent calls, though, Ciarletta watched her incessantly gelling praetorians nab the immediate upper hand. At 2:07, Sarah Feldman and Kelli Doolin were forking for the Friars in the near corner of the offensive zone before Feldman assumed full control and zipped the puck out to defender Erin Normore.
Normore, with eight helpers heading into the game but no goals of her own to speak off, hatched that G-column goose egg by leveling a straightaway slapper in through a screen.
One minute later, just as the PA description of the previous conversion was wrapping up, another healthily offensive-minded blueliner, Kathleen Smith, made it 2-0 when she looped the biscuit around the near post and stuffing in her first of two goals on the day.
Maine was pushed back a little more by the aforementioned jitter-induced penalties, but Turgeon tilted away all three PC power play shots. In the latter half of the period, the Black Bears seized their own scoring chances and effectively held the puck down at the other end of the rink.
Within the final four minutes before intermission, PC’s Mari Pehkonen and Doolin had both been whistled, resulting in 1:48 worth of a 5-on-3 kill. But while Maine closed the shooting gallery gap from 13-6 to 13-12 Ciarletta withstood all of the head-spinning.
Four minutes into the second period, the Friars’ starting line, which has curiously been letting its nine striking associates take most of the credit, teamed up to make it 3-0. Pehkonen journeyed from the far alley of the zone behind the Black Bear cage and forwarded a short range feed to Feldman.
Feldman  left a drop pass for Katy Beach and then turned a counterclockwise semi-circle into the slot, waiting for Beach’s return feed, which she absorbed and wristed high to the left of Turgeon.
Maine managed four stabs at Ciarletta through the middle frame, but reloaded its desperate gun rack for the third, logging a total of nine. The Friars, meanwhile, sprinkled on another fourteen at Turgeon and used an early power play to solidify the eventual score.
Exactly one minute after Lexi Hoffmeyer went off for making contact to Pehkonen’s head on an open-ice check, Smith accepted Jean O’Neill’s shipment from the behind the net, wandered from the near circle top to the opposite post, and flicked one home top shelf.
The Black Bears earned another prolonged 5-on-3 stretch, a total of 91 seconds, within the final five minutes of regulation, but managed merely two shots and were repeatedly forced to regroup over PC clearances.
This article originally appeared in the Friartown Free Press

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Women's Hockey 7, Maine 2: Rookie Trio Pilots Friars Past Black Bears

Bucking trends has been all the rage for the PC women’s hockey team since they settled down on campus for a between-the-breaks six game homestand. Previously looking in need of a hot dish of offense from the neighborhood shelter, they have now exponentially heightened their output in three successive games, and naturally kilned a first-time winning streak in the process.

For the latest installment, the Friars followed a trinity of young blood towards decisively imploding the seemingly unbreakable habit of taking the Maine Black Bears into overtime.
Freshmen Alyse Ruff (hat trick), Jean O’Neill (one goal, two assists) and Amber Yung (three assists) assumed control to overhaul the equally invincible-looking netminder Genevieve Turgeon towards a 7-2 triumph. The three new heat-gun bearers accounted for 16 of 64 total shots at Turgeon, only two shy of a season-high for the Maine workhorse
Prior to the weekend visit to Schneider Arena, Turgeon was an unmistakable lone star for an abysmally struggling Black Bear team. For all intents and purposes, she remained true to form Saturday, but this time around 57 saves did not cut it for media recognition. The game’s three star honors were wholly usurped by the host team’s radiant rookie trinity.
From the tail end of the 2005-06 campaign, when current PC senior Danielle Tangredi was studying and skating in Orono, to this season’s opener at Alfond Arena, the contesting teams had required a bonus round in five consecutive get-togethers.
Most recently, in their only visit to Orono this year, Providence had kindled a hefty twenty-shot first period and a 2-0 edge before the tables slowly and smoothly turned, allowing the Bears to pull even.
Times have changed. Within the first twenty minutes of Saturday’s clash, Turgeon had already endured 23 stabs and, as she has all season, made it clear that the Friars would need to snag an ice pick and sturdy pair of spiky boots to tackle her peak.
Ruff took it upon herself to take that wager, though, inserting the game’s first two goals on tirelessly executed crashes to the net.
With 2:17 remaining in the opening frame, during a lengthy power play swarm, playmaker Erin Normore tapped the puck to her point partner Yung, whose subsequent shot chipped off Turgeon’s stick. Ruff, eyeing the far post, collected the fugitive rebound, after her classmate and second-line centerpiece Jackie Duncan bobbled it in front, and buried it behind Turgeon.
Less than five minutes into the second period, on yet another extra-player sequence, Yung whipped up another dead-on bid from the straightaway point. And yet again, Turgeon failed to get a grip on it and watched the stealthy Ruff slide in on her knees and tap a roller home for the 2-0 Friar lead.
Not long after, the heroic blue-clad glacier officially reached her rapid meltdown motif. Shortly before the halfway mark of the game, O’Neill, despite prolonging a shift, tracked down the puck along the far outer hash marks a shipped a smooth diagonal feed to Yung. She then darted to the cage in anticipation of a rebound, which she poked behind Turgeon before Katy Beach stepped up for an easy tip-in.
A while later, with 8:28 left in the middle stanza, O’Neill was at it again, sizzling after Ruff’s two-on-one wide attempt, collecting it at the far side, and shuffling to the face-off circle, where she whooshed a low rider into the opposite corner of the cage.
Off the subsequent draw, the impoverished Black Bears finally clicked on one of their opportunities as Jenna Ouelette neutralized a heavy traffic scrum and set up Abby Barton, sending Maine back to their dressing room down 4-1.
At 5:57 of the third, however, Ruff completed her night, monitoring another slippery rebound, this one off the stick of Colleen Martin. With a handful of attacking and defending bodies tilted to the far side, where a genuflecting Turgeon was trying to freeze the play, Ruff nimbly extracted and curled the disc into the vacant half of the net.
Less than three minutes later, PC threw out another power play conversion through Brittany Simpson, who wandered into the slot to import a zipping Mari Pehkonen’s offering and flick it high to the right of Turgeon.
Maine did manage to strike the cold mesh that Danielle Ciarletta (16 saves) had been patrolling with 4:15 to go. Jennie Gallo zipped out of a scrum along the near boards and shoveled home a face-to-face backhand conversion.
But the Black Bears were granted no further access after that, and Cherie Hendrickson solidified the 7-2 final with 1:48 on the clock, polishing off another chaotic buzz in Turgeon’s territory and tucking in the remains of a Rachel Crissy shot.
This article originally appeared in the Friartown Free Press