Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Men's Hockey Log: Friars Appreciate Recognition, Turn To Eagles

Is there anything at the moment on the Friars’ floppy disk that requires a dewdrop of Windex?
Through last weekend’s startlingly lopsided sweep of Northeastern, wherein they charged up an aggregate goal differential of 10-3, PC made haste to halt the Bruins-like rollercoaster that had plagued them since New Year’s and reap some league and nationwide rewards.
Exhibit A: Senior goaltender Tyler Sims nabbed the Hockey East Player of the Week distinction, his first such honor since he was a sophomore, even with a handful of his praetorian guards arguably blanketing his performance (two-game total 55 saves). Juniors Pierce Norton and Matt Taormina each posted 2-2-4 totals over two games, sophomore John Cavanagh 3 points, and Cody Wild two helpers per night.
In total, thirteen Friars brushed the scoresheet over the series. Additionally, they fixed their short-circuited power play well enough to space half of the weekend’s ten goals over 14 man advantages.
“Good teams always get a lot of people involved,” noted head coach Tim Army. “You just can’t rely on a couple of guys offensively. Good teams always start with their goaltending and then everybody contributes from the net out, so I think it’s a nice reflection of how we’ve progressed as a program.”
Exhibit B: PC’s progress was also reflected the latest polls. The never-before-ranked Friars darted all the way up to the No. 14 slot in USCHO’s Monday revision of the Top 20 leaderboard. Quirkily enough, they also lassoed the opposing Huskies from No. 11 to 13 and have the two UMass squads –Amherst and Lowell- looking right up at them at 15th and 16th respectively.
But wouldn’t you know it? Army offered the classic not-done-yet assessment.
“I’m really proud of it, really excited about it,” he said. “The kids are excited. I think all of the coaches are excited. It’s nice recognition for your program. That’s where you want to be. All the best programs are always nationally ranked, so in order to become a good program you gotta be able to deal with all the residuals of being nationally ranked.
“But if you look at it as a ladder, we’ve got a lot more rungs to climb and the only way we’re gonna get (to the top rung) is by focusing on what we can control and what we can control is how we progress every day and how we bring that into a game environment.”
The next of those environments will be the oft-treacherous Conte Forum at Boston College, where Army is currently winless as head coach with a 0-3 transcript in his first two seasons behind the Providence bench.
The ninth-ranked Eagles saw an off-an-on first half to their season not unlike that of the Friars, but have also been saddled by a bewildering two mid-season pro signings and the recent season-ending injury of key two-way forward Brock Bradford.
Even so, the way Army sees it and the way their of late performance has signified, the Eagles have plenty where the likes of Bradford and now-AHL walk-on Brett Motherwell came from. BC is perched second in the league, four points ahead of the newly third-place Friars, by means of a 4-0-2 hot streak. Its last conference loss was a 4-3 overtime falter to the Huskies the night after Thanksgiving.
“They’ve been playing their best hockey for about two months now,” Army offered, though Friday’s face-off will be his pupils’ first in the flesh look at the Eagles. “Not too many teams have had much success with them. We’ll see, we’ll know on Friday how we match with them.
“One thing you can expect is that BC always has great skill and great speed and they close hard on the puck because they skate so well. And they transition the puck so well because they have good offensive instincts both on their forwards and their D.
“And they’ve got real good goaltending, real steady goaltending (from freshman John Muse). A lot of people thought that would be a hole for them this year, but we recognized that they were gonna have good goaltending and that’s come to fruition.”
Eppich comeback?: Sophomore Chris Eppich, unseen in game time attire since the second weekend of the Friars’ schedule, reappeared for the Northeastern series, filling in the third-line right side opposite Kyle Laughlin and Nick Mazzolini.
Though with no points to his credit in five appearances this season, Eppich –who missed a mere two outings as a freshman- pitched in three shots on net in Saturday’s home triumph and saw both his linemates tack on a point apiece both nights.
“He played fairly well,” Army assessed simply, adding that he sensed steady improvement in Eppich in the latter half of the weekend, “so right now he’s found his way into the lineup. I expect that he’ll play (again) on Friday night, but it’s always a game-by-game situation.
“But he’s incrementally finding his way back into the lineup, so if it’s official, he’s one of the top twelve and we’ll see how it goes on Friday night.”
Quick Feeds: Boston College leads all Hockey East tenants in every team category with the exceptions of penalty kill and special teams net -the latter of which is the Friars’ forte. PC is also second to the Eagles’ power play by 2.2 percentage points…From Chestnut Hill, the Friars will open their season series against Merrimack with a Saturday night hornlock at Lawler Arena. The listed face-off time for both games is 7:00.
This article originally appeared in the Friartown Free Press