Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Men's Hockey Log: Coach Tim Army Preaches "Staying On Task"

Those darn Cats scratched them again. But upon stepping away from their latest venture to the oft-treacherous Whittemore Center and resuming their weekly fostering, the Friars took more consolation than from, say, the infamous two-game 10-0 aggregate that zapped their season last year.

When all the ink dried from last weekend’s home-and-home series, Providence had outshot New Hampshire by counts of 53-29 and 40-37. They charged up a 1-1 draw on their own campus and followed through by keeping pace with the Wildcats until 5:30 remained in Saturday’s clash. Only then did heat gun bearer Pierce Norton –who had already posted two goals- take an untimely five-minute hitting from behind call, allowing the host to stamp a 4-3 win.

“When you outshoot a team like New Hampshire, 53-29, you’re doing a lot of good things,” granted head coach Tim Army, adding that even after Wildcat Mike Radja’s all but definite decider with exactly three minutes to spare, his own strike force kept poking at chin-standing goaltender Kevin Regan.

“We certainly played our best game in New Hampshire since we’ve been a coaching staff and we came up one goal short and that five-minute major was the difference. But up to that point, the body of our game was good. So I don’t look at how many points we garnered on the weekend. It’s more important how we played."

As far as data is concerned, though, the Friars made enough use of the one point from Friday’s fixture to at least withhold their partial claim to the uppermost frame of the Hockey East standings. At 10-7-4, they are in a knot with the pushy Northeastern Huskies for third place.

And, to its credit, PC’s performance was enough to remain unmoved from its No. 14 slot in the national polls –though, coincidentally, they now share that slot with the same Northeastern team.

More to the point concerning pressing league affairs, the Friars are officially admitted to post-season action next month given that up to 12 more points are allotted and there is a 13-knob discrepancy between them and ninth-place Maine. On the flip side, the league-wide boa constrictor coil has swelled a tad more. Both Boston University –which abolished the Black Bears in two OT contests over the weekend- and Vermont are but one point behind.

“It’s that time of the year when it’s really tight. There’s so much at stake right now,” said Army, his tone and expression reflecting a sense of shake-your-head, near-speechless amazement. “The competitive element between any two teams is very tight and everybody’s jockeying for a position.

“Two points are so valuable and that’s what changes in February from October. Everybody’s awareness is so intense and the teams are so closely matched."

If possible, Army and his students are currently more aware of the parity (what a marathon that word’s been through along the Hockey East coast this season) than any of their conference cohabitants. Of PC’s last six games (2-2-2) two have been a draw, the other four have been one-goal differentials. Three –the two ties and a 4-3 overhaul of the Catamounts Feb. 9- have required a bonus round.

All this even with a routinely decisive imbalance in the shooting gallery –a category now proven to be sometimes trivial- which the Friars have won in all of their last 18 games dating back to the weekend prior Thanksgiving.

“Certainly, getting a lead and trying to extend that lead to two, maybe three goals is critical –if you can do it,” said Army. “We did it against Vermont the second night,” referring to that eventual 4-3 triumph. “But what happened to us that night? We got another major penalty and that opened the door to get it to 3-2. So if you can build that lead, you’ve gotta stay on task.”
Quick Feeds: PC’s 20th shot on net at the end of Friday’s first period was the team’s 1,000th overall this season. The only other Hockey East team to have broken that plateau so far is Boston University –which did it Saturday. Top gun Jon Rheault alone is responsible for 145 of those Friar stabs…The Friars blew out the Wildcats in terms of face-offs, 46-25, in Friday’s tie, led by John Cavanagh’s 20-6 record at the red dots…17 of the Friars 18 skaters had at least one shot on net Friday…Freshman forward Jordan Kremyr etched his first collegiate goal Saturday…A home-and-home set with Merrimack begins in North Andover on Friday and turns back to Schneider Arena on Saturday. Both games are slated for 7 p.m. face-offs.
This article originally appeared in the Friartown Free Press