The Friars’ crispest highlight reel is saturated by Merrimack goaltender Andrew Brathwaite zapping umpteen –namely 50 out of 51- registered shots into barren half-atoms towards a 1-1 tie last Saturday.
An immediate tingling consequence of that was a speed bump to what was almost PC’s season-best winning streak. Nonetheless, having extracted three-quarters of the allotted points over the weekend, Providence is a touch more rigidly locked into third place in the conference. Additionally, as of Monday’s refresher, they have ascended from No. to No. 12 in the nation according to USCHO.
On Friday, hours after NESN analyst Brendan Walsh had termed them the “sneakiest” program in the conference, the Friars tipped over Boston College, 3-2. Kilning that with the half-full finish in The Valley, they closed within one knob of the second-place Eagles in the Hockey East standings, which right now is coach Tim Army’s most prized asset.
“Every point’s important,” he said, “and I think we recognized that a couple of weeks ago when we lost in the last second of overtime at Lowell. We squandered a point that night.
“I think two things come into play. One is ‘how did you play? Did you play a good solid game? Did you play a complete game?’ and then ‘What ends up happening? Where are you in the win column when the game is over?’
“I thought (at Merrimack) we did a lot of good things most importantly, and we were still able to get a point, which was very important because it obviously adds to your totals and it pushed us into sole possession of third place as of the dust settling on Monday.”
Even now, as but one solitary month lies between now and the quarterfinal playoff rounds, Army conceded that, with no exceptions, any given pair of HEA inhabitants can still jumble to create a guessing game. Providence proved that on Friday when, on one hand, they easily afforded their lightest bushel of shots (23) in recent memory, while on another they kneaded an early 2-0 edge out of their first six before eight minutes had dissipated.
And even after the elastic Eagles pulled even through forty minutes, defender Matt Taormina –the eventual player of the week both in the league’s and the PC athletic department’s eyes- inserted a late decider. All that before Nick Mazzolini took a two-minute sentence for tripping, setting up a 6-on-4 skater deficit within the last 38 ticks, though BC would be hushed on its fourth and final man-advantage of the night.
In a more general summary of the weekend, but especially with the staggering Merrimack reversal in mind, Army offered, “It just indicates how tightly contested our conference is. Every night, you have to come and play well, and I think we’ve learned that as a team. When we’re playing well, we’re capable of playing with anybody across the country.
“But as all teams recognize, it’s been a good learning experience for us. If we begin to get mentally sloppy and we don’t show the details that we need to have to our game, then it doesn’t matter where you play or who you play. You’re going to make it very difficult for yourself to come out with a point or two points.”
Rest assured that the Friars’ minds, blades, and twigs are all in spruce, functional alignment –as seven out of eight standings points does next to squat to contradict- Army simply looks ahead. More elements, starting with the visiting Vermont Catamounts this weekend, are inevitable. His club’s response, he indicated, will be the make-or-break for their continuity.
“The growth for our program is to recognize that we need to do certain things every night shift to shift. You let your guard down, you get a little sloppy, you take some chances, you get a little bit lazy, and teams will expose that. We’re hoping –as a coaching staff- that our maturity as a team is beginning to reflect the way that we’re playing and that way that we’re preparing for each of our opponents.”
This article originally appeared in the Friartown Free Press