Saturday, March 15, 2008

Boston College 5, Men's Hockey 1: Mazzolini, Friars Rattled In Game 1

Chestnut Hill, Mass.- As one of their warm-up songs from back home –“No Leaf Clover” by Metallica, specifically- may put it, “the soothing light at the end of your tunnel is just a freight train coming your way.”

The Friars had a most generous six days to complete the healing process that seemed to arise in the latter portions of last weekend’s slipshod series against Boston University. And all words from head coach Tim Army in the pre-playoff teleconference pointed to poise for a second season clean slate.

As it happened in the quarter-final opener with Boston College, however, the uglier part of PC’s regular season finale at BU was merely an ambiguous trailer to “Nightmare on Commonwealth Avenue.” Before a bipartisan crowd of 2,788 at Conte Forum –site of two of their last three far-between wins- the Friars submitted a brutishly executed 5-1 decision to the Eagles. Instead of rekindling their unexplained regular season magic here, they reran the trendier vanishing act and never recovered.

Among other things, Army would end up forking away starting goaltender Tyler Sims in favor of Ryan Simpson for the third consecutive outing. Additionally, Providence lost starting centerman Nick Mazzolini to an apparent head injury and spilled their chance to recompense a then 3-0 deficit on the resultant five-minute power play.

Only 78 seconds into Friday’s contest, Army made haste to use his only timeout as the radiant Eagles were making like the Hawks on District Five. Right at the sixty-second mark, Boston broke the ice as forward Dan Bertram was allowed to cradle the puck the length of the rink and deposit a rebound on Sims’ porch. Joe Whitney took a whack before Pat Gannon finished it off.

The PA announcer was hardly through disclosing the details to that goal before Benn Ferriero accepted a feed from Anthony Aiello at the blue line, strolled into the slot, and leveled home his first of two strikes on the night –three if you count the open-ice blow he would eventually deal to Mazzolini.

After their breather, the Friars weathered that tempest, despite an antsy trio of penalties around the halfway mark of the period that left them shorthanded for an incessant stretch of 4:23. But Army shifted crease custodians at 2:03 of the middle frame when fresh ice lethargy bit his team once more.

Eagles forward Matt Greene hustled after backchecker Eric Baier, stapled him in the near corner, and in effect looped the puck around the Providence cage. It would find its way to Ferriero, who blasted a low rider to the right of Sims.

Ferriero drew the ire of visiting Friar Fanatics at 10:12 when he elbowed Mazzolini at his own blue line, jerking the Friar forward to the ice helmetless and wiped. Even worse, PC’s all-you-can-score man advantage was but 27 seconds young when Ian O’Connor got a two-minute flag for hitting from behind. By the time Ferriero’s sentence was up, three minor penalties had been issued and the Eagles had used a 4-on-3 sequence to make things 4-0.

In the thirteenth minute, after Greg Collins had joined O’Connor for kneeing, BC’s quartet scraped out a head-spinning cyclone in the PC end. The far point patroller Whitney would offer a diagonal feed to Bertram, who laced the puck around the net to Nathan Gerbe, who, unguarded along the right post, slammed his first of two past a helpless Simpson.

The Friars did thaw out in terms of attempts at BC goaltender John Muse (32 saves), giving him his biggest sweat with 13 shots in the second period and eventually stamping a dead-even 33-33 final shot count. But their only red- lamper came with 1:43 to spare in the second on an offensive that was hardly settled and lengthy.

Forwards Jon Rheault and Matt Germain, filling in Mazzolini’s void, left a slippery biscuit at the brim of the Boston zone and defenseman Matt Taormina stepped up to buzz a straightaway slapper past a disassembled Muse.

Chippiness snuck into the final period –one late incident resulted in two roughing minors to each side- as the Eagles sped up the killing process and finalized the 5-1 tally with 6:13 remaining. Gerbe picked up the remnants of a failed PC rush, sizzled past all challengers, and completed a face-to-face burial between Simpson’s legs.
This article originally appeared in the Friartown Free Press