Thursday, March 6, 2008

Men's Hockey Log: Friars Look To Sustain Momentum As Regular Season Closes

As the specialized 2007-08 laws of Hockey East physics ruled, the Friars served to tilt everything their way in the process of wresting three out of four points from Boston College last weekend. They rinsed out the previous weeks’ perplexing double-dose of Merrimack vinegar, inched two spots ahead in the USCHO poll (No. 19 to No. 17), earned first-time membership in the pairwise rankings, and –for the moment- regained a home ice slot for the playoffs.
Ironically, if the regular season were cut off a week short, Providence would be retooling to face the same Eagles –who they beat in the season series 2-0-1- in a best-of-three at Schneider Arena.
“I certainly like the way that we’re playing,” granted head coach Tim Army. “We played good hockey at BC, scored some timely goals, were able to get another big win at Boston College and set the mood for the weekend.
“I think it was a residual of our good play against Merrimack. You don’t always get rewarded, but if you stay with it, you keep playing good hockey, you will get rewarded in the long run.”
Not much length remains in the run to post-season play, however. In fact, PC gets a head start on the rink-based version of Judgment Week Thursday night as they host the other traditional Hub Hunks from Boston University. The teams will follow up with a twig-lock at Agganis Arena on Friday and then watch –most likely with a full set of crossed fingers and toes- the as the other ten lottery balls in the conference skip around one more time Saturday.
In a league-wide campaign that would have any puckheaded Lewis Black impressionist demand that everyone “Try and go through this logically” on at least one event per week, BU has only replenished its contenders’ image in the second half. Since Christmas, they are 11-3-2 in conference games after an abysmal 2-6-1 start.
Over the month of February, they vacuumed all seven of their regular league games –a streak that just ended last Saturday through a 5-1 lashing by UMass- and converted negative energy from a 4-3 falter to BC in the first round of the Beanpot by claiming third place the subsequent week.
Army’s logic: “BU always plays their best hockey this time of year. Usually, they really get themselves going around the Beanpot –usually they win the Beanpot. I think the loss to Boston College seemed to put a charge into them. They had a seven game (winning) run in Hockey East games, which is not easy to do as this time of the year.”
And now, the Terriers (13-9-3) are in a knot with Vermont for second place –which is as far as anybody may go what with New Hampshire already having made its claim to the peak. But the fourth-place Friars are only two points behind at 11-9-5 and themselves in a technical tie with BC.
Maybe toss in the fact that BU, deep under the national radar for the duration of their prolonged construction project, is only one slot ahead of PC in the eyes of USCHO at No. 16. Or, maybe not, if you’re perpetually tunneled on the 60-minute here-and-now like Army.
“You can only control one thing, and that’s how you play,” he said. “Sometimes when you try to control variables that are not controllable, the one thing that you do is let slip the areas you need to stay focused on. So we’re not focused on standings, we’re not focused on national rankings, we’re not focused on how the weekend is gonna play out. We simply are ready to play our game.”
Boston cannons: As part of their forceful resurgence, handfuls of the Terrier roster have hopped on to the forefront of the Hockey East scoring charts. Seniors Bryan Ewing and Pete MacArthur are Nos. 1 and 3 with 32 and 31 respective points.
Their top four blueliners –Kevin Shattenkirk, Matt Gilroy, Colby Cohen, and Brian Strait- have combined for a reckonable 46 points. Although, the Friars boast their own pair of hot-bladed defenders in Matt Taormina (league-best 25 points) and Cody Wild (22), who is on a three-game scoring streak.
Additionally, the Friars and Terriers hold the two heaviest cumulative shot on net bushels among Hockey East tenants this season. PC leads that derby by a count of 928-841 in conference play and 1224-1148 overall.
“They’ve got some very skilled defensemen, some very skilled forwards, and some good physical players who create space for those skilled guys,” said Army. “They’re a team that will be aggressive, they’ll be physical, they’ll put a lot of pucks to the net, and they’ll be looking to try and create some traffic and secondary opportunities.”
Quick Feeds: These teams have not met since Nov. 1, when the Terriers snagged their first win of the season through a 5-2 decision at Schneider. With that, BU remains the only team that the Friars have yet to take any points from…Many typical game night accessories –pep band, mascot, and many student spectators- will likely be missing Thursday due to a concomitant men’s basketball game. However, those who are going to Schneider have been asked to participate in a white-out event...Friday’s game at BU will be televised on NESN, beginning with 7 p.m. pre-game coverage before a 7:30 draw.