By sheer serendipity, the puck prophets foresee the Friars’ chance to epitomize their new affinity for defensive nail-biters in this weekend’s two-night stay in Maine.
Over the three preceding weekends, Providence has run up a 2-1-1 log and mirrored that near-parity with a cumulative GF-GA discrepancy of 5-5. Meanwhile, from the time this year’s senior class broke in their first sets of collegiate blades, the Friars have drawn a .500 point-plucking rate concomitant with a 6-6 aggregate score in visits to Alfond Arena.
Now on the heels of a 1-0 nipping of Brown, which splashed a minor drought from Ws at Meehan Auditorium and nudged them back into the black overall (7-6-2), and bearing a similarly intermediate Hockey East record of 3-2-1, the Friars are yearning for a booming breakout before Christmas break.
“It’s very important,” stressed head coach Bob Deraney. “First of all, it’s a chance to sweep a (season) series,” noting the favorable 4-2 decision his team picked up in Maine’s lone trip to Schneider Arena on October 26.
Hardly a cinch, that will be. Every last on-ice constituent involved in this series, which kicks off tonight with a 7:00 opening draw, knows no drill beyond drawing a knot when these parties lock twigs on the Black Bears’ Alfond pond.
Their perennially plebeian status aside, the gritty Black Bears have mustered a tie in each of the Friars last four drop-ins at Alfond Arena, spaced over the full breadth of the past three seasons. PC’s half-full winless/undefeated streak in Orono dates back roughly four months longer than the program’s tantalizing fast from Hockey East championships, when they scraped out a set of 3-2 and 4-2 triumphs in November 2004.
Size all that up with the teams’ last four tangles on the Divine Campus, all of which the Friars have wrested by a collective tally of 18-6.
It’s not all specific to Providence, though. Maine enters this weekend empty on the road (0-8) but respectably level at home (3-3-1). Minus a 7-3 lashing via North Dakota in the first weekend of October and 7-1 submission to New Hampshire three weeks to date, the Bears have kept their home scores to a rate of minus-2 or better.
“They’re a much different team in their own building,” Deraney acknowledged. “They beat Boston College up there two weeks ago (5-3 on November 16). So it just shows that we’ll be playing a tough team. But at the same time, it’s going to make us tougher and I like our mindset. I like how tough we are, and how tough we are mentally.”
Nine of the Friars’ last eleven ventures have been decided by two goals or less. And lately they’ve appeared to duplicate the daredevil habits of these Black Bears by authorizing an overload of opposing shots at their net.
The difference: Genevieve Lacasse, unlike Genevieve Turgeon –whom she will likely confront in the cages tonight- has not made a habit of defaulting and relinquishing the game in the shadow of the buzzer. Tonight’s principal talking point, therefore, should be PC’s ambition to exploit that distinction in an OK Corral-like gathering and to buck the tying-Maine trend whilst prolonging the exhilaration trend.
“We find ways to win games,” said Deraney. “That’s what great hockey teams do. They find ways to win games, whether it’s 1-0 or 5-4. And the fact that we feel we can come from behind, or feel comfortable with a one-goal lead or when we’re down by a goal, those are all valuable things we need to draw on.”
Quick Feeds: Among all eight Hockey East tenants, Maine currently tops the chart in overall power play proficiency, converting at a 20.5% rate. But they are inversely inept on the PK, currently boasting a dead-last 74.1% in that category. A cumulative threesome of shorthanded goals on the opposition’s part doesn’t help the Bears’ cause either. They also rank eighth in the league’s special teams net…Turgeon’s minus-17 rating is the worst on the Black Bears’ stats sheet while her associate goaltender Candace Currier’s plus-6 rating is the program’s best…PC senior Mari Pehkonen, who has combated mononucleosis for the last month, was not skating full throttle or in full gear this practice week, a safe indicator that she will take a few more precautionary nights off this weekend…Part II of this weekend series is slated to commence tomorrow at 2:00.
Al Daniel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
This article originally appeared in the Friartown Free Press