Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Men's Hockey Log

The old brief-but-fatal menace struck the Friars midway through last Saturday’s bout with Maine, and as an immediate result, they endured a hemorrhaged third period and yet another half-and-half weekend. And, compared to previous weeks, some of the hot off the press data is somewhat wince-inducing for those who live by the Skating Friar emblem.
“The biggest thing that maybe plagued us on the weekend was our power play, which has been very good over the first half of the year,” mused head coach Tim Army, recalling missed opportunities to put an earlier stamp on the UMass-Amherst victory Friday and to seize the upper hand over Maine.
“In the six games since we came back from Christmas break, we haven’t been as efficient on the power play.
“It wasn’t the springboard to our offense that it needed to be and I think that was critical in both games.”
A byproduct of the aggregate zilch conversions over nine consecutive man advantages is a current goal drought of 90:03, carrying over from the halfway mark of Friday’s 3-2 compression of UMass. It is PC’s second longest such plague of the season behind a 114:50 empty window that ranged over part of October.
And coming away with only half of the four allotted points for the standings, the Friars now hold sole possession of sixth place at 6-5-2 in conference action. Fourteen cumulative points have them five knobs below co-leaders New Hampshire and Boston College, though they are the exact same distance above the cellar-dwelling Merrimack.
But stats are stats, and when they all go into the pot, Army stressed, there is enough to work with from a chins-up standpoint. For instance, having consumed only thirteen of their twenty-seven Hockey East contests, Providence has at least one game in hand on all of its current superiors, including two on Northeastern, which is lined up for a home-and-home series this weekend.
“It’s certainly tightly contested,” Army observed. “There isn’t a lot of space that separates 1 through 10. We’re right in the middle of the pack, and we’ve got a couple of games in hand on some teams. There isn’t a great differential in the points from ourselves and looking at the leader of Hockey East and not a great deal of difference from us to the last place team in the league.
“We are in a pretty good position over the stretch. We’ve gotta take care of our own destiny, in a sense. We’ve gotta play well, put some wins together, and we’ll have an opportunity to compete for a home ice berth (in the Hockey East quarter-final round mid-March).
“I recognize where we stand, and the most important thing for us is that we play the best possible hockey we can play, be ready for Northeastern on Friday night, take it one game at a time, and see where that takes us the rest of the season.”
Scoring Wealth Spreads: The last time the Friars were lighting the lamp, they left off on a few fun size milestones for the younger half of the depth chart.
Freshman forward Matt Germain –already with five helpers to his credit- inserted his first collegiate goal last Friday, in the process granting defenseman Joe Lavin his third helper in as many games.
Meantime Jordan Kremyr, who last season stood opposite his faster-acclimated classmate Kyle MacKinnon as one of the top twenty beacons in the British Columbia League, finally kindled his first point in 19 collegiate games.
And with three points in four January outings, sophomore John Cavanagh is suddenly a notch shy of equating his rookie total of 11.
“It’s good,” said Army. “It’s our first two recruiting classes as a staff. We’ve had great production from our sophomores in their two years here and our freshmen have begun to really find their range a little bit.
“They were brought here for a reason, so it’s nice to see them get rewarded and make an impact because I think it illustrates their capabilities and the direction that they can move this program.”
Quick Feeds: The Friars held a commanding 48-22 edge over Maine in terms of face-off wins, led by Nick Mazzolini’s sound 13-3 ratio and MacKinnon’s 12-5 transcript…Hailed as the program’s “most anticipated giveaway” this season, Saturday’s home date with the Huskies will feature the Skating Friar Mister Potato Head toy for the first 1,500 spectators. As advertised on the introductory page, the time-honored spud is decked in the full PC hockey uniform and bearing a conventional gap-toothed grin…Cox Sports will carry Saturday’s tilt, slated to commence at 7 p.m.
This article originally appeared in the Friartown Free Press

Monday, January 21, 2008

Women's Hockey 3, Boston University 1: Friars Tip The Scale On Terriers

Much like the visitors from Boston University, Providence College had lost little more than a square inch of footing in its steady attempts to upgrade its middleweight status in the Hockey East pool heading into Sunday’s get-together.
And as a stable follow-up to Saturday afternoon’s bell-ringing 1-1 draw at the regal New Hampshire Wildcats and the Terriers’ hot-streak halting 3-2 falter to Connecticut, the third place Friars strode further ahead with a 3-1 triumph at Schneider Arena, giving them a three-point standings edge over the Terriers (12-9 differential, with each team having played nine of its 21 conference games).
Providence in effect compressed a brief, though mildly substantial, two-game winless streak and improved to 4-1-1 since the New Year. It also made a firm statement in Part I of what will be a hasty, but perhaps implication-crammed, three-game season series that is slated to be over with a week from Saturday when these teams complete a home-and-home set.
In the process of completing their quick return pivot, the Friars saw tireless top gun Kathleen Smith rekindle her Ray Bourque-like productivity through two visually identical goals –both assisted by Katy Beach and classmate Sarah Feldman- and a helper on Danielle Tangredi’s eventual game-winner.
Smith’s first strike was on one of many draws forced by the poised, meticulous goaltending of BU’s Allyse Wilcox (33 saves). Feldman tipped her face-off win in the far circle to Beach on the left wing. Beach promptly forwarded the puck to Smith, who settled it at the center point and leveled a straightaway slapper into the top right shelf at 8:02 of the opening frame.
The Terriers retorted at 17:15 after all of their previous attacking zone buzzes had been flustered by the Friars’ concrete stick and body work. But on one more prolonged, and otherwise shotless, swarm, forward Caroline Bourdeau stamped a fugitive puck on the left branch behind the net and left it for linemate Jillian Kirchner, who simply thrust it into the cage off Danielle Ciarletta’s (26 saves) skate to send things into intermission at a 1-all count.
All but unyielding discipline from the first period (only one penalty per side) made haste to die on the new sheet, though it proved to give rise to feisty penalty killing units for the bulk of the middle frame. Providence thwarted the Terrier attack, confining it to four shots over three 5-on-4 sequences. BU did likewise on its own kill within the first five minutes, authorizing zero stabs at Wilcox.
On their next opportunity, though, the Friars’ lately arid power play revved up the sizzler, registering a whopping eight shots and inserting the eventual game-clincher at 15:53. Backliner Brittany Simpson, withholding the puck on the near circle-top, shipped it to Smith at the center point. Smith’s laser landed in a multi-body crease scramble before finding its way to Tangredi’s tape.
Tangredi whiffed on her first bid, but held on to spoon home her second conversion in as many days, restoring PC’s lead.
The Friars encored that in the middle of the third period on BU’s next kill. As was the case in the opening frame, Feldman nudged a face-off win back to Beach, who found an open Smith at the center point. Smith this time nailed a low-flying snapper to the left of Wilcox.
Less than a minute later, the Terriers garnered a radiant opportunity to nibble back. In a span of eleven seconds Jean O’Neill was flagged for interference and Colleen Martin for body-checking to set up a 5-on-3 match for a grand playing time total of 1:49.
Boston, which flip-flopped the shooting imbalance in the third period, 13-6, charged up six of those shots over the two-player advantage and mustered one more just before Martin’s jailbreak. But Ciarletta answered impeccably to her most laborious period of the weekend to inch herself and her team above .500 once more.
This article originally appeared in the Friartown Free Press

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Maine 4, Men's Hockey 0: Friars Caught In A Bear Trap

With 9:28 remaining, after one of the tedious third period’s umpteen icing whistles, the season-high Schneider Arena mass of 2,612 –particularly the student section- commenced a steady, single file adjournment.
By that point, the visiting Maine Black Bears had decelerated the feisty Friars to a 3-0 deficit and were efficiently warding off the still persistent Providence attack. And they continued to do so en route to a decisive 4-0 final.
The entire transpiration of Saturday’s showdown was an exemplary reversal of roles compared to PC’s Orono excursion back in mid-November, when they swept a then-ranked Maine team by a 7-2 aggregate. Since then, the last place Black Bears -no typo- had only snagged one conference victory out of seven attempts and were defining their season as a process of cleaning up after a summer spill of talent.
Conversely, the Friars just might have been one lustrous W away from earning first-time membership in the Top 20 polls and a so-craved-they-can-taste-it great leap forward in the Hockey East standings.
Instead, monument Maine goaltender Ben Bishop –perhaps the lone remaining cornerstone for a team with two Frozen Four appearances in its immediate, yet so distant, past- revived his classic persona through a 41-save shutout, strikingly his first goose-egg of the season and heftiest workload since opening weekend in October. It was also the first blanking the Friars have swallowed at home since Big Ben’s previous visit to this campus one year to date.
A fraternal variation of the near-fatal numbness the Friars experienced late in their 3-2 Friday tip-over of UMass plagued them all through the Maine tangle. To their credit, the driven strike force wasted no time unleashing yet another brimful bushel of shots -21 of them in the opening frame. But they experienced the same obnoxious launching trouble that has amounted to recent near misses in the standings.
The Black Bears, who afforded only eight stabs at Tyler Sims (21 saves) through the first twenty minutes, made haste to slim down the shot differential and followed up on their goalies’ noble efforts at 6:59 of the second period. Senior Wes Clark felled Cody Wild’s clearing attempt with his chest at the far point, strode in a few feet, and shipped a saucer pass to defender Matt Duffy, who went out of his way to make a quick back-door burial.
While Maine was on its way to exponentially accumulating all of the night’s auspices, little omens specific to the Friars nicked the host club. Right at the buzzer of the second period, at which point Providence led the shooting gallery by a 32-15 count, Wild was flagged for slashing in the midst of a Black Bear breakout rush.
Maine slowed down the Friars’ equalizer efforts via three subsequent power play shots and then augmented its lead to 2-0 at the 4:52 mark. Defender Jeff Dimmen picked up a rebound off Bishop’s porch, toured it down the left alley into the depths of the PC zone, and dropped it back for Clark to whoosh through.
In the time that remained, the serene Bears accepted a total of seven more icing calls while the Friars stretched their offensive effort to the literally bitter end, when blueliner Trevor Ludwig leveled home a bar-down blast only to have it waved off due to clock expiration –yet another last-second kick in the canines.
Regardless, that play was far from momentous as Maine would have sculpted a 4-0 command by then. Right off one of the post-icing draws in his own end, defenseman Brett Carriere sparked yet another fleet end-to-end venture, which ended with Jeffrey Marshall letting a sinker from the far circle top drip home over Sims’ trapper glove.
Later, within the final minute of action, a genuflecting Vince Laise stamped the puck on his own face-off dot to freeze another rabid onslaught and flicked it from there into an empty Providence net.
This article originally appeared in the Friartown Free Press