Friday, February 1, 2008

Women's Hockey 4, Boston University 3

A couple of trivial database elements suggested ill karma for the Friars as they went into the final frame in a 2-2 knot with Boston University. Those elements, namely, were a 0-4-1 transcript when knotted after 40 minutes and a curious aversion to after dark action at home (they were 0-3 in home night games going into Thursday).
But already with a morsel of momentum tilted their way after Heimliching a 2-0 Terrier lead in the middle frame, Providence got the final say towards a 4-3 triumph.
Less than eight minutes after the Terriers had forged their own elevating knot, abolishing a 3-2 Friar lead with 13:18 to spare in regulation, PC’s starting line of Katy Beach, Sarah Feldman, and Danielle Tangredi stamped a swift end-to-end rush.
Beach, turned loose by Feldman’s breakout pass from behind her own cage, toured the puck down the right alley into the depths of the attacking zone. She released it up front for her linemates to take their own whack only to reassume possession and bat home what is now her team-leading third game-winner this season.
With that, for the moment, the Friars (7-3-2) are technically even with Connecticut for second place in Hockey East and have guaranteed that the fourth-place Terriers (5-6-1) will stay completely out of their hair even after they have finished their follow-up meeting in the Hub on Saturday.
To start Thursday night, though, BU was a mere three notches behind the Friars and opportunistically strengthened the Vermont vinegar that their entangled hosts were trying to rinse away.
In a span of 52 seconds about the halfway point of the first period –by which point neither team had registered a sustained attack- the Terriers sculpted a 2-0 lead on a pair of unmistakable rebound conversions.
At 9:56, defender Amanda Shaw ventured down the far boards and tossed out a slippery snapper that a sprawled Danielle Ciarletta (22 saves) left free for backdoor patroller Holly Lorms to roof home on a backhander.
On the subsequent play, Kelly Karnan’s attempt in the midst of a maniacal crease crowd skipped out to the far circle top, where Sarah Appleton stamped it and nimbly drilled it through.
But for an ensuing 15-minute stretch of action, the Friars outshot the Terriers, 8-1, and began to thaw out a 3:58 of the middle frame. Mari Pehkonen thwarted a clearing attempt at the BU blueline, strolled counterclockwise through the far circle, and shipped a centering feed to linemate Jean O’Neill, who one-timed it to the left of goaltender Melissa Haber (28 saves).
Five minutes thereafter, Providence hot hand Kathleen Smith pulled her club even when she scooped up defensive partner Colleen Martin’s handoff, shuffled to the far outer hash marks, and zipped a low rider into the opposite post.
The Friars picked it right back up to commence the third period, piling on four shots within the first 89 ticks, at which point the fast-progressing unit of Pehkonen, O’Neill, and Alyse Ruff converted for the 3-2 edge. Ruff scooped up Pehkonen’s failed bid, wrapped it around the near post, and dropped it on Haber’s porch for O’Neill to morph into her third tally in the last two games –a nimble wrister past Haber’s trapper.
But the reawakened Terriers, who had mustered next to nothing on their first of two power plays early in the second period, retorted on their other advantage at 6:42. Pehkonen let Appleton’s center point shot bank off her boot only to see it land in the clutch of forward Lauren Cherewyk. Cherewyk thrust a cross-ice feed to Jillian Kirchner for the equalizer.
Moments later, Providence issued three vain stabs on its penultimate power play (game aggregate: 0-for-6, 10 shots), but only needed to wait fifty seconds after Shaw’s jailbreak before Beach’s decisive connection.
This article originally appeared in the Friartown Free Press

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Men's Hockey Log: Friars Appreciate Recognition, Turn To Eagles

Is there anything at the moment on the Friars’ floppy disk that requires a dewdrop of Windex?
Through last weekend’s startlingly lopsided sweep of Northeastern, wherein they charged up an aggregate goal differential of 10-3, PC made haste to halt the Bruins-like rollercoaster that had plagued them since New Year’s and reap some league and nationwide rewards.
Exhibit A: Senior goaltender Tyler Sims nabbed the Hockey East Player of the Week distinction, his first such honor since he was a sophomore, even with a handful of his praetorian guards arguably blanketing his performance (two-game total 55 saves). Juniors Pierce Norton and Matt Taormina each posted 2-2-4 totals over two games, sophomore John Cavanagh 3 points, and Cody Wild two helpers per night.
In total, thirteen Friars brushed the scoresheet over the series. Additionally, they fixed their short-circuited power play well enough to space half of the weekend’s ten goals over 14 man advantages.
“Good teams always get a lot of people involved,” noted head coach Tim Army. “You just can’t rely on a couple of guys offensively. Good teams always start with their goaltending and then everybody contributes from the net out, so I think it’s a nice reflection of how we’ve progressed as a program.”
Exhibit B: PC’s progress was also reflected the latest polls. The never-before-ranked Friars darted all the way up to the No. 14 slot in USCHO’s Monday revision of the Top 20 leaderboard. Quirkily enough, they also lassoed the opposing Huskies from No. 11 to 13 and have the two UMass squads –Amherst and Lowell- looking right up at them at 15th and 16th respectively.
But wouldn’t you know it? Army offered the classic not-done-yet assessment.
“I’m really proud of it, really excited about it,” he said. “The kids are excited. I think all of the coaches are excited. It’s nice recognition for your program. That’s where you want to be. All the best programs are always nationally ranked, so in order to become a good program you gotta be able to deal with all the residuals of being nationally ranked.
“But if you look at it as a ladder, we’ve got a lot more rungs to climb and the only way we’re gonna get (to the top rung) is by focusing on what we can control and what we can control is how we progress every day and how we bring that into a game environment.”
The next of those environments will be the oft-treacherous Conte Forum at Boston College, where Army is currently winless as head coach with a 0-3 transcript in his first two seasons behind the Providence bench.
The ninth-ranked Eagles saw an off-an-on first half to their season not unlike that of the Friars, but have also been saddled by a bewildering two mid-season pro signings and the recent season-ending injury of key two-way forward Brock Bradford.
Even so, the way Army sees it and the way their of late performance has signified, the Eagles have plenty where the likes of Bradford and now-AHL walk-on Brett Motherwell came from. BC is perched second in the league, four points ahead of the newly third-place Friars, by means of a 4-0-2 hot streak. Its last conference loss was a 4-3 overtime falter to the Huskies the night after Thanksgiving.
“They’ve been playing their best hockey for about two months now,” Army offered, though Friday’s face-off will be his pupils’ first in the flesh look at the Eagles. “Not too many teams have had much success with them. We’ll see, we’ll know on Friday how we match with them.
“One thing you can expect is that BC always has great skill and great speed and they close hard on the puck because they skate so well. And they transition the puck so well because they have good offensive instincts both on their forwards and their D.
“And they’ve got real good goaltending, real steady goaltending (from freshman John Muse). A lot of people thought that would be a hole for them this year, but we recognized that they were gonna have good goaltending and that’s come to fruition.”
Eppich comeback?: Sophomore Chris Eppich, unseen in game time attire since the second weekend of the Friars’ schedule, reappeared for the Northeastern series, filling in the third-line right side opposite Kyle Laughlin and Nick Mazzolini.
Though with no points to his credit in five appearances this season, Eppich –who missed a mere two outings as a freshman- pitched in three shots on net in Saturday’s home triumph and saw both his linemates tack on a point apiece both nights.
“He played fairly well,” Army assessed simply, adding that he sensed steady improvement in Eppich in the latter half of the weekend, “so right now he’s found his way into the lineup. I expect that he’ll play (again) on Friday night, but it’s always a game-by-game situation.
“But he’s incrementally finding his way back into the lineup, so if it’s official, he’s one of the top twelve and we’ll see how it goes on Friday night.”
Quick Feeds: Boston College leads all Hockey East tenants in every team category with the exceptions of penalty kill and special teams net -the latter of which is the Friars’ forte. PC is also second to the Eagles’ power play by 2.2 percentage points…From Chestnut Hill, the Friars will open their season series against Merrimack with a Saturday night hornlock at Lawler Arena. The listed face-off time for both games is 7:00.
This article originally appeared in the Friartown Free Press

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Men's Hockey 5, Northeastern 2

Condensed to his first start on the bench all season Saturday by virtue of Friday’s 5-1 shellacking, Northeastern’s precision stopper Brad Thiessen watched as his back-up, Mike Binnington, and skating peers started to spoon out some eye-for-eye justice on the Friars, sculpting a 2-0 lead within the first 10:07.
Fast-forward to 6:50 of the middle frame, and Thiessen was summoned to play the infrequent role of firefighter as the Friars had now pulled ahead 3-2. From there, Providence paced itself to a 5-2 triumph before 2,229 at Schneider Arena, stamping a brassy home-and-home sweep on the Huskies.
“He is a big staple of their program, and goaltending always will be,” said Friars’ coach Tim Army before the series
regarding the established Northeastern nucleus. “But in order to penetrate against a good goalie, you gotta get a high volume of shots, get in his sightline, and work for secondary opportunities.
“The more shots you get to the net, the more you get in front of him, you’ll create more secondary opportunities around the slot area and then you’ve gotta be in a position to capitalize on those.”
Husky skipper Greg Cronin caught on to PC’s productive strategy well enough up in the Hub on Friday when they overcooked Thiessen with another batch of their profuse ammo. But to start the rematch, even as they stared down a cold rookie Binnington, with no more than 30 minutes played on his collegiate resume, the trick was at first turned on the Friars.
At 9:19, Northeastern etched its first hint of plans to vengefully penetrate Tyler Sims (25 saves) by striking on its first power play. Forward Chad Costello, floating over the left circle-top, handed the disk over to David Strathman at the center point. Strathman’s responsive ice-kisser slithered through a rather disorganized collection of bodies in front but was guided home by Husky Wade MacLeod.
Only 48 seconds later did Tyler McKneely prevail in a frantic scrum in the near corner and hand things off to Jimmy Russo, who looped it in from a complicated angle for the 2-0 edge.
But the Huskies mustered just one more whack at Sims over the next seven minutes, during which the awakened Friars peppered Binnington with nine and pulled even before intermission.
Junior captain Kyle Laughlin bustled with the puck out of his own end and fended off pressuring back-checkers all the way to behind the Northeastern cage. There, in a swift manner reminiscent of the DHL-endorsing football stars, he left it for linemate Nick Mazzolini to loop right back around the far post. Mazzolini’s up-for-grabs bid found an incoming Pierce Norton, who stuffed it home behind Binnington’s back with exactly 5:00 to spare.
In another 2:03, the Friars kindled a power play conversion when Norton’s near-circle wrist shot briefly stayed in Binnington’s clutch but then dripped behind him in the crease. Net-crashing center John Cavanagh buried it for the equalizer.
Providence carried on with thawing out their shooting gallery in the second period, by the end of which they commanded a 31-16 shot difference and 4-2 connection difference. In the seventh minute, Cavanagh absorbed a breakout feed from defender Mark Fayne and in turn shipped it across the neutral zone to left winger Ben Farrer.
Farrer’s blistering, low flying rocket spelled the eventual game-clincher and good-night to Binnington (18 saves), who would receive his first career decision in the form of an L-shaped albatross.
Meantime, Thiessen’s (17 saves) stretch was but 3:35 of play and three shots old when the Friars conjured their fifth power play conversion of the weekend. Moments after he had been released from the bin himself –which had made for 63 seconds of 4-on-4 action- defender Cody Wild carried partner Matt Taormina’s feed deep into the zone and whooshed it to Thiessen’s porch, where Norton batted it in for his third point of the night.
The Huskies compressed the PC cannons well enough to outshoot the Friars, 11-9, in the third, and to withhold the puck in offensive territory for more time than that shot count may suggest. But Sims had every answer, including a three-shot penalty kill tempest shortly after the halfway mark.
Within forty seconds of completing that kill, John Mori solidified the 5-2 upshot for the Friars at 12:57. He nabbed a fugitive puck in the high PC slot, outraced shadowing defender Mike Hewkin, a roofed a snapper over Thiessen’s blocker.
This article originally appeared in the Friartown Free Press