Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Men's Hockey Log: Coach Tim Army Preaches "Staying On Task"

Those darn Cats scratched them again. But upon stepping away from their latest venture to the oft-treacherous Whittemore Center and resuming their weekly fostering, the Friars took more consolation than from, say, the infamous two-game 10-0 aggregate that zapped their season last year.

When all the ink dried from last weekend’s home-and-home series, Providence had outshot New Hampshire by counts of 53-29 and 40-37. They charged up a 1-1 draw on their own campus and followed through by keeping pace with the Wildcats until 5:30 remained in Saturday’s clash. Only then did heat gun bearer Pierce Norton –who had already posted two goals- take an untimely five-minute hitting from behind call, allowing the host to stamp a 4-3 win.

“When you outshoot a team like New Hampshire, 53-29, you’re doing a lot of good things,” granted head coach Tim Army, adding that even after Wildcat Mike Radja’s all but definite decider with exactly three minutes to spare, his own strike force kept poking at chin-standing goaltender Kevin Regan.

“We certainly played our best game in New Hampshire since we’ve been a coaching staff and we came up one goal short and that five-minute major was the difference. But up to that point, the body of our game was good. So I don’t look at how many points we garnered on the weekend. It’s more important how we played."

As far as data is concerned, though, the Friars made enough use of the one point from Friday’s fixture to at least withhold their partial claim to the uppermost frame of the Hockey East standings. At 10-7-4, they are in a knot with the pushy Northeastern Huskies for third place.

And, to its credit, PC’s performance was enough to remain unmoved from its No. 14 slot in the national polls –though, coincidentally, they now share that slot with the same Northeastern team.

More to the point concerning pressing league affairs, the Friars are officially admitted to post-season action next month given that up to 12 more points are allotted and there is a 13-knob discrepancy between them and ninth-place Maine. On the flip side, the league-wide boa constrictor coil has swelled a tad more. Both Boston University –which abolished the Black Bears in two OT contests over the weekend- and Vermont are but one point behind.

“It’s that time of the year when it’s really tight. There’s so much at stake right now,” said Army, his tone and expression reflecting a sense of shake-your-head, near-speechless amazement. “The competitive element between any two teams is very tight and everybody’s jockeying for a position.

“Two points are so valuable and that’s what changes in February from October. Everybody’s awareness is so intense and the teams are so closely matched."

If possible, Army and his students are currently more aware of the parity (what a marathon that word’s been through along the Hockey East coast this season) than any of their conference cohabitants. Of PC’s last six games (2-2-2) two have been a draw, the other four have been one-goal differentials. Three –the two ties and a 4-3 overhaul of the Catamounts Feb. 9- have required a bonus round.

All this even with a routinely decisive imbalance in the shooting gallery –a category now proven to be sometimes trivial- which the Friars have won in all of their last 18 games dating back to the weekend prior Thanksgiving.

“Certainly, getting a lead and trying to extend that lead to two, maybe three goals is critical –if you can do it,” said Army. “We did it against Vermont the second night,” referring to that eventual 4-3 triumph. “But what happened to us that night? We got another major penalty and that opened the door to get it to 3-2. So if you can build that lead, you’ve gotta stay on task.”
Quick Feeds: PC’s 20th shot on net at the end of Friday’s first period was the team’s 1,000th overall this season. The only other Hockey East team to have broken that plateau so far is Boston University –which did it Saturday. Top gun Jon Rheault alone is responsible for 145 of those Friar stabs…The Friars blew out the Wildcats in terms of face-offs, 46-25, in Friday’s tie, led by John Cavanagh’s 20-6 record at the red dots…17 of the Friars 18 skaters had at least one shot on net Friday…Freshman forward Jordan Kremyr etched his first collegiate goal Saturday…A home-and-home set with Merrimack begins in North Andover on Friday and turns back to Schneider Arena on Saturday. Both games are slated for 7 p.m. face-offs.
This article originally appeared in the Friartown Free Press

Monday, February 18, 2008

Women's Hockey 8, Northeastern 3: Persistent Friars Too Ruff For Huskies

Pretty in pink? The wall decorations and warm-up jerseys signifying the annual “Skating Strides” fundraiser sure were. Between the boards, especially from a Friars’ standpoint, that description took time to materialize.
The Northeastern Huskies’ productive grit, which went into hiding deep beneath the Matthews Arena ice in Saturday’s half of this home-and-home series –a 4-0 PC victory- resurfaced Sunday at Schneider Arena. After spotting the initial lead in the third minute of play, the Huskies offered up an aftershock late in the second, erasing a 3-1 deficit to send things into intermission knotted 3-3.
But in that closing period, the Friars’ starting line of Alyse Ruff, Mari Pehkonen, and Jean O’Neill spiked to a degree hotter than any hot pink, Husky red, or Friar white. Ruff –who earlier had endured two penalty calls and recompensed by drawing a power play that morphed into a second period goal- kindled a hat trick, the second of her young PC career, all within the final fifteen minutes.
When the ice chips had settled, Ruff had four points, O’Neill two, and Pehkonen five. And the Friars had stamped a sound 8-3 victory.
Much like Saturday’s visit to the Hub, Providence steadily sculpted a telling shot differential (final count 45-19), but needed a while before it mollified rookie goaltender Leah Sulyma. Sulyma’s skaters, meantime, cashed in on slivers of scoring opportunities to start up a back-and-forth game.
At 2:05 of the opening frame, defender Katy Applin spooned a long-range feed from her own end to forward Colleen Sanborn. Sanborn broke loose down the near alley and lobbed the Huskies’ first shot of the game top shelf.
Not long after came a stretch of mutually sluggish, hot potato exchanges of the puck and tireless whistle activity on referee Jim McKenna’s part. McKenna would issue three penalties to each side in the first period alone, wherein only 10:54 of playing time saw 5-on-5 action.
In the fourteenth minute, the PC bench was itching to wave a challenge flag when Ruff became entangled with Northeastern’s Lindsay Berman off a draw, yet was the only party with a ticket to the box. Nonetheless, the Friars converted their energy in a matter of twenty seconds, tying things up in a 4-on-4 sequence as Sarah Feldman dropped a slippery rebound on the porch for Katy Beach to bury home.
Only one power play was distributed in the middle frame when Erin Real slashed a puck-carrying Ruff in neutral ice.
By the 6:02 mark, Pehkonen had slithered a breakout feed from Brittany Simpson from end-to-end and nailed a backhander from the slot for a go-ahead conversion.
Later, with less than six minutes to spare, Danielle Tangredi picked off Northeastern’s Nikki Petrich behind her own cage and thrust a quick bid at Sulyma. Feldman, getting up from a freak collision with Beach, appeared at the opposite post to jam home the rebound for a 3-1 edge.
But the Huskies perked right back up, slicing that lead within 17 seconds on another nimble rush polished off by Ali Bielawski.
Four minutes later, a would-be Northeastern icing ran out of gas as it approached the Friar goal line. Kristi Kehoe pounced on it in the far corner and shipped it across to linemate Chelsey Jones, who swiped it into a gaping right frame of the cage.
Come the third period, though, it would be the Huskies losing stock in their tanks. Once again, they took an early penalty (tripping call on Petrich at 3:03), and once again the Friars utilized. In the dying seconds of their power play, Pehkonen assumed control of the biscuit and shuffled to the net out of the near corner. Ruff was there along the left post to tip in the eventual clincher and commence the definitive landslide.
At 8:12, the line of the hour was at it again, this time Ruff looping around the cage and offering a bid to defender Kathleen Smith. Smith went out of her way to Sulyma’s porch and clipped home an effective one-timer.
Between the 15:15 and 17:14 marks, Ruff sealed her icebreaking day on two nimble nailers. The first took only two seconds as she roofed a feed from O’Neill right off a draw in the near circle. Then, on a neutral zone face-off, her linemates toured the puck into attacking territory and set her up in the slot.
Enough? Maybe for the new fiery trinity. But in the final minute, fellow rookie Amber Yung solidified the 8-3 final, accepting a diagonal feed from Stephanie Morris and drilling a low rider in from the center point.
This article originally appeared in the Friartown Free Press