Sunday, March 16, 2008

Boston College 5, Men's Hockey 1: Friars Marooned Again, Season Over

Chestnut Hill, Mass.- In the early, heavily decisive portion of Saturday’s game, one item after another surfaced at the top of the bubble-laden Friars’ Top 10 “Very Last Things We Need” list. And in equal time, the Boston College Eagles swooped in and took the liberty of checking each item off. It was an updating development so rapid even David Letterman might not have been able to keep pace with it.

A four-goal blizzard within the first fifteen minutes of play climaxed when BC’s mighty mite net-stuffer Nathan Gerbe gathered the puck in his own end, bolted loose to the Friar cage, and then earned a penalty shot when he was tugged by backchecker Pierce Norton. In the one-on-one bid, Gerbe froze with his back to PC goaltender Ryan Simpson before slipping the puck under a kneeling Simpson’s arm, granting the Eagles a 4-0 edge at 14:35.

The Friars compressed the abysmal bleeding afterward, but the score eventually morphed into a 5-1 final, giving BC a 2-0 sweep of the Hockey East quarter-final set and curtaining the 2007-08 installment of the Tim Army Corps.

Between the two butcheries –PC dropped Friday’s series opener by the same score and for many of the same reasons- Army had kept his solution to the goaltending muddle undeclared right up to Saturday’s face-off. In the pre-game warmup, usual starter Tyler Sims led the team onto the ice, hinting that Army was banking on his recovery from an athletic breed of senioritis.

When the Friars reemerged for player introductions, Simpson was the first man on, and the sophomore would perform his first start-to-finish game of the season. But it would pan out in parallel fashion to what proved to be Sims’ last collegiate bow.

By the 2:18 mark of the opening frame, the Eagles were 2-for-4 in terms of shots against Simpson. They first struck at 1:26 when right pointman Mike Brennan absorbed a forward shipment by Brian Gibbons and drilled an ice-kisser for a screening Ben Smith to guide home.

Within another minute, freshman phenom Joe Whitney scooped the remnants of PC’s first shot by Eric Baier, raced it down the far boards and thrust it over to Tim Kunes in the central alley. Kunes left a rebound for an incoming Benn Ferriero to bury.

Six minutes later, with 8:36 expired, Boston made it 3-0 when Dan Bertram ricocheted a face-off win off the near boards and right into the clutch of Carl Sneep at the right circle-top. Sneep’s magnetic slapper turned Simpson to stone as it eluded his mitt.

By the time Gerbe struck, the Eagles were running away with a 12-3 shooting edge, 15-6 at intermission. Afterwards, though, the Friar offense evoked a distinctive rabidity that had not been seen all weekend. In the middle frame, they drenched BC stopper John Muse with 17 registered whacks versus only one Eagle stab at Simpson.

At 2:48, Providence hit the board on their fifth of what would be eleven spaced-out, unanswered bids. Defender Matt Taormina, who had already whiffed twice on one play, discharged a third bid from the center point into a dense forest in front of Muse. Ian O’Connor got a piece of it to guide it home.
Other than that, Muse withstood everything that was thrown at him, including a post-whistle hack by a flustered Jon Rheault at 10:23. That move and resultant fisticuffs landed two Friars and two Eagles in the bin with a cumulative 43 penalty minutes –including a major to Rheault an 10-minute misconducts to the likes of Norton, Ferriero, and Nick Petrecki.

The Friars confined the puck to the BC for much of the third period as well, mustering another 14 shots, but cultivated nothing. Around the halfway mark, meanwhile, the Eagles drilled the dagger courtesy of Gibbons. Linemate Gerbe lassoed a feed from Smith out of the far corner and nimbly handed it off to Gibbons, who zapped his second point of the night in low.
This article originally appeared in the Friartown Free Press