Wednesday, February 4, 2009

On Men's Hockey: Nick Mazzolini Regaining Old Form

En route to grossing the Hockey East Player of the Week award, beneath the basic act of blowing ample ice chips on his (literally) painful past, Nick Mazzolini wholly recompensed the toe-curling visuals of his recent career speed bumps.
Who better to initially kindle it –let alone before the watchful eyes of NESN and an egregiously overflowing Schneider congregation- than against the Boston College Eagles? It was, after all, but ten-and-a-half months prior that the towering attackman’s 2007-08 journey ended about 24 hours before the PC men, as a whole, grudgingly stashed away their skates for the summer.
The fashion of Mazzolini’s personal knockout, one will recall, was splitting symbolism of the Friars’ unceremonious exile from the Conte Forum over the last Ides of March weekend. In Game 1, around the halfway mark of the first period, BC’s Benn Ferriero charged after Mazzolini at the Eagles’ blue line and dealt a blow that dislodged the pivot’s lid like a champagne cork.
Unmistakably wiped, the then-junior sat the following night out with what was curiously disclosed as a knee ailment. But apart from his absence, there was no sensational difference for the packets of Friar Fanatics in attendance. The volcanic Eagles stamped another swift 5-1 final and proceeded to whitewash six more adversaries en route to national glamor.
Now, all of a sudden, Jerry York’s capstone club is back in the mid-to-late season pothole it Homerically lunged out of last season (as was most callously evidenced Monday in their 6-1 bow to Northeastern in the Beanpot semifinals).
And last Friday, the resurging Friars exploited BC’s subpar state to an altogether satisfactory extent, ultimately drawing a 2-2 knot. If only for 97 seconds, they had an upper hand on their Catholic Clash rivals courtesy a fresh-out-the-box Mazzolini -11 seconds removed from fulfilling a two-minute slashing sentence- who raked home glue guy John Cavanagh’s rebound into a gaping back door with 2:40 to spare in the middle frame.
It was then that the masses got to see his new, rather original choice of poses to acknowledge a lit lamp, crouching over his twig and gliding in the manner of an old-fashioned rod hockey figure.
It was the following night, amidst a 5-3 triumph over Merrimack, that Mazzolini confirmed his new little habit. He performed the exact same civilized stick-ride upon planting the Friars a 4-0 edge at 14:16 of the second period. Then he offered an encore late in the third after running a clean, unchallenged incision down the Broadway lane to bury an insurance tally under goaltender Joe Cannata.

Weekend totals: three goals, four assists. Month totals: four firsthand strikes, two helpers –and almost all of them falling in arguably clutch situations.
Sure makes for a nice remedy after missing the last nine games of the fall term due to another ailment, does it not?
Back on Nov. 7, Mazzolini crumpled to the ice upon sucking in a Vermont shot and, with a lower body injury, went on prompt respite a month before his teammates. And he was nearly entitled to a sense of supreme fortune –unless it’s more agonizing to watch stuff than to live stuff. He merely was forced to watch as his associates went 1-8 up till the December deceleration, authorizing an unfavorable goal differential 36-17 along the way.
Coupled with the March mayhem before, those were just old patterns at their worst. It was beginning to read “Eric Lindros” on the luck-o-meter.
But together with the rest of the Friars, he reemerged from the protracted winter break in a much more orderly state than from the preceding summer holiday. In the latter case, Mazzolini along with classmates Kyle Laughlin and Pierce Norton were swiftly assigned to the upper bowl for the second game of the season after an opening night meltdown before Northeastern.
More recently, the sizeable, seasoned senior was sandwiched between two frosh –Andy Balysky and Rob Maloney- on the third line versus Lowell on January 10, a night on which he discharged a team-best four shots on net as part of a 4-2 win.
After mustering a meek 1-2-3 scoring transcript in his six pre-injury ventures, Mazzolini’s thawing process has sped along in the second half. Ditto the team, which cemented a January record of 4-2-2 and, with 10 contests yet to digest, is back within orthodox hooking distance of a playoff spot.
It need not be stressed that a Mighty Duck-esque spring to banner glory isn’t the likeliest upshot. But Mazzolini, more than any other Friar, should by now have his career in valuable pucks perspective.
He ought to have a sturdy grip on the parables of a “strong finish.” And, judging by his most recent recitals, he has the means to concoct such a finish.
Al Daniel can be reached at
This article originally appeared in the Friartown Free Press