Thursday, February 2, 2012

Friars Puckbag: An Assortment Of Observations On PC Men’s And Women’s Hockey

Reports hold that the NCAA might seek to venture beyond national boundaries and hold the 2015 men’s Frozen Four at Toronto’s Air Canada Centre. In that nothing-should-surprise-us-anymore event, would Providence College get dibs on being the host institution if the Brian Burke-Ron Wilson tandem is still in office?

The PC women enter this weekend’s action one win, two Vermont losses and one Connecticut loss away from securing a Hockey East playoff spot. All of that could transpire between now and Sunday, pending a Friars’ victory in their lone engagement of the weekend at Boston College, a Maine sweep of the Catamounts and a UConn split of its weekend itinerary.

Know that adage some coaches like to slap around, proclaiming “It’s not how you start, but how you finish”? Look to men’s senior Matt Bergland and rookie Ross Mauerman for elements of truth.

With his team-leading 8-10-18 transcript, Mauerman would need a four-point outing at New Hampshire Friday night to match Bergland’s 7-15-22 jumpstart to his first 25 games. Bergland did not quite keep his initial pace, posting 22-29-51 totals over his subsequent 99 games. But all things considered, Mauerman is in a sturdier position to become the first PC puckster to hit triple-digits in the way of career points since Jon Rheault.

No telling what effect their fresh acquisition of Cal O’Reilly will have, but the Pittsburgh Penguins might enter TD Garden Saturday afternoon bearing Colin McDonald, who captained the Friars as a senior in 2006-07. McDonald, a Connecticut native, saw action in his sixth and seventh NHL tilts after being called up Tuesday prior to a home-and-home set with the Maple Leafs.

Rookie Haley Frade is in the exclusive company of UConn’s Carli Pridmore and Maine’s Katy Massey as the only WHEA skaters to have dressed for every possible game and still not have a penalty minute on her record. The key difference in Frade’s favor is she has played more games and chipped in a little more on the scoresheet, logging 2-5-7 totals in 29 appearances. Contrast that with Pridmore’s single assist in 28 games and Massey’s 1-1-2 log in 27 outings.

Seeing the highlights of last week’s Providence-Connecticut game at Schneider almost has this author wishing the NCAA would follow the NHL’s lead and have home teams in dark uniforms full time. Maybe then, instead of looking like baseball visitors, the Friars would spring for a solid black third jersey, preferably with the Providence shield emblem on the front.

How is it that the PC men have officially improved upon last year’s Hockey East finish and are already virtually assured their best overall record since their last playoff appearance, yet have a slight downturn in attendance? The Friars’ final figures from 2010-11 were a nightly median of 1,806 witnesses to 14 home games. They have had 15 recorded openings at Schneider Arena this season, yet they enter the homestretch having played to an average of 1,690 spectators.

Well, there is one possible theory behind that. PC had three of those games amidst the school’s month-long holiday break, which inevitably left the student section barren. But one of those was the Mayor’s Cup on New Year’s Day, which drew the fourth-best congregation to date with 1,883 people taking an interest in the civic rivalry.

Besides sparing themselves any drama for the subsequent two weeks and putting themselves within tasting distance of a playoff passport, there are some sentimental stakes in the women’s visit to BC this Saturday. Having spilled the first two-thirds of the season series, the Friars will have to at least muster a tie to avoid being swept by a conference rival for the first time since New Hampshire in 2005-06.