Thursday, February 9, 2012

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

Stick salute to former Friars’ stopper and soon-to-retire PC women’s goalie coach/Cox Sports color analyst Bob Bellemore, who garnered the AHCA women’s hockey assistant coach award this week.

Seeing last week’s installment of Saturday Night Live, the first new episode since bench player Paul Brittain’s abrupt departure, evoked memories of Tim Army’s last three seasons behind the Friars’ bench, when an overcrowded dressing room led to inevitable midseason precipitation. Think Bryce Aneloski, Joe Lavin, Alex Velischek, etc.

PC women’s recruit Molly Illikainen is among the 10 finalists for Minnesota High School Hockey’s coveted Miss Hockey award. To date, she has charged up 28 goals and 17 assists in 18 games for her Grand Rapids/Greenway team.

So far, four months and 26 games into his tenure, men’s head coach Nate Leaman has not overseen a losing streak longer than three games. The Friars will need to pluck at least one point out of Friday night’s home date with Maine to keep it that way.

A win over the Black Bears, who sit seven points ahead of them for fifth place in Hockey East, could also be a prerequisite to salvaging PC’s hopes for home ice in the conference quarterfinals.

Barring a bonus encounter in the postseason, which is better than possible, the PC women’s senior class is already assured a lifetime winning record against rival New Hampshire at 7-4. But they will need at least a split of this weekend’s two-night visit to Durham in order to secure a supra-.500 showing at the Whittemore Center. After a 0-2 start in their freshman campaign, the class of 2012 has since won three straight in the once-notorious road venue.

On the whole, the results are hardly immediate, but there are a few subtle signs as to freshman Shane Luke’s impact and influence on the PC men. The team is 2-6-1 since his belated debut, but Luke has chipped in five points, has not gone more than two straight games without appearing on the scoresheet and is in rare company with Steven Shamanski and Matt Montesano as the only Skating Friars with a positive rating (plus-4 apiece).

Saturday’s matinee with UNH will be forward-turned-defender Jess Cohen’s 100th career game. Cohen has yet to miss a game in her two-plus years of collegiate experience. But she will likely need to help the Friars to an appearance in both the 2012 and 2013 Hockey East championship game just to tie Katelynn Laffin and Erin Normore’s program record of 143 career outings.

The men’s team is 2-0-3 dating back to the start of last season against UMass-Amherst, which will host their season series finale up at the Mullins Center on Saturday. Although neither side has swept the other since 2005-06, a tie or win for the Friars will allow them to finish undefeated against the Minutemen for the third time in five years. They went 2-0-1 in that matchup in 2007-08, 1-0-2 last season and a 1-0-1 going into Saturday’s bout.

Club hockey made its Friartown debut last weekend with a home-and-home set versus Boston University. The newfangled team will engage crosstown rival Brown University at Meehan Auditorium Friday night. This author must offer some kudos to his former colleagues at the Cowl for shedding some light on what would otherwise be a little-known fact.