Wednesday, February 15, 2012

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

How fitting is it that PC’s Genevieve Lacasse and Northeastern’s Florence Schelling will each have their respective Senior Nights this weekend prior to a game against one another?

The PC women’s senior class played their first Hockey East regular-season game against the Huntington Hounds at Matthews Arena back on Oct. 18, 2008. Their last Hockey East regular-season game will involve the same adversary on the same site this Sunday.

Matthews Arena will actually have three Friars-Huskies bouts in as many nights this weekend, the first two being men’s tilts Friday and Saturday.

And by the way, not to prematurely stimulate long-suffering Friartownies, but if Nate Leaman’s pupils can sweep Jim Madigan’s Huskies this weekend, that will clinch PC’s first Hockey East playoff bid in four years with four regular-season games still to come.

PC assistant coach Karen Thatcher is among the 27 finalists for a Team USA roster spot at this spring’s Women’s World Championships. The team’s strength and conditioning coach will be the renowned Mike Boyle, whose recent Friar-related connections have included Mark Adams, Abby Gauthier, Kyle Murphy and Arianna Rigano, just to name a few. Boyle previously trained seven Providence alumnae en route to the first women’s hockey Olympic gold medal in 1998.

What exactly has Tim Schaller done since returning from a month-long, mononucleosis-induced absence? In four games, he has thrust 16 shots on goal and tallied a 3-2-5 scoring log, including back-to-back goal-assist value packs as part of the Friars’ first set of back-to-back wins since the first week of December.

Speaking of Schaller, the junior forward has played 13 fewer games than last year and is one point away from a new career high. Sophomore forward Derek Army, junior blueliner Myles Harvey, senior defenseman Danny New, senior striker Andy Balysky, sophomore Kevin Hart and senior defenseman David Brown are among the notables in the same arena. And there is still time for junior Chris Rooney to set himself a new bar by season’s end.

The PC women were shut out in four of their first six games this season, but have not been blanked since. Fair warning, though: If anybody can turn that trend back in the other direction, it’s Schelling, the Henrik Lundqvist of Hockey East.

Perhaps more than anything, Bob Deraney’s pupils want to spruce up their discipline and/or penalty killing between now and the postseason. The Friars have allowed a power-play goal in each of their last four games and four of the opposition’s last seven strikes have been cultivated during a special teams’ segment.

NESN recently added next Saturday’s PC-BC game at Conte Forum to its Hockey East telecast slate, meaning the Friars will have played at least three games this season on the regional network, all against one of the Comm. Ave. schools. In fact, since the start of the 2007-08 season, Providence has engaged no one but Boston College or Boston University when Tom Caron is on hand to call the action.

Still, you know times are changing when Providence plays as many televised games against Merrimack as it does against the two Green Line programs combined. Just look at the schedule and count them up for yourself.