Wednesday, February 22, 2012

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

Alex Beaudry is virtually one, and certainly no more than two full games away from becoming the first Providence backstop to break the 3,000-save plateau in his career. And may we remind you that his career will inevitably last one semester shorter than is conventional? You could channel Crash Davis and call it a “dubious honor” and a testament to mostly flimsy defense, but every shot that is kept out of the cage counts for the same and means the same.

And under the assumption the season will not go beyond the Hockey East tournament, Beaudry and an amateur tryout constitute the only hope for a PC alumnus to tend net in a North American professional league in 2011-12. Up to this point, Bobby Goepfert is the only ex of the Friars’ goalie guild to have played anywhere, which happens to be in Germany for the DEG Metro Stars.

Each of the last three teams to have knocked off the Friars in a Women’s Hockey East semifinal has gone on to miss the postseason altogether two seasons later. Boston College followed that trend in 2006 and 2008, as did New Hampshire in 2009 and 2011 and Connecticut in 2010 and this season. So, for those who are fatalistic, may this be a heads up to BC fans in 2013.

With the regular season behind them, nobody among the PC women looks more worthy of the team’s Most Improved Player accolade than sophomore blueliner Maggie Pendleton. She enters the playoffs having already enhanced her productivity by three goals and 12 points and is the Friars’ plus/minus leader (+15) after finishing second-to-last in that category last season at minus-4.

In the downhill years of the Tim Army era, the PC men made an annual habit of losing exactly one of the last 11 games on their regular-season schedule. In this, Nate Leaman’s first season at the helm, the Friars have played the first seven of their final 11 scheduled contests and gone 2-3-2 with each game decided by two goals or fewer.

Sunday’s 2-1 falter at Northeastern marked the first time the PC women finished their regular season on a losing note in 10 years. The last time that happened, in the form of a 1-0 nick via Boston College, the Friars shook it off and proceeded to win their last ECAC pennant.

Former Friar and top Houston Aeros’ scorer Jon DiSalvatore is the only Aero to have seen action in all 53 games up to this point. One of 20 players to have traveled through the pipeline between Houston and the parent Minnesota Wild this season, DiSalvatore’s season in the NHL has still been confined to a single day, when he was recalled Dec. 27 and reassigned Dec. 28.

If Ashley Cottrell can muster at least three points in the playoffs, she will be the first Providence women’s player to hit triple-digits in the career points department since Kristin Gigliotti and Sonny Watrous both made their tracks in 2007.

With a nightly average of 2.5 more shots on goal than the opposition, the Friars are on the plus side in that department for the first time since their last postseason campaign in 2007-08.

Unless we happen upon the unlikely event of a blowout in the postseason, I doubt anyone will see praise-magnet puckhandler Genevieve Lacasse make any attempts to score on an opponent’s vacated cage at any point in her decorated college career. What a bummer.

One more Friars victory and one more loss for either UMass-Amherst or Northeastern. That is all it will take to put the PC men back in the conference playoff bracket. Providence will have to pull a September 2011 Red Sox and someone in the Bay State will have to pull a September 2011 Tampa Bay Rays to mess this up.