Friday, March 9, 2012

PC Men’s Hockey: Anatomy of a Big Baby Stride

Within only three periods of college hockey postseason experience, Providence College sophomore forward Derek Army witnessed more goals in his team’s favor than his father did in six years as the Friars’ head coach.

In fact, Army all but catalyzed PC in his first men’s Hockey East postseason game since 2008 and first playoff game victory since 2005, bumping UMass-Lowell, 5-3. His power-play conversion at 5:28 of Thursday night’s second period drew a 1-1 knot before his second strike of the night granted the Friars a 3-2 lead to take into the second intermission.

By then, the Friars had already tallied as many postseason goals in one playoff period than they had over six games in their days answering to the elder Army.

Between one tally over a two-game sweep at the hands of a New Hampshire in 2006, a cumulative 10-0 defeat in 120 minutes against the same Wildcats in 2007 and a pair of 5-1 falters versus Boston College in 2008, the Tim Army Corps accrued a 26-3 playoff scoring deficit. Their only competitive contest was a 2-1, double-overtime loss to UNH that instantaneously zapped a 17-16-3 run in 2005-06.

Naturally, the overwhelming itch for a personnel shuffle did not break out until later, when Providence missed the conference tournament for the first time in 25 years of Hockey East. The Friars’ not-so-savory part in the silver anniversary was followed by two-more playoff no-shows, effectively cutting off the father-son, coach-player relationship after one year of existence.

Regardless, the most recent developments and the barometer they raise ought to tell you that it was more than repeat finishes in ninth or tenth place that warranted a fresh new administration. Remember, last year’s Friars missed the Hockey East playoffs by merely one point, but if their habits from 2006-2008 were any indication―and how many nosedives can’t be wrong?―their lack of deserving would have surfaced on the scoreboard against the top dog BC Eagles.

Heck, both this year’s first postseason tilt and the final twirls of the second-to-previous coaching staff ought to confirm how playoff-worthy and playoff-ready this program was not in the six years sandwiched in between. In 2004-05, the last installment of Paul Pooley’s capstone class started its series against second-seeded Boston University with a 4-1 triumph.

Granted, that was swiftly followed by back-to-back 2-0 losses, but at least a certifiable threat was issued. And now it’s being issued again to the Riverhawks.

Saturday will be the one-year anniversary of the elder Army’s departure from his office at Schneider Arena, but his successor, all skating holdovers and newbies have no time for non-celebration. Depending on Friday’s Game 2 upshot, PC will either have a rubber game to prepare for on Sunday or a Hockey East semifinal excursion confirmed for next Friday.

First-year skipper Nate Leaman is thoroughly in the right to foster a fastidious appetite for more. But even if they whiff on their two chances to stamp a passport to TD Garden, which will be the program’s first since 2001, Friartownies should be more than content. They just saw their saw their pucksters discharge a wave of carbonation that splashed every playoff-related drought that has been nagging them for seven years.