Saturday, March 10, 2012

This Date In Providence Bruins History: March 10

1995: AHL veteran and future P-Bruin Mitch Lamoureux draws a 3-3 knot by converting a penalty shot for the Hershey Bears with 36 seconds left in regulation. But within another 17 ticks, Clayton Beddoes wastes that with a go-ahead goal to give the P-Bruins a 4-3 home victory. Phil Von Stefenelli also pitches in two goals for Providence

1996: For the second time in as many meetings in Providence, the P-Bruins delete an initial two-goal deficit against the Springfield Falcons, whose 4-2 edge devolves into a 6-4 win for the Baby Bs.

2000: Initially trailing the Hershey Bears, 3-1, the P-Bruins rally for a 4-3 win at the Civic Center, which pushes their record back above the .500 mark at 28-27-6.

2002: Rookie Ben Stafford's goal-assist value pack highlights a 3-1 home win over Rochester that gives the P-Bruins a crucial six points in three nights.

2006: Eric Healey has a hand in three goals while Ben Walter accounts for the game-winner to beat Lowell, 4-1, at The Dunk.

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.

This Date In Providence Bruins History: March 9

2002: Within the final 13 minutes of regulation, the P-Bruins usurp Portland’s 2-1 lead to take a 4-2 decision out of the Cumberland County Civic Center.

2007: After two scoreless periods, the visiting Philadelphia Phantoms sculpt themselves a 2-0 lead within the first four minutes of the third. But by the 10:39 mark, the P-Bruins have seized a 3-2 lead, which ultimately goes final to give them a five-game winning streak.

2008: Sean Curry scores with 40 seconds remaining in regulation to force overtime against the visiting Worcester Sharks. Brett Skinner, who collected the primary assist on Curry’s goal, makes the lone conversion on either end in the ensuing shootout to give the P-Bruins a 2-1 thriller.

2011: The P-Bruins delete a pair of one-goal deficits within the second period, then win an epic shootout marathon at Manchester’s Verizon Wireless Arena. In a total of 14 rounds, goaltender Anton Khudobin denies 10 of the Monarchs attempts while Jordan Caron, Trent Whitfield, David Laliberte, Antoine Roussel and Lane MacDermid all convert for Providence.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

This Date In Providence Bruins History: March 8

1998: Future Boston and Providence Bruin Peter Schaefer takes part in an initial romp that has the Syracuse Crunch leading, 4-0. But two goals by Cameron Mann and a hat trick by Joel Prpic highlight an epic comeback as the P-Bruins pilfer a 6-4 victory at the Civic Center.

2002: Eric Manlow’s two assists and Ivan Huml’s two goals highlight a 4-3 home win over the Albany River Rats.

2003: The P-Bruins clinch a Calder Cup playoff berth after cultivating a 4-1 decision out of a fight-filled game in Portland.

2008: Fueled by defenseman Brett Skinner’s two unanswered goals, the P-Bruins snap a five-game winless skid by bumping the Manchester Monarchs, 5-2, at Verizon Wireless Arena.

2009: The P-Bruins end a seven-game road trip and snap a five-game winless streak with a 2-1 triumph at Rochester’s Blue Cross Arena.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

This Date In Providence Bruins History: March 7

1997: For the first time in their five-year history, the P-Bruins break double-digits on the scoreboard in a home game as they rout the Saint John Flames, 10-4.

1999: With a 5-4 road win over Fredericton, John Grahame extends his league-record winning streak to 19 games.

2003: The Manitoba Moose all but coast to a 5-1 win at The Dunk, snapping the P-Bruins’ 19-game home unbeaten streak that spanned over three full calendar months.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

This Date In Providence Bruins History: March 6

2004: A seesaw, 4-2 triumph at the Springfield Civic Center gives the P-Bruins a season-high five-game winning streak.

2011: Anton Khudobin records his first Providence shutout with 20 saves while Trent Whitfield charges up two goals and two helpers to join another eight point-getters and annihilate the visiting Bridgeport Sound Tigers, 6-0.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Commentary: Even With Losing Record, Deraney, Lacasse Still Bona Fide Winners

The pill escalates in vinegary bitterness by the year for the Providence College women’s hockey team, both in the sense of its concoction and delivery and in the way of its implications.

The prized, celestial senior class of 2012 brooked more than a mere shortcoming in its lone Hockey East championship game Sunday afternoon. They blinked in double overtime after coming to within 7.7 seconds of a 1-0 triumph in regulation, which would have granted record-razing goaltender Genevieve Lacasse three shutouts in as many conference tournament games.

Instead, a once-wounded and since-recovered giant from Boston University perked up and netted the equalizer, then claimed its second pennant in three years via Jenn Wakefield. Yes, the Jenn Wakefield, who transferred to the Terriers during her year off from college in 2009-10, two seasons after her Granite State Goddesses from New Hampshire beat a whole other collection of Friars in the program’s previous WHEA title tilt in 2008.

Wakefield’s strike instantaneously forced Lacasse and six skating mates to make their tracks on the Divine Campus with no merry March memories, other than Saturday’s 2-0 semifinal win over Northeastern, which terminated fellow goaltending phenom Florence Schelling’s hopes for a single conference title or NCAA tournament passport.

Just as strikingly, if not more so, Sunday’s loss force-fed head coach Bob Deraney his first sub-.500 record in his 13 years behind the Friars’ bench. A win would have assured at least a neutral winning percentage regardless of the outcome of the NCAA quarterfinals, but it was not to be. A tempestuous first half to the 2011-12 season came back to leave a permanent scar in the form of a final transcript of 16-17-4.

But that need not percolate too much discussion. One barely losing season on top of 12 straight runs of .500 or better does not reflect Deraney’s aptitude any more than a 2-1, 48-save, double-overtime loss on top of 219:21 straight minutes of shutout hockey reflects Lacasse’s value.

This author spent the better part of this season figuring that Lacasse, who frankly is now PC’s Granato of goaltenders, needed a Hockey East crown to certify her big-game value and salvage her shot at a future spot on Team Canada.

That was before the postseason, before she outclassed her former U19 teammate Brittany Ott and then outdueled her career-long rival Schelling in a 2-0 upset of top-dog Northeastern.

Did she wind up 0-2 all-time in playoff overtime bouts and concede a one-goal lead to let that bonus round happen in the first place on both occasions? Yes, but it took three-time Hockey East MVP Kelli Stack 11 tries to beat her and give Boston College the win at 11:57 of the sudden-death session in last year’s semifinals.

This past weekend, only Wakefield, who fell just short of a Canadian Olympic roster spot in 2010 and sandwiched that adventure with 119 college goals and 203 college assists and counting, could solve Lacasse. Wakefield now has five multi-goal performances out of 12 college playoff games in her career, including one against Schelling’s Huskies last year.

The day prior, Northeastern mustered diddlysquat, even after spending 12:36, or a little more than one-fifths of the game on the power play and landing 17 shots on goal with at least one extra skater.

The week prior, an exponentially escalating Maine Black Bears team was all but biffed back into their Dan Lichterman days when second-year coach Maria Lewis took them to the wild card round at Schneider Arena. Deraney’s pupils patiently garnered and deposited chance after chance to charge up an incentive-fueled, 6-0 victory, the most lopsided decision in a Hockey East playoff tilt in four years.

With that, for the 10th time in 10 tries, the Friars were among both the top four in the league standings at the end of the regular season and the final four in the conference postseason.

Between a Jan. 22 overtime loss in a visit to Maine and their next sudden-death slip in Sunday’s championship game, Providence went on a 7-1-1 roll, improving a 9-15-3 record to 16-16-4. Along the way, they extracted a 6-4-10 scoring log from senior Ashley Cottrell, who had missed six games during a trying month of October due to injury.

In Cottrell’s absence, the Friars went 1-4-1, enduring three shutout losses and effectively forfeiting their shot at an at-large NCAA tournament bid before Halloween. That stretch overlapped with junior striker Nicole Anderson’s own ailment, which forced her to miss the first 10 games, two wins, six losses and two ties.

Another senior, defender Christie Jensen, sat out seven games in November and December, watching her team go 3-4-0 in the process.

Excuses? No. Explanations.

Deraney has dealt with this before, perhaps most notably in 2009-10, when a 4-7-6 record at the halfway mark eventually morphed into a 15-11-9 finish and a Hockey East regular-season title.

And as soon-to-be-triumphant BU coach Brian Durocher, Deraney’s one-time goaltender instructor in the Terrier men’s program, said Saturday “Deraney has done an unbelievable job of being here every single year. That’s a program that, with the evolution of women’s hockey could have maybe changed the landscape, maybe slid a little bit from the pedestal they were in for a long, long time.

“But they’re here every single year, banging the door, playing for championship games and that’s a great credit to him, his staff and certainly the young ladies who play on his team.”

You see? There are reasons why, literally, for every coaching change PC athletic director Bob Driscoll makes in his flagship basketball program, there is a contract extension for Deraney.

In another 12 months, Deraney will have matched John Marchetti for the longest reign behind the PC women’s bench. At some point in 2013-14, he will eclipse Marchetti’s program-record mark of 262 wins.

None of the three Hub clubs at BC, BU or Northeastern plan on going anywhere and Maine is relevant to stay. And Deraney will part with his class of 2012 with a shortage of fulfillment, but also with a rebuilding project comparable to what he confronted circa 2005-2008.

But do not, I repeat, do not bet against the Friars continuing to make the bigwigs sweat in February and early March.

This Date In Providence Bruins History: March 5

1993: The team wins its fifth straight game and rookie goaltender Mike Bales wins his fourth straight in a 7-3 lashing of Rochester at the Providence Civic Center.

1995: Sandy Moger’s hat trick helps to sculpt an initial 4-0 lead, which the P-Bruins subsist upon long enough to top the visiting Springfield Falcons, 5-2. Moger’s second and third goals both come on a power play (5-on-3, then 5-on-4) as the man-up brigade goes 4-for-7 on the day.

2004: Matt Herr records his first multi-goal game of the season and breaks a 2-2 tie with 40 seconds left in the third period to beat the Hershey Bears at The Dunk.

2006: With Providence trailing, 2-1, entering the third period, Jordan Sigalet stops all 12 shots in the closing frame as his team pulls even. He then stops four more in overtime and all five of the Hershey Bears shootout attempts while Ben Guite scores the decider for a 3-2 win at the Giant Center.

2008: The P-Bruins engage the San Antonio Rampage for the first time, losing a 4-1 decision at the AT&T Center.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

This Date In Providence Bruins History: March 4

2009: The P-Bruins pay their first-ever visit to Toronto’s Ricoh Coliseum, where they fall short to the Marlies, 6-4. Mikko Lehtonen (two goals, assist) and Johnny Boychuk (playmaker hat trick) stand out with three points apiece in the losing cause. Meanwhile, Jiri Tlustly has a hand in all six Toronto goals.

2011: Trent Whitfield scores each of the team’s first two goals, then assists on Alain Goulet’s eventual winner in a 4-2 victory over Charlotte at The Dunk. Goaltender Anton Khudobin wins his Providence debut with 25 saves on 27 shots-faced.