Hockey Log: An intriguing introduction
All those who took charge of advertising Sunday’s Men’s Hockey Black-White exhibition and the season it has more or less commenced had been pledging an offensive upgrade via a convincingly potent smattering of freshmen forwards. For their first public display, four of those seven upfront arrivals, along with their two blueline patrolling classmates, Eric Baier and Joe Lavin, were assigned to the White squad and goaded to measure themselves up with the black-clad likes of Jon Rheault and Nick Mazzolini, the Friars’ top two returning point-getters.
The generally younger 14-man corps, complete with no seniors and merely three juniors, ended up pulling through 4-0, subsisting on a 1-0 lead most of the way before a late outburst in the latter of two twenty-minute halves.
All along, the implicit ideal that coach Tim Army had been preaching since everyone dispersed from campus last summer was that the rich younger blood would supply the depth sorely needed to prop up Rheault and Mazzolini’s leading productivity. At the end of the day, whatever they deliver cannot hurt. Providence, despite a general shortage of scoring diversity last year, is coming off a 6th place finish in conference offense, looking up at five schools that all stretched their campaigns beyond the Hockey East tournament.
And, naturally, there is little reason to think that any of those powerhouses are going to give PC’s potentially revamped gun rack a chance to catch up. In that sense, no one welcomed Sunday’s simulation game more than the Friar defenders, for whom Sunday’s scale tilted more in the direction of pressure than publicity. For what it’s worth, their collective work against each other was an encouraging tune-up for a pool that boasts the always well-rounded Boston College, Boston University, Maine, and New Hampshire.
Given all that, spectators who happened into Schneider Arena banking on a shootout of OK Corral proportions can instead take comfort in PC’s evidently efficient honing of their backstopping skills, which statistically is in a bit more need than their offense; Providence ranked 8th in Hockey East last season in the area of goals allowed.
For a considerable slice of the scrimmage, sophomore White Team goaltender Ryan Simpson translated his yearning to improve the most smoothly. The youngest and least seasoned (1-3-0 as a freshman) of three returning crease custodians for this season, Simpson outdueled junior Chris Mannix (incumbent starter Tyler Sims did not suit up) as he denied all 21 Black stabs. Although the buckled-down, two-way manner of play in neutral ice generally kept things to a dead heat, the Black Team retained the upper hand in the shooting gallery (21-19 final) and would often shower multiple bids in one buzzing visit to the zone.
But Simpson’s chin-standing effort, which climaxed with a penalty kill within the final three minutes, ultimately paved the White Team towards augmenting their lead with a connection on each of their last three shots. Junior Pierce Norton wrapped it all up with an empty netter moments after the Whites withstood a 6-on-4 sequence in their own end.
Special Silver Guest
Who/what else? The Stanley Cup, claimed last spring in part by 1977 Providence alumnus and Anaheim Ducks GM Brian Burke, dropped in at the Schneider Arena hospitality room with the aforementioned victor prior to the intrasquad game. It will have returned and settled into its home for the year in Orange County by Wednesday when the Ducks hoist their title banner before they tangle with the Bruins.
First Full Test Looming
The Friars have four days to build upon what they displayed Sunday before they venture to the northern New York woodlands for the weekend. As they have done to kick off their schedule the previous two seasons, they will encounter two of the ECACHL’s standout hunks, St. Lawrence and Clarkson. The neighboring rivals, who finished 1-2 in their conference last season -the Saints taking first place in the standings before watching Clarkson raise the playoff trophy- scrimmaged with one another Sunday at SLU’s Appleton Arena, the Saints squeaking through 3-2.
Two pre-season top dogs in the women’s game, New Hampshire of Hockey East and St. Lawrence of the ECAC, wasted no time kindling early visions of March drama as they rematched last year’s national quarter-final at Appleton Arena this past weekend. Both powerhouses were breaking in their new skates on the heels of being deemed the team to beat in their respective conference coaches’ polls. Friday’s 4-2 Wildcat win saw 10 different skaters pen their names on the scoresheet for the defending Hockey East champions. The Saints retorted Saturday with a 3-0 punchout highlighted by Carson Duggan’s two decisive second period goals and senior Meghan Gukian’s 14th career shutout effort. The Lady Friars will pay their own visit to St. Lawrence October 20…The Boston University and Northeastern women exchanged bouts with Minnesota and North Dakota over the weekend at Minneapolis’ Ridder Arena. As it happened, both Hub clubs would tie the Fighting Sioux (BU Friday 2-2, Northeastern Saturday by the same score) while dropping two-goal decisions to the routinely radiant Gophers…The Maine men’s team, another team looking to extensively retool its offense, was the first HEA tenant to hold an inter-squad contest, topping the USA U18 team 5-3 with the help of watchful-eyes grabber Billy Ryan’s hat trick….Massachusetts and Vermont each entertained a Quebec-based university (Trois-Rivieres and Acadia respectively). All teams in the men’s conference will have broken in their external schedules by Saturday.