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Saturday, October 27, 2007

Hockey Log

Leading in all senses

The youth movement that was predicted to help replenish Tim Army’s corps has not exactly hit the spot through the first month of PC men’s hockey action. And so, the Friars’ two C-bearers, Kyle Laughlin and Jon Rheault have opted to remind everyone of their prior seasoning and, to an extent, reverse the presupposed roles of guidance.

Since their whole club was blanked by Clarkson and judicial pre-season Hobey Baker candidate David Leggio two weeks back, Laughlin and Rheault have each jumpstarted a four-game scoring streak, good enough for four Friar points in the Hockey East standings.

The junior Laughlin, coming off a 2-9-11 transcript over 36 outings last season, is suddenly in a multi-point game habit, charging up 5-3-8 totals so far. Laughlin charged up an even goal-helper package on both ends of this weekend’s home-and-home with UMass-Amherst, a team with an overall ambiguous pre-season outlook who nonetheless sat at #16 in the USA Today poll this week.

Rheault, PC’s reigning top gun and one of few current Friar athletes to have a biographical snippet on Wikipedia, has earned an assist per night since the team’s conference opener at Northeastern, pitching in two of them in Saturday’s epic 3-3 tie at Mullins Center. He first pitched in on Laughlin’s equalizer at 7:32 of the third period and then, with 6 ticks remaining in regulation, collaborated with John Cavanagh towards defender Matt Taormina’s game-saving blast merely 59 seconds after the Minutemen had used a power play to regain their edge.

To add a little more surprise pleasantry, that was the junior Taorrmina’s third point in as many conference contests.

And in a snap off the draw for the extra session, the two chiefs each opened fire on UMass keeper Paul Dainton, Laughlin going first on a no-time-wasted rush, Rheault tracing his initial wide attempt to at least perk Dainton back up before the Minutemen regrouped.

To a slightly less boiling extent, junior Pierce Norton’s icebreaker on a late second period power play, with both Laughlin and freshman defender Eric Baier (the only rookie with multiple points so far) happened to be in on, mounted his simpler point-per-game ride to three overall outings.

Mannix might be the man

Just as they did on Friday, the Friars did their part to let netminder Chris Mannix ease into his tussle with a slightly hungrier Amherst offense, though it only proved valid for about five minutes this time. With their home crowd working for them, the Minutemen grew to lead the shooting gallery by a landslide after allowing PC to chip at Dainton first. They ended up unloading a hearty six on net in their first swarm compared to three altogether in Friday’s opening frame and mustered double digits in each regulation period (11-14-12 respectively).

But save for three drawbacks, Mannix (34 saves) again triumphantly answered Army’s call to the bench door, made after senior Tyler Sims failed to produce any wins in his first four starts, culminating with a shriveled up 14-save showing in the Oct. 20 6-4 falter to Holy Cross.

Two of Mannix’s most glimmering moments Saturday were withstanding a five-shot barrage during a penalty kill circa the halfway mark and doing likewise to a last-minute overtime downpour where Amherst matched the Friars’ nimble three-shot gush to start that same period.

It was only one weekend against one team to close out one month, but the early stats signify a carry-over ice hankering by a guy who filled but seven openings at the tail end of last season.

Lou re-opens building diary

Time will tell its worth in being officially labeled yet another House That Lamoriello Built, but the two-decade New Jersey GM, Providence graduate, and onetime godfather of both PC pucks and Hockey East, penned his latest chapter of landmark projects Saturday. The Devils christened the Newark-based Prudential Center, though home state rock pin-ups Bon Jovi got first public dibs on Thursday, with a 4-1 drop to Ottawa.

Hitting them at the heart

A manifest crux to Mannix’ dynamics, and those of his associate blueliners, was their ability to wholly stifle and in effect break up what was originally thought to be the Minutemen’s lone cemented line of PJ Fenton, Will Ortiz, and Cory Quirk. With all three coming up empty on Friday, Ortiz was bumped down to the fourth line, but ironically was the only one of the three to break the sudden spell on Saturday, potting Amherst’s second goal early in the third period.

Giant Cat fight

New Hampshire, billed #6 in the nation by USA Today, invited, and swept, the fourth-rated Colorado College Tigers this weekend, pulling off 5-3 and 4-2 triumphs in a sold-out Whittemore Center. The Wildcats saw seven individual multi-point outputs spaced over the series while goaltenders Kevin Regan and Brian Foster split the crease-keeping wealth to improve to 3-0 overall.

Boston’s Muse of Wonder

Up at Chestnut Hill, the goaltending debate appears to have its post more secure. Freshman John Muse is the lone of three Cory Schneider replacement candidates to have patrolled the Boston College crease through five overall games and has made 2-1-2 record out of it along with a .927 save-percentage and hanging up a shutout, albeit a weather-shortened, deadlocked one, against still nationally top-rated North Dakota. Meanwhile, classmate Joe Whitney is hanging out atop the Eagle scoring charts with nine points, matching the team’s goals-against aggregate.

The bulk of Whitney’s early impression is courtesy of a two-goal, four-point display in a 7-1 Friday drubbing of Merrimack, who had come into their conference opener an uncharacteristic 3-0, good enough for a surprise handful of honorable mentions in the polls. The Eagles and Warriors will rematch Sunday at Lawler Arena.

Wolverines devour more beans

Two weeks after they tipped over BC in the semi-final of the Icebreaker Cup, Michigan had its way with the other Hub hunk, wiping out Boston University by 4-2 and 6-2 tallies in Ann Arbor. The Terriers, who are lined up to visit the Friars this Thursday, have thus fallen to 0-4-1 on the year and relinquished four-plus goals in their last four games.

Huskies still hot

The Connecticut women’s team followed up on their decisive 5-0 thumping of the Friars last Thursday by topping their fellow Huskies at Northeastern in a 5-3 marathon, stretching their overall streak to seven wins. With their 10-3 goal differential in two Hockey East games, UConn gets at least temporary dibs over UNH for first place. The 2-0 Wildcats tangle with rival Maine Sunday at 4:00.

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