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Saturday, November 3, 2007

Hockey Log

Fornataro to UNH: I’m still here

Initially eclipsed Wildcat senior providing considerable nourishment

Ever since last summer’s NHL Draft, there has been little question of Philadelphia first-rounder James vanRiemsdyk’s entitlement to the label of the NCAA’s authoritative freshman in 2007-08. And certainly, on the New Hampshire campus, it has been tough to divert much attention from his prolonged, Daisuke Matsuzaka type of buildup.

Right by his side, though, have been the apparent Schilling and Beckett of the Wildcats’ fiery gunslinging façade. The rookies and his senior linemates from Day 1, Matt Fornataro and Mike Radja, have symbiotically chalked up one standout night after another, good enough for Fornataro to boast the conference’s player of the month label for October.

Even in a baffling exhibition shortcoming to the University of New Brunswick, a 4-3 falter back on October 12, the newfangled production line convinced coach Dick Umile to leave them precisely untweaked. They have started UNH’s first four games and combined for no less than three points per night. Their foremost command was felt at Northeastern Friday night, when the trio unintentionally presaged the coast’s weekend Nor’easter, making an aggregate eight appearances on the scoresheet and piloting the Cats to a 7-4 triumph and 4-0 overall record.

The Huskies did retaliate Saturday, pulling through 2-1 at Whittemore Center and performing the already impractical feat of flat-out muting the big three. Until then, Fornataro, productively tops in his five-member class over his previous three years in Durham, has been the most consistently tempestuous, making multi-point games habitual and lashing out 22 shots in his first four regular season games. He was notably limited to two stabs at Northeastern’s Brad Thiessen in the recent losing effort.

Still, with two games in hand on Boston College and top Hockey East point-getter Joe Whitney (October’s top rookie), Fornataro has made his case for being the peak early raiser around. The concerns born by the pre-graduation departure of Trevor Smith from Durham, and the leadership gap of Brett Hemingway appear effectively allayed, if they weren’t already at training camp.

Follow the frosh

Even with last year’s three foremost net-raiders in Brock Bradford, Benn Ferriero, and Nathan Gerbe, all back for more, Whitney has been just part of a youth-led breakout at BC. With his eleven points, followed by seven apiece via sophomore Ben Smith, Ferriero, and senior Dan Bertram, the Eagles’ off-and-on strike force has been good enough for an unbeaten stretch of 3-0-3, 2-0-2 in conference action.

Another sophomore, defender Carl Sneep, was the lone goal-getter in BC’s only obligation this weekend, pitching in towards a 1-1 draw with Maine Friday at Conte Forum. The expectable goaltenders’ duel between possible rookie sensation John Muse and already proven Black Bear stopper Ben Bishop unfolded as they attained an aggregate 45 saves.

It was also Whitney’s second empty performance in his young career, apart from the condensed fogout match against North Dakota.

Toiling Turgeon

For Maine women’s netminder Genevieve Turgeon, nothing has been quite as demanding as the sixty-six shot marathon she faced October 5 at Mercyhurst. Even so, the skidding Black Bears, 0-8-1 since an opening day thumping of Sacred Heart, have habitually loosened their blue line borders when they have had their veteran crease custodian on duty.

Thus far, in six appearances, Turgeon has collected at least forty-plus saves on five occasions, including a precise 40 in a 2-2 draw with the Friars for her team’s only conference point October 14. The closest she has come to matching the Mercyhurst marathon was on Friday at Clarkson, where she pushed away all but 51 Golden Knight shots in a 2-0 falter.

Dan Lichterman cooled off the shagged out junior and started rookie Sarah Bishop for the third time in Part II of the Clarkson set. As it happened, Bishop dealt with the tandem’s lightest workload on the year, recording twenty-two saves in a 1-0 kick in the teeth

All Cats and Dogs

For what it’s worth, merely a month having been logged and everyone barely having broken out their conference slates this weekend, the UNH and UConn women, respectively second and eighth-ranked in the nation this past week, are in full statistical command in Hockey East so far. The Wildcats are already indulging in a 5-0 conference record and as of Saturday, Huskies Dominique Thibault and Jaclyn Hawkins are at the scoring throne with 19 and 12 points respectively. They are immediately trailed by four Wildcats and then teammate Nicole Tritter, complete with nine points in as many formal on-ice engagements.

Additionally, New Hampshire rookie Kayley Herman and Connecticut vet Brittany Wilson are neck-and-neck for the upper hand in every last netminding statistic on record.

Lengthy whistle-stop

Only eight seconds into Thursday’s loss to BU, Friars bouncer Trevor Ludwig set the tone for a tireless night on referee Scott Hansen’s part, harshly sending Terrier Brian Ewing on a jackknife spill into the boards along the far hash marks. Within 5:50 of action, the Friars had already been whistled twice, the Terriers once.

But after Boston’s John MacCarthy was locked away for hooking much later in the period, no further penalties were assessed for a grand playing time total of 36:50. The spotless disciplined second period was thus the cleanest played frame in a PC game since the third period of the Oct. 20 Holy Cross match, wherein nothing more than one tripping sentence was assessed to each side.

Soft sell

On the horizon, a little case of anti-serendipity is looking to damper the sellers of Schneider Arena-based entertainment. The night of the annual men’s hockey Mayor’s Cup contest with Brown is lined up for Tuesday, December 4. As it happens, the ever so venerated Friar hoopsters happen to be renewing their own intrastate rivalry with URI on the same night, same time, same city, and, most likely by traditional comparison, tipping the scale for the PC student body.

With that presumably in mind, attempting to bolster their patronage well in advance , PC’s management offered a free ticket to that night’s puck friendly for any Thursday Boston University game-goers who participated in the routine intermission Chuck-A-Puck event…Once-struggling BU followed up on their icebreaking triumph of the Friars Saturday by entertaining their home fans with a 7-4 pasting of UMass-Lowell. The Terriers distributed their scoring wealth amongst 13 prior plebeians and saw Karson Gillepsie snatch his first win of the year…Outside of Hockey East, the Miami-Ohio Redhawks have leaped out of the left corner toward a near unanimous #1 spot in the national polls. They only emboldened that status in Part I of a set with Northern Michigan, taking the Friday match 9-2, improving to 7-0.

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