A rotating torch
Last season, at least part of Tim Army’s, as it were, sophomore slide as the head skipper of the men’s hockey team was his growing core’s inability to mature in accordance with the competition and slate.
The crux of success they call depth was conspicuous by its absence, and the Friars thus went from maybe-just-maybe contenders to a rollover face in the crowd.
Among last year’s sophomores and juniors, the entire roster for that matter, only Jon Rheault and Nick Mazzolini broke the twenty-point plateau through the club’s thirty-six game venture that ended with an infamous 10-0 two-game playoff drowning in UNH’s Lake Whittemore. Rheault’s dozen goals that year, and the thirteen by captain Colin MacDonald, more than doubled everyone else’s output in that column.
Call it panicky, but when the 2007-08 campaign rolled around, the outspoken promoters around Schneider Arena suddenly appeared to call upon the freshmen class to act as the saviors of this scoring scurvy. Ever since, the elder boys, whether they actually took muted exception to those implications or not, have looked to be solving their own troubles.
As one of MacDonald’s succeeding captains, Rheault already has nine points through eleven games. He started off the year side-by-side with co-captain Kyle Laughlin as the breakout leaders, Laughlin going on a meticulously kneaded two-point-per-game stretch through four outings in the latter half of October.
Since then, the likes of Mazzolini, Matt Taormina, and Pierce Norton, all classmates of Laughlin’s have likewise revolutionized their touch. For a time, Taormina made it easy to forget that he is a designated blue-liner, taking over the captains’ post and charging up 4-5-9 totals in a five-game scoring streak, beginning with the waning-second equalizer in the 3-3 tie at Amherst October 27 and ending with a helper on the man who was next in line, Norton, in a 1-0 tipping of Maine November 10.
Since then, Norton has merely run off with back-to-back two-goal games in PC’s two-game stay at home last weekend and drawn a knot with Taormina, who had an uncredited hand in on Norton’s first goal against New Hampshire, for a team-leading 11 points in as many games played.
Final result? Well, right now, as the Friars take their Thanksgiving holiday fastened on the .500 fence and deadlocked with Boston College for fourth place in the lottery-ball Hockey East leaderboard, the class of 2009 has a an aggregate 48 points, compared with a 2006-07 season total of 69.
Army remarked prior to Saturday’s 5-4 OT slip to his playoff nemesis Wildcats that any satisfactory result would do nothing to take back last year’s decisive massacre. What he did yearn for, he said, was to flaunt improvement. The oft-honest stats say he may be on to something.
Quick Feeds: The much-hyped rookie class has gradually begun to hatch itself. Defender Eric Baier tossed in an assist Saturday, while two-way-minded associate Joe Lavin finally broke his goose eggs with two assists on the weekend after coming up empty through his first nine games.
MacDonald, returning to Providence for the first time as a pro, inserted the eventual game-clincher Sunday for the Springfield Falcons in a 3-2 edging of the P-Bruins, precisely six months after he snagged his degree on the same Dunkin Donuts Center platform. In a subsequent Providence Journal interview, the Edmonton Oilers farmhand contentedly noted that a smattering of his not-so-old PC friends were on hand for his homecoming.
In the third minute of Saturday’s marathon with New Hampshire, the Friars had yet another near-miss retroactively reviewed and confirmed by video. Rheault had been bolting down the center alley in an odd-man rush and forwarded a diagonal slide to right wing Greg Collins, whose high-flyer brushed the upper post. The jumpy Friar Fanatics were only briefly allowed to entertain thoughts of claiming the precious upper hand before referee Tom Quinn finalized the initial call, as there was no evidence it had entered the cage.
Women’s goaltender Danielle Ciarletta charged up the Hockey East Defensive Player of the Week title through her aggregate 56 saves in PC’s two-night shortcoming visit to Ohio State. Friday’s dynamic 38 save effort in a 2-1 kick in the teeth was the junior’s best output since she penned an equivalent transcript since a 2-2 tie at New Hampshire last January 28…Ciarletta’s classmate Mari Pehknonen, who had but four days to thaw out her Four Nations Cup jet lag, kept off the scoresheet Friday, but instantly returned to her regular Finnish Flash persona Saturday, potting PC’s only goal on seven shots…Senior defender Kathleen Smith has run away in the area of shots, compiling forty, at least fifteen more than any of her associates, in the Friars’ first ten games…The weekend drop-in to Columbus marked the first two times either Friar team has had their game chaperoned by two referees. A recent declaration from league commissioner Joe Bertagna stated that both the dual-ref system and video replay, already a hit with the men’s team, will be used at random this season before becoming full-time institutions in 2008-09.