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Saturday, November 17, 2007

New Hampshire 5, Men's Hockey 4 (OT)

Booming Friars zapped in OT

It was caught and cited during coach-to-press conversations over the week, and it was plain to see over a two-night homestand for the Friar Fanatics. Hockey East has a monsoon of overtime affairs in full force and not looking inclined to taper off without deep reason.

The simplest, most sensible way to handle it is to get used it, but the Friars are not quite acclimated yet. Through Saturday’s wrenching 5-4 extra session falter to New Hampshire, they have dipped to a 0-2-2 transcript in games going beyond regulation.

After rallying from a nightlong excruciating, albeit narrow, stranglehold in the third period to sculpt a quick 4-3 lead, PC slipped with 8:12 remaining in the third period and again at 2:57 of the extra frame, both times yielding to a feisty Wildcat forward Paul Thompson.

Thompson’s game clincher also clinched himself a hat trick as he made his umpteenth cheetah-paced dart to the net and shoveled home a centering feed from his equally vibrant linemate, James vanRiemsdyk.

The Friars were plenty shagged out heading into the game, having just stamped a thrilling 2-2 knot with a resurgent UMass-Lowell team here Friday. With the rabid Wildcats, torn apart on their home rink by Northeastern 24 hours previous, looming, Providence coach Tim Army did not deny the crunch.

“There are particular things that you do to prepare for each opponent,” he said and adding in recognition of the all-too-well-known UNH prestige, the time constraint “poses a great deal of problems because they are a very talented, fast, creative, and explosive hockey team.”

Those problems were smoothly translating to the scoreboard through the first forty minutes of action, though the Friars did squeeze out the icebreaker goal late in the opening stanza through yet another trendy power play conversion center-staged by Pierce Norton.

Far point patroller Matt Taormina slipped the disc down the boards to John Cavanagh, who made a few back-and-forth taps with a nearby Nick Mazzolini. Mazzolini eventually leveled a shot off the stick of Wildcat stopper Brian Foster, who was much too late diving after Norton’s backhand rebound slide that made it 1-0 at the 14:50 mark.

On the flipside, that effectively perked up the Cats’ newest incendiary trinity. With under 3:30 remaining, vanRiemsdyk made a nimble dump-in for his centerman Thomas Fortney to collect in the far corner. Fortney in turn shipped it in front for an incoming Thompson to jam home from the right alley.

With twenty ticks till intermission, vanRiemsdyk bustled to the cage while his partners prevailed in a scrum and waited to guide home a mid-air tip-in.

“He’s a fantastic player,” Army bluntly noted on vanRiemsdyk, who was originally thriving with a pair of seniors on the top line before the Cats hit a slump. “He’s very, very bright and he’s very gifted and quick, makes a lot of things happen offensively. UNH has traditionally great speed and their defense contributes a lot to the offense, their forwards are very skilled.”

All participants and bystanders at Schneider Arena only honed their understanding of that as the game progressed. For the majority of the second period, as was the case in the first, each offense tested the comparatively supple defenses with bushels of shots (two-period total: 28-25 UNH). But for a comforting while, Providence netminder Tyler Sims stood strong to keep the Cats, vanRiemsdyk and all, muted; that was until there were but two seconds remaining in the middle frame.

New Hampshire boosted its edge to 3-1 there upon finishing a chaotic, congesting buzz in the dirty-nose area before Sims. Thompson and vanRiemsdyk each took their whacks before the puck began to squirt out to the right point. Defender Craig Switzer was there to drill a high-flyer to the right of Sims.

To start the third, in which they commanded the shooting gallery 20-9, the Friars wholly jumbled the outlook of the game. Nine seconds after the customary center-ice draw, winger Greg Collins carried a feed from defender Mark Fayne and let a harmless looking bid from the near circle-top trickle through Foster.

Earning another man advantage shortly after the ten-minute mark, they retied the count courtesy of the captaining tandem. Kyle Laughlin snapped a lengthy cycle and inched to the left post before he offered a quick shipment to Jon Rheault, vanRiemsdyk’s fellow Philadelphia Flyers prospect, who swatted it over Foster’s blocker.

Off the resultant draw, Norton nimbly raced down the far alley and roofed the go-ahead marker. But in yet another seventy-two ticks, the Wildcats turned another decisive pivot to forge a 4-4 count. Thompson managed to bang home a tumbling tip of Fortney’s centering feed from the right corner.

Rheault nearly recompensed the squander in overtime, running a neutral zone forwarding pass from freshman Austin Mayer for a breakaway, but shanked a snapper to the left of the cage.

In less than another ninety seconds, the vanRiemsdyk-Thompson agency completed its night’s work.

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