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Saturday, December 8, 2007

Hockey Log: Sunday Edition

Eagles carry on without Motherwell’s coddle

For the moment, as they put their Hockey East slate on ice for the holidays, the Boston College Eagles have appeared to convert their negative energy.

Considering the ceaselessly succeeding lesions inflicted all this season on the two-time national finalist, the latest being the abrupt flight of two-way connoisseur Brett Motherwell, there may have been no better cure than a sweep of time-honored rival Boston University. The Eagles attained just that last weekend, stamping the Terriers in a home-and-home series by a 10-5 aggregate and settled into second overall in the conference, albeit tightly sandwiched by Northeastern (13 points) and New Hampshire (11 points going into this weekend).

As of December 3, USCHO’s national poll has them in the #17 slot, behind the 8th-ranked Wildcats, #11 UMass-Amherst, and #12 Northeastern.

Back on November 15, though, BC was precisely in the middle of a six-game (0-3-3) winless slide when the lately troubled Motherwell had opted to bolt Chestnut Hill and parachute onto the AHL’s Syracuse Crunch. For the Eagles, that was 81 games, 44 assists, and 51 blueline-bred points lost.

As if the burden of filling the bottomless skates of another multifaceted skater, the towering Brian Boyle, and the off-season farewell to would-be senior goaltender Cory Schneider weren’t enough. Add the fact that returning scoring beacon Brock Bradford has been out since opening weekend with a shattered arm.

Going into the BU set, the tempest had concocted an uncharacteristic 2-3-3 (3-4-4 overall) transcript for Jerry York’s pupils.

Forty-eight hours, two hat tricks (one by Nathan Gerbe, the other by fast-blossoming freshman Ben Smith), and 74 saves by Schneider successor John Muse later, the Eagles were above .500 for the first time since their stunning, dream-dashing overhaul by Michigan State last April.

And when BC buffs step back, they can take comfort in the fact that they have only witnessed one shortcoming by a multi-goal margin, that being a 5-2 slide at New Hampshire November 10.

Another family album remake

To an impartial city gent, another ho-hum changing of the guard -an event historically inclined to occur when the game switches campuses each year- took place in the PC Men’s 8-0 Mayor’s Cup thrashing of Brown last Tuesday. But as USCHO subsequently reported, it was expectably more to the Friar Fanatics and intriguingly more to coach Tim Army.

Army’s father, Tom, partook in a memorable steamrolling of the Bears back in his day. Tim had his turn as a player. And now the coach Tim Army has, in a way, preserved the at least one-shot tradition for another generation.

The distinguished college hockey website noted that the last Divine City Dance to end so one-sidedly occurred in Army’s junior season with the Friars, when he partook in another 8-0 triumph –mind you the Mayor’s Cup concept was still three years away at the time.

Regardless, Tom Army has his own memories from the program’s most decisive win over the cross-town rival altogether, a 9-0 win from 1961.

The younger Army cited the fact that he and his father have quickly sparked a traditional pre-game phone conversation when the city’s prize is on the line.

In the online report, the skipper was quoted: “I just talked about the importance of the game from a city standpoint, from a state standpoint.

“For alumni and former players at both schools it means an awful lot. We’ve kind of preached the message for three years.”

Crowning Collaboration

The aforementioned Boyle is in the midst of almost spotlessly translating his Chestnut Hill achievements up in New Hampshire with the AHL’s Manchester Monarchs –and with noteworthy aide from a not-too-ancient collegiate rival, that being Teddy Purcell.

Purcell relinquished his three remaining allotted years at the University of Maine to sign with the Los Angeles Kings last summer and in turn snuck over state boundaries to converge with the bruising, blazing monument Boyle, who had already tasted a prolonged 2007 Calder Cup run with the Monarchs.

Though Boyle has apparently settled into a defensive designation –though based on his four-year track with the Eagles, that still may not be written in stone- Purcell has been on the giving end on five of six occasions where the two have collaborated for a goal.

At any rate, Purcell stood atop the AHL charts with 31 points (24 assists among them) heading into this weekend and bagged the league’s Rookie of the Month crown for November. Boyle, meantime, was the sixth-hottest point-getter in the league with 17 through 22 games played.

Meanwhile, in the same organization, ex-UMass Minuteman Jon Quick won his NHL debut Thursday, sufficiently handling a petite workload of 17 shots towards LA’s 8-2 home drubbing of the Buffalo Sabres.

Augmenting Acquaintances

His offensive crop much more substantial post-Thanksgiving, PC Women’s coach Bob Deraney has, for the most part, solidified his depth chart. At the same time, he is in the gradually thawing habit of shuffling at random points of the game, pairing some of his still-dry scorers with those who have progressed of late, the implicit intent being to stretch the already well-shared magic to the whole roster.

Full-time fourth line center Pamela McDevitt was seen sandwiched between freshmen pin-ups Alyse Ruff and Jean O’Neill in place of Jackie Duncan once per period in Thursday’s Yale game. Likewise, the always positionally flexible Stephanie Morris, who this particular season has devoted most of her ice time to defensive tasks, gave Duncan a breather early in the third period.

Lake Whittemore Monsters

Ever since usurping the #1 distinction from the two-time national champion Wisconsin in a mid-November series, the New Hampshire Women have rigidly stayed true to form. Carrying a six-game winning streak into this weekend’s series with #6 Mercyhurst, their last line of business before the holidays, the Wildcats boast a 15-2-0 overall transcript and a flood of individual hardware gravy.

Rookie goaltender Kayley Herman, the league’s top rookie in November, has likely assumed the Wildcats’ once-ambiguous starting position as she sits at the top in five of the league’s six categories in her position. Meanwhile, six skaters, most notably the runaway junior Sam Faber, have point-per-game rates or better for the last undefeated team (9-0, plus a stark 40-8 aggregate score) in Hockey East action.

Merry-Mack

The lottery ball order that has defined the Hockey East standings through the imminent holiday break has applied to everyone, the oft-derided Merrimack program included. Early as it is, a while they are merely tied with Boston University for 8th place at the moment (the Terriers also have a game in hand) the Warriors are already seeing promising specimens, particularly the fact that forwards Rob Ricci and Matt Jones have already exceeded 2006-07 top gun Pat Kimball’s 11 points (Ricci: 16, Jones: 12). Maybe add that their 3-5-1 transcript heading into Saturday’s tilt with basement-laden Maine has essentially matched their 2006-07 conference-only finish of 3-22-2.

Czech This Out

Last Monday, the weekly NHL on Versus broadcast took intermission time to deliver the US World Junior Championship roster, which will include three Hockey East rookies –BU’s Brian Strait and Colin Wilson and UNH phenom James vanRiemsdyk. It will be a not-so-long-awaited reunion for the three ex-National Development Program partners (opposite PC’s Joe Lavin). Strait, Wilson, and vanRiemsdyk will reconvene at their former skating abode, Michigan’s Ann Arbor Ice Cube, later this week before they will fly to the Czech Republic-hosted holiday tournament looking to build the World U18 gold medal that they shared last spring.

Quick Feeds

At Friday’s tilt with Union, unmistakable Bruins vocalist Rene Rancourt appeared at Schneider Arena, decked in a black #20 Friars jersey, Santa hat, and all, to –surprise, surprise- belt out the national anthem and later rouse the Friar Fanatics with a string of Christmas carols during the first intermission....Friday’s game was also preceded with a moment of silence for Dr. Jack Boyle, grandfather of defenseman Cody Wild and devout Friars fan, who passed away December 1…Over their three-game winning wave to start the month of December, the Friars have seen a dozen individual multi-point performances, including one for each game by now leading scorer Jon Rheault (season total of 16). Rheault is also running away in the area of shots on goal with a grand total of 70 through 14 games…Overall, the PC Men are #2 amongst Hockey East teams on both the power play and penalty kill and have the best special team’s net at +13. In exclusively conference play, they are tops with both the PK and net rates…Going into the holiday freeze, PC Women’s freshman Alyse Ruff’s seven goals in conference play have landed her in a four-way with three UNH Wildcats (Sam Faber, Jennifer Hitchcock, Jenn Wakefield) in that area.

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