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Monday, December 3, 2007

Hockey Log

Renewed Friars look to strike again

Their game comfortably resurfaced through two smooth blocks of practice sandwiching Thanksgiving break, the Providence College men’s hockey team translated the buildup well enough in their single-dip excursion to Vermont last weekend.

A virtually seamless tray of individual hors d’oeuvres signified a 4-0 pasting of the Vermont Catamounts Saturday night that saw, among other things, a personally revamping captain Jon Rheault pot two goals –both set up by linemates Ian O’Connor and Matt Germain- and Tyler Sims pace his way to career shutout #6, a franchise record. Sims’ workload practically dwindled by the period while his associate strikers chased Catamount starter Joe Fallon out of his crease early in a riotous three-goal second period, and then put their first bid at back-up Mike Spillane turn into the first of Rheault’s two conversions.

Coming home, though, with but a single day’s worth of preparation for Tuesday’s Brown showdown, head coach Tim Army stresses the effort not to get drunk on the pleasure of what may have been the Friars’ best all-around performance, and most momentous Hockey East victory, to date.

“It was good for Saturday night, then we got ourselves re-organized to get ready for Brown tomorrow night,” the anti-negligent skipper offered. “But it was obviously, at that stage of the year, with exams looming and Christmas break, it was certainly nice to go into the holiday season with a win in our last Hockey East game, particularly on the road against a team that’s very strong at home.

“We put ourselves in a positive position as we head into the second half of the Hockey East schedule, with a solid position in the middle of the standings, and with an opportunity, with some games in hand, to close the gap.”

With a 4-3-2 conference transcript in the cooler for the next six weeks, PC is in a three-way points deadlock with the two UMass squads. However, the Lowell Riverhawks, who will be waiting for a home-and-home set when the Hockey East slate does finally resume, have already exhausted eleven games as opposed to the Friars’ nine. The same holds true for second-place Boston College, who only lead those crammed into fourth place by two points.

As for the immediate future, a pair of ECAC rivals in Brown and Union is in store, their respective visits pried apart by a slim three nights. Such circumstances effectively mold together to produce a smattering of yet-to-be-mastered tasks by this edition of the Friars.

Lacking a win out of three previous non-conference games and with anything but the luxurious load of preparation they had prior to the Vermont trip, Army let out his distinctive one-step-at-a-time philosophy.

“What we would like is to continue the play that we maintained at Vermont and start to develop that consistency in our game overall,” he said. “These non-conference games (this week) are very important, because we haven’t won a non-conference game this season.”

The first foe, Mayor’s Cup rival Brown, can make the exact same proclamation. The Bears, who will shoot to renew Divine City bragging rights after their 2-1 squeeze at Meehan Auditorium last year, as well as fortify a plebeian 1-5-3 overall record, their only win coming against ECAC rival Colgate November 9. Their latest two outings –both Hockey East matches- saw them crumple before New Hampshire 5-2 and Northeastern 4-3.

Not that that budges the outlook from the PC bench. Nor does the fact that the other heralded intrastate rivalry, that being men’s basketball versus URI, tips off at the exact same time over in Kingston this year.

“It flies under our radar,” said Army rather simply, never one to divert from the task at hand. “We’ve gotta play with whoever’s here, however many people are here. Those are things that you can’t necessarily control.

“We’re at home, we’re in familiar surroundings. We need to establish the things that we do well as a hockey team and play an assertive game.”

Quick Feeds: Four current Friars have scoring credit in past Mayor’s Cup games. Junior defenseman Cody Wild has charged up an assist in each of his first two experiences, the more recent when he collaborated with John Cavanagh to set up since graduated Colin MacDonald’s lone Friar goal last year. Rheault collected a pair of helpers in the 2005-06 edition, aiding the Friars to a sound 5-1 home victory, while Nick Mazzolini chipped in an assist of his own…Senior netminder Sims has started every Brown game possible in his career, currently withholding a 1-2 log…Perhaps the only arid aspect to PC’s game at Vermont was the fact that it came up empty on four power play opportunities. On the other hand, the Friars penalty kill was equally unyielding and has now completely starved the opposition through four consecutive games…In Tuesday’s clash, freshman defenseman Eric Baier will have his first –and, most likely, only- collegiate encounter with his older brother, Paul. The elder son of the North Kingstown family is a senior bouncer at Brown with 2-1-3 totals through nine games this season.

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