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Friday, December 7, 2007

Men's Hockey 5, Union 2

Skating Clutch Men

PC power play thaws out in third to top Union

Well in advance of his early December slate, Providence College coach Tim Army had expressed conviction that playing every three nights over a one-week period would be notably taxing for his increasingly evolving corps. And after two seemingly facile triumphs of Vermont and Brown, the Friars were indeed yanked down from cloud nine to start their tangle with a scurvy-stricken Union Dutchmen team.

Union, 1-5 in their six preceding games, jumped to an early shooting edge and lassoed the revamped Friars for a 1-1 tally that stood rigidly for more than thirty minutes of play.

But an ever-dreaded penalty plague ultimately came to haunt the Dutchmen early in the third period as PC busted the knot on its eighth man advantage of the evening via Kyle Laughlin with 17:59 to spare in regulation. Moments later, fellow captain Jon Rheault kept the newfound momentum rushing and the Friars paced themselves to a four-goal frame and 5-2 triumph in their last appearance at home this calendar year.

The Friars will now make a delicate effort to securely freeze this momentum in the three game-less weeks leading up to their year-end excursion to the Detroit-based Great Lakes Invitational.

The uplifting final stanza was a rushed reversal back to what has had Providence turning heads since returning from Thanksgiving break with a collectively resurfaced feeling. But the final product of what is now their lengthiest winning streak this season was nothing short of a gradual climb away from a storyline that defined their games before the rare holiday.

The Dutchmen barely withheld a 13-11 shooting edge at the first buzzer, neither team leading by more than three on that front, and they needed but 64 seconds to respond to the Friars icebreaker around the halfway mark of that period.

First, though, PC’s Greg Collins and Austin Mayer forked in a four-man scrum in the right corner of the Union zone, Mayer eventually pulling through and lacing a feed around the net intended for center Kyle MacKinnon, but which instead reached senior blueliner Trevor Ludwig. Ludwig, without a goal since his freshman campaign, gave the Friars a 1-0 edge with a blast over southpaw goaltender Justin Mrazek’s trapper.

The Dutchmen countered on their very next visit to Tyler Sims’ territory to snap his shutout streak at 130:37 worth of playing time. Off a draw in the far circle, winger Adam Presiniuk sent the PC stopper sprawling after his long-range bid. Center Mario Valery-Trabucco pounced to swipe home the rebound.

Union’s offensive output spiraled in the second to an infinitesimal three shot count. But Mrazek stood his ground against twenty smoothly distributed Friar stabs –eight of them on power plays- to keep the game tied through two.

In the waning stages of the middle frame, there were two most-abbreviated 5-on-3 sequences that favored the Friars (neither lasted more than fifteen seconds). A two-minute hooking sentence to Michael Beynon that carried over to the third was itself 15 ticks from expiration when fellow defender Brendan Milnarrow was whistled for tripping, giving PC’s night-long arid power play unit yet another mulligan.

This time, they clicked as Laughlin, one of the few not to brush the scoresheet against Brown, charged up his seventh of the year.

In another 1:38, defender Matt Taormina hunted down a no-icing behind his own net and laced it around the near boards to Wild. Wild lobbed a neutral zone-length Hail Mary to Rheault at the opposite blue line and watched the captain stretch his multi-point streak to three games with a breakaway, bar-down strike at 3:39.

The Friars subsisted on the resultant 3-1 advantage for the next twelve minutes. Through that stretch, they chalked up another eight shots compared to Union’s four (the Dutchmen were allotted but one shot on their own back-to-back set of power plays), and ultimately sprinkled a pair of empty netters within the final five minutes.

While Collins was off for hitting from behind, Mrazek darted to the bench surprisingly early to afford the Dutchmen a six-pack attack. However, Nick Mazzolini quelled the attack and set Wild up at the other end with 4:14 on the board.

Three minutes later, Mazzolini performed an encore in his own end and helped himself to a leisurely breakaway conversion for the Friars fifth goal, more than enough for Sims and Co. to shrug off Union defender Mike Schreiber’s last-minute power play tally.

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