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Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Men's Hockey 8, Brown 0

Bearing them down

Friars erupt to reclaim Mayor’s Cup, 8-0

When five minutes remained in the first period Tuesday, Friars rookie Kyle MacKinnon and his bleacher-bound peers thought the still-acclimating forward had potted his first collegiate goal.

Hanging back in a two-on-one rush led by senior captain Jon Rheault, MacKinnon went gliding on his knees down the Broadway lane after a rebound, but only poked it through after a whistle. Providence therefore had to settle for a slim 1-0 edge through intermission.

But at the other end of that Zamboni tour, MacKinnon and Rheault re-collaborated, and this time converted at the 23-second mark. MacKinnon connected once more in another three minutes and his teammates followed up with a rampant 5-goal stanza that defined an 8-0 steamrolling of Brown University.

MacKinnon’s short story of personal redemption was a mere sideshow compared to PC’s starving-dog fight to reclaim the Mayor’s Cup. Going in, head coach Tim Army recalled last season, when the Bears had oppressed the Friars with a two-goal, 21-shot first period, and kept pace towards a 2-1 win over at Meehan Auditorium.

“They did it by overwhelming us in the first period last year,” he recalled. “We did not match their intensity, so the expectation is that we would come out with that approach tonight.”

That’s just what happened. Riding the waves of a decisive 4-0 triumph at Vermont on Saturday, and the urge to string together just their second winning streak all year, the Friars broke the ice on their first power play at 1:34.

Off first draw after Brown’s Matt Palmer was locked away, Matt Taormina absorbed a feed from Nick Mazzolini on the far side and forwarded it to point partner Cody Wild. Wild’s rebounded met up with Pierce Norton, who buried it instantly.

Providence proceeded to run up the shooting gallery, leading that category 16-4 by the first buzzer, though starting stopper Dan Rosen kept the Bears well afloat up to that point.

Not so in the second. In the first minute during a carry-over penalty kill, Rheault guided a blocked shot out of his zone and broke loose with MacKinnon, whom he lent a backhand pass for him to zip into the right shelf.

MacKinnon broke out the margin a tad more at 3:41, chasing Trevor Ludwig’s far-angle roller and stuffing it home along the near post.

The Bears, meantime, lashed out their sixth shot at Tyler Sims, who would need next to no time adding to his PC career shutout record, at 5:10 of the middle frame. Their seventh did not arrive until 16:38, and by then the Friars had pulled ahead 5-0 and sent an overcooked Rosen to the bench.

With 9:03 remaining in the period, defender Mark Fayne accepted Rheault’s close range handover and rolled out an ice-kisser through Rosen’s pads.

In another two-and-a-half minutes, Matt Germain pulled through in another mad mucking spree and forwarded the puck to a wide open Taormina, who drilled home a straightaway slapper.

Rosen’s successor, Tristan Favro, was more or less eased into his portion of the night, tilting aside two shots in his first six minutes played. But as bubbling emotions translated into a rash of penalties, the Friars converted on another power play –a 4-on-3 set-up at that- before curtaining the volcanic period.

All four PC skaters toured the puck through their box formation and left it up to John Cavanagh to finish the play off at the back door.

The Friars hardly let up in the third, though, throwing on another twenty shots (game total: 55). Wild snuck the seventh goal of the game, and third power play conversion, through a tightly guarded near post with 6:15 to go.

Rheault’s finishing tough in the final minute briefly interrupted the Friar Fanatic taunts of “Harvard rejects” and “Long walk to RIPTA” and aroused another cheering session as he unloaded a wrister that eluded Favro’s stick.

For a home crowd that was reduced to a reported 1,087 by the coinciding PC-URI hoops tilt and partially filled by the cross-town faithful, there was certainly enough buzz in the Friars’ first home win since the end of October. Does this mean the curious road cooking has come home?

“We need to,” said Army regarding home improvement, which his pupils will get another crack at Friday against Union. “We’ve been a much better team on the road this year.

“I think we play a more simple game on the road. We tend to get away from our identity at home. We get a little bit loose. It’s a tendency, when you’re in front of your own fans, you try to impress them too much and it takes you off your game a little bit, whereas on the road, you’re not trying to impress anybody.

“We need to bring all the elements (that have worked for us) and try to simplify that.”

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