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Saturday, November 3, 2007

Hockey Log

Fornataro to UNH: I’m still here

Initially eclipsed Wildcat senior providing considerable nourishment

Ever since last summer’s NHL Draft, there has been little question of Philadelphia first-rounder James vanRiemsdyk’s entitlement to the label of the NCAA’s authoritative freshman in 2007-08. And certainly, on the New Hampshire campus, it has been tough to divert much attention from his prolonged, Daisuke Matsuzaka type of buildup.

Right by his side, though, have been the apparent Schilling and Beckett of the Wildcats’ fiery gunslinging fa├žade. The rookies and his senior linemates from Day 1, Matt Fornataro and Mike Radja, have symbiotically chalked up one standout night after another, good enough for Fornataro to boast the conference’s player of the month label for October.

Even in a baffling exhibition shortcoming to the University of New Brunswick, a 4-3 falter back on October 12, the newfangled production line convinced coach Dick Umile to leave them precisely untweaked. They have started UNH’s first four games and combined for no less than three points per night. Their foremost command was felt at Northeastern Friday night, when the trio unintentionally presaged the coast’s weekend Nor’easter, making an aggregate eight appearances on the scoresheet and piloting the Cats to a 7-4 triumph and 4-0 overall record.

The Huskies did retaliate Saturday, pulling through 2-1 at Whittemore Center and performing the already impractical feat of flat-out muting the big three. Until then, Fornataro, productively tops in his five-member class over his previous three years in Durham, has been the most consistently tempestuous, making multi-point games habitual and lashing out 22 shots in his first four regular season games. He was notably limited to two stabs at Northeastern’s Brad Thiessen in the recent losing effort.

Still, with two games in hand on Boston College and top Hockey East point-getter Joe Whitney (October’s top rookie), Fornataro has made his case for being the peak early raiser around. The concerns born by the pre-graduation departure of Trevor Smith from Durham, and the leadership gap of Brett Hemingway appear effectively allayed, if they weren’t already at training camp.

Follow the frosh

Even with last year’s three foremost net-raiders in Brock Bradford, Benn Ferriero, and Nathan Gerbe, all back for more, Whitney has been just part of a youth-led breakout at BC. With his eleven points, followed by seven apiece via sophomore Ben Smith, Ferriero, and senior Dan Bertram, the Eagles’ off-and-on strike force has been good enough for an unbeaten stretch of 3-0-3, 2-0-2 in conference action.

Another sophomore, defender Carl Sneep, was the lone goal-getter in BC’s only obligation this weekend, pitching in towards a 1-1 draw with Maine Friday at Conte Forum. The expectable goaltenders’ duel between possible rookie sensation John Muse and already proven Black Bear stopper Ben Bishop unfolded as they attained an aggregate 45 saves.

It was also Whitney’s second empty performance in his young career, apart from the condensed fogout match against North Dakota.

Toiling Turgeon

For Maine women’s netminder Genevieve Turgeon, nothing has been quite as demanding as the sixty-six shot marathon she faced October 5 at Mercyhurst. Even so, the skidding Black Bears, 0-8-1 since an opening day thumping of Sacred Heart, have habitually loosened their blue line borders when they have had their veteran crease custodian on duty.

Thus far, in six appearances, Turgeon has collected at least forty-plus saves on five occasions, including a precise 40 in a 2-2 draw with the Friars for her team’s only conference point October 14. The closest she has come to matching the Mercyhurst marathon was on Friday at Clarkson, where she pushed away all but 51 Golden Knight shots in a 2-0 falter.

Dan Lichterman cooled off the shagged out junior and started rookie Sarah Bishop for the third time in Part II of the Clarkson set. As it happened, Bishop dealt with the tandem’s lightest workload on the year, recording twenty-two saves in a 1-0 kick in the teeth

All Cats and Dogs

For what it’s worth, merely a month having been logged and everyone barely having broken out their conference slates this weekend, the UNH and UConn women, respectively second and eighth-ranked in the nation this past week, are in full statistical command in Hockey East so far. The Wildcats are already indulging in a 5-0 conference record and as of Saturday, Huskies Dominique Thibault and Jaclyn Hawkins are at the scoring throne with 19 and 12 points respectively. They are immediately trailed by four Wildcats and then teammate Nicole Tritter, complete with nine points in as many formal on-ice engagements.

Additionally, New Hampshire rookie Kayley Herman and Connecticut vet Brittany Wilson are neck-and-neck for the upper hand in every last netminding statistic on record.

Lengthy whistle-stop

Only eight seconds into Thursday’s loss to BU, Friars bouncer Trevor Ludwig set the tone for a tireless night on referee Scott Hansen’s part, harshly sending Terrier Brian Ewing on a jackknife spill into the boards along the far hash marks. Within 5:50 of action, the Friars had already been whistled twice, the Terriers once.

But after Boston’s John MacCarthy was locked away for hooking much later in the period, no further penalties were assessed for a grand playing time total of 36:50. The spotless disciplined second period was thus the cleanest played frame in a PC game since the third period of the Oct. 20 Holy Cross match, wherein nothing more than one tripping sentence was assessed to each side.

Soft sell

On the horizon, a little case of anti-serendipity is looking to damper the sellers of Schneider Arena-based entertainment. The night of the annual men’s hockey Mayor’s Cup contest with Brown is lined up for Tuesday, December 4. As it happens, the ever so venerated Friar hoopsters happen to be renewing their own intrastate rivalry with URI on the same night, same time, same city, and, most likely by traditional comparison, tipping the scale for the PC student body.

With that presumably in mind, attempting to bolster their patronage well in advance , PC’s management offered a free ticket to that night’s puck friendly for any Thursday Boston University game-goers who participated in the routine intermission Chuck-A-Puck event…Once-struggling BU followed up on their icebreaking triumph of the Friars Saturday by entertaining their home fans with a 7-4 pasting of UMass-Lowell. The Terriers distributed their scoring wealth amongst 13 prior plebeians and saw Karson Gillepsie snatch his first win of the year…Outside of Hockey East, the Miami-Ohio Redhawks have leaped out of the left corner toward a near unanimous #1 spot in the national polls. They only emboldened that status in Part I of a set with Northern Michigan, taking the Friday match 9-2, improving to 7-0.

Friar Briefs

Half-full finish for soccer, field hockey to seek vengeance on UConn

Utterly compressed by a buckled-down West Virginia squad, PC men’s soccer mustered but four shot attempts, two on net, and relinquished a decisive 3-0 decision to curtain the regular season. After franchise mug Ryan Maduro perked up overwhelming Mountaineer goalkeeper Zach Johnson with the game’s first stab at 6:32, the Friars ordinarily buzzing offense went numb, not getting to Johnson again for 67 minutes of play, when rookie sensation Alex Redding tried his luck.

In the meantime, PC workhorse Timothy Murray snared three cannons from WVU before succumbing to the host team’s front-running striker Andy Wright at 38:08.

Wright, along with fellow Englishman Dan Stratford collaborated yet again in the 61st minute towards setting up John Bristol, who despite having the burden of a yellow card hanging over him inserted an insurance tally before Paul Paradise solidified the 3-0 count.

That aside, the Friars can accept a favor from Southern New England rival Connecticut, who warded off Georgetown in their season finale to give PC fourth place in the Blue Division and home field for the Big East preliminary round. Based on the freshly posted standings, the Friars will face either Villanova or Cincinnati, both of whom stand at 5-5-1, depending on tie-breaking procedures. Kick-off time for the Wednesday fixture at Glay Field is yet to be declared.

In field hockey, the Friars abolished Louisville 2-0 Saturday, on the strength of senior Abbey MacGuire’s two tallies, thereby setting a championship rematch date with UConn. Face-off in Syracuse for the Big East crown and NCAA tournament bid is slated for noon Sunday.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Soccer Log

Final words to be spoken Saturday

The Friar Footballers, snugly sandwiched between the pursued West Virginia Mountaineers and the pursuing Georgetown Hoyas, are officially on the clock in their bid for home field in Wednesday’s Big East first round contest.

And with Providence visiting the Mountaineers, two whole points ahead of them (19-17 differential) for third place in the Blue Division, in Saturday night’s regular season finale, there is bound to be multiple breeds of Fall Back for at least one of these three tourney-bound teams.

Last year about this time, West Virginia spoiled PC’s Senior Day with a 1-0 triumph, but did not bar the Friars from pulling in and knocking off Louisville four days later and fast-tracking to the conference final four and their second consecutive NCAA tournament. A pleasurably long way from their winless 2004 campaign back when Ryan Maduro was an ailing, sidelined freshman.

But in Maduro and Co.’s senior campaign, a falter to the Mountaineers could be a little more consequential this time around. The two bye berths have long been tucked into the Notre Dame and Connecticut pockets. So to grab the currently allotted gusto, a win is an absolute must for the Friars to leapfrog their way into third place and line themselves up with the even more ambiguous Red Division’s sixth seed.

On a slightly lower profile, the fifth-place Hoyas, riding a season-peak three-game winning streak heading into their hosting to Notre Dame, have just as much potential to hurdle the Friars for last dibs on hosting privileges with 15 conference points to their credit. And Georgetown’s fellow aspirant juggernaut from the Ocean State knows all too well, based on last Sunday’s 2-2 classic at Glay Field with the mighty Irish, that paper and ink mean squat in the stretch drive.

Tight-D Duel Likely: The Mountaineers, who last year fell to St. John’s in the Big East title game two days after the Friars were blown over by the Red Storm, have built up a quirky 2007 transcript. Out of their first ten conference contests, seventeen total, only once have both participating clubs managed to strike the mesh (a 3-1 win at Pittsburgh October 10). Their goaltending mainstay Zach Johnson, who has labored all but 8:39 of action, has a four game shutout streak working for him, dating back to an October 19 1-0 upset of UConn and has an infinitesimal four total goals against. Johnson is expectably tops among Big East netminders in goals-against, save-percentage, and shutouts.

On the other hand, WVU’s best offensive output has conspicuously come through senior English midfielder Andy Wright, the only kicker to have distributed more than one of his team’s ten goals (3 for him).

The Friars, with their not-so-shabby, though considerably deeper in the leader board, Timothy Murray to bolster them, will try to sick Maduro, fellow five-goal man Jonathan Medcalf, and newly surging rookie Alex Redding on the Everest-like garrison that has propped the Mountaineers to where they are.

Just to chip in a little more into the pot, part of that Mountaineer force is reigning Defensive Player of the Week Andrew Halsell. The Friars counter that with freshman Nick Cianci, complete with a goal, five points, and possible starting privileges, succeeding teammate Redding as the week’s top rookie.

Elsewhere: The Huskies will bank on a little Georgetown magic if they hope to usurp first place from Notre Dame, trailing the Irish by a 24-22 points deficit and closing out the regular season against Seton Hall. The Pirates, recent victims of a Friar overtime triumph and the Mountaineers latest shutout, are the lone team stuck in their spot, strapped into sixth place.

Marquette and Pittsburgh, for all intents and purposes, will have a good friendly Saturday, each having been long buried away from the playoff push.

Out west in the Red fragment, eight points separate top dog St. John’s and seventh-place Rutgers, who are looking at a mouth-watering opportunity to jump Cincinnati, trailing the Bearcats by a single notch as they hook up in Piscataway.

Other Friar Highlights: Field hockey goalkeeper Rachel Chamberlain, fresh off another bestowment of Big East Goalkeeper of the Year, leads the Friars into the conference semi-final against Louisville at 11 AM Saturday. The defending runner-up Friars, if still standing at game’s end, would wait out the showdown between tournament host Syracuse and nemesis Connecticut, three-time conference champion and branders of a 3-1 Friar falter last weekend…The 0-2 swimming and diving squad will provide the only local athletic show this weekend, hosting Fairfield at noon Saturday. It will be their last home meet before a smattering of November road trips and an entire December layoff prolongs their January 19 return when they will undertake Maine.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Boston University 5, Men's Hockey 2

Scarlet night at Schneider

Friars slip in second, lose to BU

For at least one twenty-minute window, the Providence College Friars, backed by their masked man of momentum Chris Mannix, were able to prolong Boston University’s early-season-wakeup migraines in a diverse, petite array of stats and quirks.

But once they clicked, the of late goal and win-starved Terriers finally shot out of their fetters to sculpt a 3-1 edge in the middle frame. From there, they smoothly paced themselves towards downing PC 5-2 before a noticeably bipartisan mass of 2,132 on campus Thursday night.

With that setback to think of instead of a carry-over from last weekend’s nourishing three-point bargain from UMass-Amherst, the Friars look forward to a rare layoff weekend before they gear up to trek out to Maine a week from Friday.

Early on, the Friars stopper Mannix was spotless in his gradual introduction to the snarling 0-4-1 Terriers, who started off with nine first period shots, generally distributed in intermittent, single-shot visits to the zone. Countering goalkeeper Brett Bennett would start the same way, though not before a wake-up call on his first shot faced.

By the six-minute mark of the first period, BU had a 2-0 edge in the shooting gallery, had barred the Friars from kindling anything on their first power play, and was settling in for its own man advantage.

But after keeping Mannix’s borders locked for the first ninety seconds, the Friars cleared and afforded their first rush of the night. Manned up by two shadowing Terriers as he withheld the puck, penalty killer John Cavanagh shuffled down the near alley to the goal line, all the while tilting Bennett to the post and thrust the disc out into the slot. Defender Matt Taormina, whose tape has been particularly magical of late, went out of his way to pick up the feed and one-time it into the vacated cage at 7:48 for his second goal in as many outings, third on the year.

It didn’t help the Terriers’ cause to have their first conversion on Mannix washed off. But at 13:18, after pointman Colby Cohen’s launch looped over Mannix’s catching glove and in, a video callback determined that a screening Chris Higgins had guided it home with a high stick.

That notwithstanding, Bennett handled four more PC shots before intermission and another two early in the middle frame before BU sparked its decisive tempest. Shortly after two of his bids fell through in a heated swarm, Boston point patroller Kevin Shattenkirk accepted Bennett’s lob to neutral ice and singlehandedly carried out the do-over. The Colorado Avalanche first-rounder strolled down the far end and flicked the equalizer bar down.

Seven minutes later, after a little more back-and-forth sway pulled the shot clock virtually even, BU took the lead as Nick Bonino set up far point patroller Eric Gryba for a homeward bound blast.

In the final minute before adjourning to their dressing room again, the Terriers crashed the net in pursuit of blueliner Brian Strait’s rebound and converted when Brian McGuirk extracted it from the fallen columns of Friars and Terriers. McGuirk handed it over to associate Ryan Weston, who thrust it home over a seated Mannix.

For the first half of the final stanza, the Terriers sprinkled seven more shots and generally kept Providence from pestering Bennett before he was put back to work on a Friar power play starting at 11:14. That fell through, but the home buffs were briefly perked up again with less than four minutes remaining thanks to another shorthanded break.

Nineteen seconds into a slashing sentence to Mark Bastarche, co-captain Jon Rheault cuffed a rushing Matt Gilroy, tipping him over and breaking alone on Bennett, zapping home his second goal of the season and stretching his point-streak to five games.

But less than two minutes later, the Friar Fanatics in attendance began to pour out back to their dorms as Boston’s Pete MacArthur absorbed Shattenkirk’s parallel feed at the near outer hash marks and snapped a low rider through the five-hole for a power play connection.

Higgins, last year’s top collegiate gun in the heart of the Hub, snagged a dollop of personal redemption from his first period washout with 69 seconds left, stripping the desperate Friars of a neutral zone rush and inserting an empty netter.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Hockey Log

Hunt for red light October

PC Women try to end month on rebound with trip to Boston College

The last time the PC women’s hockey team struck the opposing basket, October 19 in a 5-5 draw at Colgate, the Red Sox were priming themselves to eventually knot up the American League Championship Series at three games apiece.

Considering how archaic that moment now is from a faithful diamond dwellers’ perspective, and the fact that the Friars have since spaced out two losses by a 13-0 aggregate, there are long-throbbing wounds in need of attention on the women’s side of Schneider Arena.

Five nights apart from a 5-0 setback at Connecticut, and another ten from an 8-0 debacle at St. Lawrence, they have their chance for a reversal. Catch is, they have to hurdle over the Boston College Eagles, who as of Monday are #9 in the nation according to US College Hockey Online, inches behind the aforementioned Huskies.

Long before training camp, there was popular conviction that the two clubs converging on Conte Forum Tuesday night would have a substantially new matchup outlook compared to their confrontation in the 2007 Hockey East semi-finals, a 3-2 Providence win. After all, the Eagles happened to nab back-to-back 6-2 triumphs of the Friars two weeks previous and subsequently regrouped from the conference tourney falter to come within an overtime goal of a berth in the NCAA title game, losing to already proven contender Minnesota-Duluth in double-OT.

With the side-by-side transcripts for this season, a lot of forecasters have reason to lean back in their desk chairs and half-break a satisfied “See, what’d I tell you?” grin. Or they might be a tad taken aback themselves.

The lone salient question mark surrounding the Chestnut Hill girls was how they would respond to the abrupt departure of their program resurrecting coach Tom Mutch. So far, save for a 4-1 drawback to almighty New Hampshire (currently 2nd in the national rankings), BC is spotless with four wins and a tie to Princeton as they now accelerate into the depths of their conference slate.

All in all, none of that is much of a surprise. The bench has been left in the caring, crafty hands of Katie King, a Brown University alumna and owner of three Olympic medals. And as rookies last season, this year’s sophomore class proved the chief kindlers of a team not suitable for opposing fans with weak constitutions.

Though defending Hockey East Rookie and Player of the Year Kelli Stack has yet to get back up to speed (two points in her first six games), classmate Allie Thunstrom is already on a point-per-game pace, as is junior defender Maggie Taverna. Meanwhile junior forward Meghan Fardelmann and captain Deborah Spillane each boast five tallies.

Then there’s league-of-her-own cage custodian Molly Schaus, whose aggregate 85 saves, 37 of them beyond regulation, may have been the prevalent benefit towards Boston’s edging of Dartmouth in last year’s national quarter-final and near-miss in Lake Placid. At the rate the sophomore keeper is stoning opposing gunslingers (she notched career shutout #6 at Colgate October 12 and is keeping up with last season’s .931 save percentage), she could aptly repaint her face mask to depict Medusa.

Challenging from a Friars’ perspective? The collective circumstances may, at least, call for a Fantastic Four type of reaction to reports of the forthcoming Silver Surfer; a rather smooth “that’s a challenge” acknowledgment. Providence is still stepping around a messily arranged schedule –which in the short run does not get any less unusual as they will be idle for a week after this before the November 6 home opener against Northeastern.

Part of that effort means trying to immobilize a discipline detonator that has been a partial factor in their 0-2-2 overall start plus shooting out of the slightly time-exaggerated abyss that their line charts have dwelt in of late.

Not to mention, they want something more substantial than two overtime points to curtain the month of October with and ultimately carry into next week’s long-awaited homestand.

Quick Feeds

Lately, the Friars’ three busiest blades in their radar-blinded efforts have been those of Mari Pehkonen, her off-and-on linemate Cherie Hendricksen, and defender Amber Yung. Pehknonen, the team leader with 13 shots on net on the year, lashed four at UConn’s Brittany Wilson, while Hendricksen belted five, making for nearly half of the team total of 19 for that game. Yung spiced up her input with four attempts in the last two outings after only one in the previous two…This will be senior Sarah Feldman’s second-to-last visit to her former campus before the Friars and Eagles clash at Conte again in March. Feldman transferred from BC in the summer of 2006.