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Saturday, November 10, 2007

Women's Hockey 4, Vermont 2

Friars are Ruff enough

Freshman stirs epic comeback over Vermont

Within 2:19 of the third period, the Vermont Catamounts, who had strikingly gotten away with etching a 2-0 lead on an infinitesimal seven shots in the first forty minutes, suddenly needed a timeout.

And from a home perspective, during that timeout, the Schneider Arena music system was rather appropriately tweeting the Bee Gees’ immortal tune “Stayin’ Alive.” After all, Friar freshman Alyse Ruff had just singlehandedly broken the surface with her fourth and fifth collegiate goals to knot the game in a two-minute span after the Friars had come up empty on 22 stabs in the first forty minutes.

Returning to action, Providence effectively followed up on the arena DJ’s whimsical message. They proceeded to tack on two more layers via seniors Cherie Hendrickson and Jenna Keilch and arrest the stealthy Catamounts, 4-2, pulling themselves even in Part II of a three-game homestand, which they will complete Sunday against Dartmouth.

Bussing onto campus for the Saturday matinee, Vermont had already penned a nine-game transcript divided into polar opposites. After first breaking out for two-game sweeps of Sacred Heart and Union, already bettering their 2006-07 season total of 3 wins, they crashed back to their old form, logging a five-game skid, the two most recent being their breakout conference matches with Boston College and New Hampshire.

The Friars were also thirsting for redemption after Tuesday’s depleting 5-4 falter to Northeastern, but their attempts to express that were initially blanketed by a buckled-down Vermont defense and goaltender Kristen Olychuk. Olychuk only needed to deal with eight sparsely distributed shots in the opening frame and then put on a bit more of a dolphin show in the second period, responding impeccably to fourteen Friar bids.

The Catamounts themselves had noticeable trouble circumventing the Providence skaters and getting to netminder Danielle Ciarletta, thrusting only four shots at the PC starter in the first and three in the second.

But on exactly one play per stanza, Ciarletta was caught off guard by a green body whooshing out of the blue. About the halfway mark of the first, after a parched power play effort, Vermont’s Celeste Doucet picked off Friar Pamela McDevitt, who was trying to gather up a feed from Sarah Feldman at the right circle top. Doucet shuffled from zone to zone down the near alley and poked her first collegiate goal through Ciarletta’s legs.

Later, at the 13:07 mark of the middle frame, at which point PC led the shooting gallery 16-5, Kristi Anderson scooped a fugitive disc on her own high slot behind a mirage of attacking Friars and zipped down the far side. Reaching the circle Anderson snapped a long ranged high-flyer in off the upper left post for the 2-0 edge.

Come the third period, though, the fresh ice barely took a blink to work for the host club. Off a draw outside the Vermont end, two-way freshman Amber Yung strolled the puck in and handed it over to Ruff. Ruff’s nimble shot fluttered past Olychuk before the gritty, speedy striker went sliding all the way into the cage.

Nearly one hundred ticks after that, the freakily named Catamount Karen Sentoff was flagged (or…sent off) for impeding another overwhelmingly crafty Friar, Erin Normore, with an open-ice hit. By law of the women’s game, what earns riches for a Zdeno Chara or an Andrew Alberts deepened a fatal crater for the upset-minded Vermont, lacking any Providence-based wins in their young Hockey East membership.

On the power play, Ruff, who was shown an early door in Tuesday’s debacle for an overly caffeinated hit, was manning the play again. She withheld and practically self-cycled the puck for a moment before forwarding it to Rachel Crissy on the parallel point. Crissy made back-and-forth exchange with Feldman before thrusting the puck on net, at which point Ruff tipped it home.

Five minutes later, Normore, who had gone from starting the game at center between Ruff and Feldman to patrolling the far point, vacuumed a Vermont clearing attempt along the boards. With most every skater involved tilted at the far end, Normore’s only option was to throw it into the abandoned area in front. The only player there was Hendrickson, who after a delayed extraction from Olychuk and a delayed confirmation from the referee, roofed home the eventual clincher.

Later, with 8:15 remaining, Keilch eyed the puck as it went off of defender Brittany Simpson’s tape, into a forest of players and behind the cage. Keilch would stamp the play –and the game- by sneaking in the insurance marker through a wrap-around.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Men's Hockey 6, Maine 2 (Quick Feeds)

One they can Bear

Friars flaunt unprecedented briskness to steamroll Maine

The following is an account of Friday’s PC-Maine game based on CSTV’s online Gametracker system.

Call it the lingering aftermath of the dog bites (which has eerily haunted both Friar hockey teams these last couple of days via one Boston-produced strain or another) or, perhaps more precisely, BU scarlet fever.

Whatever it was, after a whole week of nursing their 5-2 home setback to the resurgent Terriers last Thursday, PC let its rabidness be made known from the moment of their release into action at Alfond Arena Friday night. Thrusting the games’ first eight shots on iron curtain netminder Ben Bishop, and converting on the sixth of those, the Friars comfortably paced themselves to a 6-2 pasting of the powerful host Maine.

The decisive triumph was PC’s second such result in Orono out of their last four tries. They last thumped the Black Bears in their antique barn January 20, 2006, by a 4-0 count.

There would be no scoring scurvy for Providence goaltender Tyler Sims, making his first appearance since the home opener falter to Holy Cross, to have to recompense this time. Nor did he undergo an overwhelming quantity of personally bad breaks. Instead, Black Bear freshman Andrew Sweetland, playing in his first Hockey East contest, charged up his first two career goals for the only productive output on his half of the rink.

In the meantime, the incomprehensibly beaming blade of Friars blueliner Matt Taormina elevated its magic. Already with three goals and four points through his first seven games, Taormina logged 2-3-5 totals Friday and was joined by fellow bruiser Cody Wild and forwards Nick Mazzolini and Pierce Norton in the evening’s multi-point club.

SLAP SHOTS

· Within 3:58 of the opening frame, PC had their ball rolling visibly out of the left corner as Norton converted a Mazzolini-Taormina setup for the icebreaker goal.

· Maine, which trailed the shooting gallery 10-1 by the time they were awarded the game’s first power play at 8:40, came up wholly empty on that two-minute go-around. And within thirteen seconds of his jailbreak, PC’s Greg Collins collaborated with Wild towards assisting Jon Rheault on PC’s second conversion, sustaining the senior captain’s point streak through six outings.

· The Black Bears did thaw out not long thereafter. In the thirteenth minute, Sweetland watched Sims tilt his initial bid before it was picked up by Sweetland’s linemates David de Kastrozza and Jeff Marshall, who returned it to the Bears’ lone star of the night to cut the lead, which was how it stood through intermission

· The shaken up Bishop temporarily returned to form in the first half of the middle frame, affording Sweetland enough time to knot the board at 2-2 at the 9:36 mark, twenty-three seconds before Norton was flagged for slashing. However, Taormina would reverse the fortunes in a flash, potting a shorthanded break to restore the Friar lead at 10:47.

· Mazzolini, whose second helper of the night was on Taormina’s eventual game-clincher, got the favor back from his partner on a PC power play 6:03 of the third period. Twenty-five ticks thereafter, when Robby Dee went off for slashing to set up yet another shorthanded predicament, Maine coach Tim Whitehead yanked Big Ben to give sophomore Dave Wilson his first look of the year (14 games played last season).

· Wilson’s season was precisely 45 seconds and one shot-faced old when Cody Wild leveled a Taormina feed home for a 5-2 Providence edge.

· With under five minutes remaining, Taormina blew the ice chips off his stick upon making it 6-2 before the Bears turned up their attack for three shots on a by far too little, too late power play. Sims had only dealt with one other multi-stab swarm all night and dealt with a slim night’s count of 17 towards his first triumph of the season.

Miscellany: When the PC Women host Dartmouth on Sunday, both teams will be missing a prime offensive fixture of theirs. Friar Mari Pehknonen is again representing Finland in the Four Nations Cup and will actually be tangling with Dartmouth phenom Sarah Parsons (opposite Friar alumna Karen Thatcher) and Team USA Saturday. Back on campus, the Friars will bring in the Vermont Catamounts for a 2:00 square-off. It will be stop #1 on a Southern New England weekend roundtrip for the Catamounts. The game will be accessible through the options of their Gametracker, live video, or radio webcast.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Hockey Log

Mount Bishop the heart to stake for

Friars’ excursion to Maine means shooting at growing garrison

Here they go again. As has appeared to be the case every year in recent memory, the Maine Black Bears have to prove their worth having seen critical pre-season priority go to their fellow giants Boston College, Boston University, and UNH.

Save for a 2004 Hockey East crown, the now seventh-year Tim Whitehead Era in Orono is more sharply defined by UMass Meltdown #1 in 2003 and the sequel to that last March.

Two consecutive Frozen Four berths? The rink-eyeing loiterers with laptops still don’t buy it, mostly given that the Bears’ habitual last-second springboard into April action is generally eclipsed by this decade’s WCHA hegemony and a habit of falling short at TD Banknorth Garden –if they make it there at all.

As it stands now, though, Maine, the two-night destination for the Friars this weekend, has salved its national image well enough to stand at #11 in this week’s US College Hockey Online Top 20 file.

By and large, the cornerstone of this jumpstart has expectably been Cycloptic goaltender Ben Bishop, the most imposing figure, both physically and statistically, in Maine’s last two national semi-final shortcomings. From the looks of his junior year transcript as it stands, Big Ben is only fortifying his wall. He has merely snatched two Defensive Player of the Week titles, one shared with PC keeper Chris Mannix, and was bestowed with the distinction of October’s best Hockey East stopper.

In the midst of earning those petite hardware helpings, he was spotlighted on the NCAA page of the November 6 edition of The Hockey News.

Underneath those glorifying digits and labels, though, the output of Bishop’s praetorians denotes “saving grace” as an understatement. Though unblemished since two opening weekend kicks in the teeth at now 5th-ranked Denver, Maine’s consistently shallow offense has kept every night up in the air till the buzzer.

With the Friars lined up to visit Alfond Arena, the Bears will head into their fourth and fifth consecutive conference games, and first two on their home pond, with a 2-0-1 log. An epic 1-1 tie at Boston College last Friday, which saw a fan-fulfilling duel between Bishop and Eagles’ freshman phenom John Muse, followed a pair of one-goal toppings of Northeastern.

Over seven total games, only two Black Bears, seniors Wes Clark and Bret Tyler have laid out a point-per-game median. After the four point impressions of Christopher Hahn and Vince Laise, everybody else is looking at two or less, including presupposed leading weight-lugger Billy Ryan.

Much like the Mainers, PC has had an unusually lengthy layoff from game action, idle since last Thursday’s 5-2 blow from Boston University. And similarly, the Friars’ depth chart has only flexed its strength through so many gunslingers, namely Kyle Laughlin –whose eight-point-in-four-game hot streak was put on hold in the Terrier tilt- Jon Rheault, Matt Taormina, and Pierce Norton. For what it’s worth, Maine has at least had one scoresheet contribution by nineteen skaters compared with the Friars fourteen.

Then there is the goaltending ambiguity on the Providence bench. Mannix had his breakthrough bonfire brewing when he relieved incumbent starter Tyler Sims against the Minutemen, but was tugged back down against BU.

Add the fact that Friar bench boss Tim Army was among those quoted in Bishop’s THN profile, citing the monument Black Bears’ fixture’s intriguing deftness with the puck.

Advantage Maine? Superficially, by a dollop at best. But if the big picture on both fronts is as minimally budged as it seems, just look back to last year’s season series.

In three tussles with the Bear in the Big Blue Pads last season, the Sims-anchored Friars either pitched a shutout or endured one (0-3, 2-0, 0-2 differentials respectively)

Quick Feeds: Both Sims and Bishop have already charged up an infrequent assist this season….Maine freshman Tanner House, who accumulated a goal and a helper in his first seven career games, will be unavailable upon an indefinite suspension for alleged off-ice misconduct… Rheault, still upholding a five-game scoring streak, pitched in on all three goals (2 scored, 1 assisted), in the 3-0 triumph of Maine last year at Schneider Arena…Prior to their match with Northeastern Tuesday, the PC Women observed a moment of silence for the Reverend Philip A. Smith, who passed away Sunday at 74. Smith, himself a PC alumnus from 1963, was Rev. Brian Shanley’s immediate predecessor as the college president, serving that post from 1994-2005…Friar junior Mari Pehknonen inserted Team Finland’s lone goal in Wednesday’s Four Nations Cup opener, a 4-1 falter to almighty Canada. The Finns were in action again late Thursday against host Sweden.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Northeastern 5, Women's Hockey 4

Dog bites

PC pinned in draining, tumbling battle

The Northeastern Huskies popped in at Schneider Arena Tuesday night in a condition remarkably parallel to that of the host Friars at Boston College one week previous: winless and flustered.

And just like it was in PC’s 3-2 icebreaking thriller of the Eagles, the contesting clubs assumed eerily similar roles from start-to-finish, Northeastern sculpting a commanding 3-0 edge in the opening frame and then holding on for dear life, ultimately pulling through 5-4.

Not only did the Huskies thereby snap a prolonged, dehydrating spell of shortcomings. They also exorcised a mind-boggling blight in terms of combating the Friars. It was their first win over Providence since January 25, 2004, and first in the House That Lamoriello Built since the 2002 inception of the Hockey East Women’s conference.

The Friars’ long-time-coming home opener was characterized by riotously scruffy two-way play that spawned motifs of falling bodies, endless whistles, and momentum-swaying goal spurts. Each side came up empty on their first of many power plays before Northeastern clicked on their second go-around at 13:08 of the opening frame.

Juggling the puck on her far point station, defender Lindsay Berman made a diagonal shipment to freshman beacon Kristi Kehoe, who snuck in a back-door conversion for her fifth goal of the season.

Off the immediate draw, Alyssa Wohlfeiler handed things over linemate Annie Hogan, who sliced through tumbling traffic and slipped one home whilst sliding with a handful of other skaters, making it 2-0 Northeastern.

The outburst was sealed two minutes later when Hogan intervened on a Friars breakout attempt behind their net, looped it around the near post, and watched Lori Antflick one-time it through in front.

But in less than another minute, Northeastern effectively re-opened their doors when Missy Elumba was flagged for cross-checking PC backchecker Coleen Martin. Up to that point, the Friars had already chipped nine failed shots at goaltender Leah Sulyma. After holding up for about the first minute of PC’s patient, cyclonic attack, though, Sulyma slipped with 2:58 till intermission.

Defender Brittany Simpson fed Kathleen Smith, curiously patrolling the right post rather than her typical blueline designation, who in turn set up Sarah Feldman for a back door burial.

From the Huskies standpoint, it didn’t help to have Nikki Petrich, the runaway candidate for face of their franchise, take a hooking call right at the buzzer, resulting in a full carry-over power play for the Friars. In addition, coach Bob Deraney switched out the night’s goaltender starter Jennifer Smith, in favor of Danielle Ciarletta upon returning to the fresh sheet.

The middle frame saw an imbalance of ice shavings between the zones, and it favored the volcanic Friars. Out of their game total of 35 shots, 16 were recorded in the second period with the conspicuous aid, seven of them distributed amongst three player advantages.

All that notwithstanding, for eighteen solid minutes, the shagged out Sulyma and her frontrunners left the home crowd hanging. In the waning moments, the Friars, incommoded by the Four Nations Cup obligations of scoring asset Mari Pehkonen, ultimately clicked.

With PC trying to carry on their power play-aided invasion, a fresh-out-the-box Wohfeiler charged full force behind the back of a puck-carrying Amber Yung, who nonetheless nudged it to her partner Rachel Crissy. Crissy’s snapper from the near point landed in yet another rolling scrum, out of which Feldman extracted it and handed things over to Alyse Ruff for a genuflecting roof-top connection.

Only a minute later did the Friars pick off a would-be neutral zone rush, allowing Kelli Doolin to set up Danielle Tangredi, who strolled down the right alley and slipped an equalizer into the opposite post.

But a virtual 360-degree reversal in dynamics highlighted the third period. Outshot 16-4 in the preceding frame, the Huskies this time owned that category 16-5. Near the halfway mark, shortly after Captain Petrich returned from a ten-minute misconduct, they pounced on a five-minute power play, a portion of which was accompanied by an interference minor to Feldman, to insert the decisive goals.

At 9:52, Berman unleashed a centering feed from the left side for a slot-bound Chelsey Jones, who let a one-timer flutter through Ciarletta.

In another fifty-six ticks, still with considerable time on the major sentence, Kehoe brushed down a long airborne puck in the dirty-nose area and nudged it to Jones for a nimble tip-in.

The Friars kept the game well within reach, cutting the deficit just 39 seconds after Jones’ turn on stage. In shorthanded odd-man break, Katy Beach traveled down the far side and lobbed a quick feed to freshman Jean O’Neill, who dinged her first collegiate goal home off the opposite post.

After that, though, Sulyma’s associates denied them further access.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Hockey Log

Yet-to-thaw Northeastern entertains women’s home opener

Up to this point, the Northeastern University women’s team has appeared victimized by the classic scotch-tape-on-the-skate-blades prank. Coming in to be part of Tuesday’s PC home opener, the Huskies early on have had a way of keeping an interesting pace with the opposition, yet currently boast an intercollegiate transcript of 0-6-1. The only point they have to subsist on as of yet came through a 2-2 draw with North Dakota precisely a month ago.

Before last Saturday’s 4-0 steamrolling at the hands of RPI, the Huskies had only once faltered by more than two goals, and it may be granted that the final goal in that 5-2 Niagara triumph October 21 was an empty netter.

Still, the early record is a relative reflection of the general pothole this generation of Huskies has lived through. The best year any female icers still wearing red and black in the Hub has enjoyed was an 8-24-1 showing in 2005-06. Those eight wins equate the total of what the infinitesimally numbered senior class scooped up in their freshman and junior years.

Among those seniors, altogether two in total, Nikki Petrich has been a by-and-far standout in their attempts to snap out of this rut, having already rung up six goals so far and a two-point outpour in their only conference game to date, a 5-3 drop to early season eye-catcher UConn. Petrich’s classmate, goaltender Sarah Belliveau, has appeared but twice so far this year.

The rest of the notoriety has, incidentally, gone mostly to a couple of rookies, with Leah Sulmya taking on the remainder of the crease patrolling workload while Kristi Kehoe has equated linemate Petrich’s point total with a split package of four goals and four helpers.

Further down the chart, sophomore blueliner Lindsay Berman has locked away 2-4-6 scoring totals while three additional players, reigning rookie sensation Chelsey Jones and Petrich/Kehoe centerpiece Cassie Sperry included, have 4 points to speak of. Aside from that, the Huskies, similar to the Friars, have yet to break out the full depths of their lineup.

Miscellany: PC transfer Stacey Scott, now a junior netminder with the Huskies, took a hunky eleven-game share amongst last year’s Northeastern trio, but has yet to break in her new pads for the 2007-08 campaign…Despite Tuesday being just their second Hockey East game out of eight total, Northeastern will lay off the conference action until a November 16 excursion to Boston College. In the meantime, they will keep themselves occupied with a two-game visit from Wayne State while Friars finally settle in at home and look forward to a Vermont engagement Saturday at 2…All three games in the Friars upcoming homestand can be monitored via CSTV Gametracker, and the network will reportedly provide live online video of the Vermont game.

Anything To Win

Scribe’s note: This week’s edition of The Hockey News (press date: November 6) included an NHL’s teams column themed “Anything To Win.” Just for fun, and to provide work for a little more ink, here now is the PC program’s version of that report:

Changing of masks enlightens both teams

Sports buffs around here who are finally resting their minds from seven months of Red Sox mania should know all too well what Providence College goalies went through in the wee days of the season.

Men’s skipper Tim Army and women’s counterpart Bob Deraney naturally gave seniority the benefit of the doubt, starting senior Tyler Sims and junior Danielle Ciarletta respectively four games in succession. But much like Sox pitchers in various blotches of the past summer, the two cage custodians would either toil to the bone while receiving insufficient offensive compensation or be entertained by their associates with a nice goalfest only to feel the subsequent, fatal wrath of the opposition.

As a consequence, one of the few bright spots to the men’s 0-4 and women’s 0-2-2 breakouts was a couple of three star bestowments for the ones in big pads.

All in all, that was far from calling for full-out panic mode, but both Army and Deraney know better than to build precarious suspense. And coincidentally, in their fifth outings, they each give their overcooked starters a breather and give someone else a bit of a look.

It was an all-win decision. Junior Chris Mannix backstopped the Friars to a sound 3-1 home win over UMass-Amherst Oct. 26 and followed up with a dynamic, point-sparing effort in an epic 3-3 tie the next night against the Minutemen.

Meanwhile, the women’s team stopped the bleeding at the tail end of their prolonged road stretch when the offense eased freshman Jen Smith into her first start-to-finish appearance via a three-goal first period outburst. Afterwards, Smith pulled out just enough strings to hold off host Boston College towards a 3-2 triumph.

And these head-turning performances were not lost on the Hockey East offices. Mannix wound up earning co-defensive player of the week honors while Smith was queen rookie for a week. Early as it still is, though, the Friars oft-unpredictable goaltending carousel will likely remain so.