• Check out the Free Press founder's new Rhode Island/New England sports blog
  • http://providencesportsscribe.blogspot.com/

Saturday, November 17, 2007

New Hampshire 5, Men's Hockey 4 (OT)

Booming Friars zapped in OT

It was caught and cited during coach-to-press conversations over the week, and it was plain to see over a two-night homestand for the Friar Fanatics. Hockey East has a monsoon of overtime affairs in full force and not looking inclined to taper off without deep reason.

The simplest, most sensible way to handle it is to get used it, but the Friars are not quite acclimated yet. Through Saturday’s wrenching 5-4 extra session falter to New Hampshire, they have dipped to a 0-2-2 transcript in games going beyond regulation.

After rallying from a nightlong excruciating, albeit narrow, stranglehold in the third period to sculpt a quick 4-3 lead, PC slipped with 8:12 remaining in the third period and again at 2:57 of the extra frame, both times yielding to a feisty Wildcat forward Paul Thompson.

Thompson’s game clincher also clinched himself a hat trick as he made his umpteenth cheetah-paced dart to the net and shoveled home a centering feed from his equally vibrant linemate, James vanRiemsdyk.

The Friars were plenty shagged out heading into the game, having just stamped a thrilling 2-2 knot with a resurgent UMass-Lowell team here Friday. With the rabid Wildcats, torn apart on their home rink by Northeastern 24 hours previous, looming, Providence coach Tim Army did not deny the crunch.

“There are particular things that you do to prepare for each opponent,” he said and adding in recognition of the all-too-well-known UNH prestige, the time constraint “poses a great deal of problems because they are a very talented, fast, creative, and explosive hockey team.”

Those problems were smoothly translating to the scoreboard through the first forty minutes of action, though the Friars did squeeze out the icebreaker goal late in the opening stanza through yet another trendy power play conversion center-staged by Pierce Norton.

Far point patroller Matt Taormina slipped the disc down the boards to John Cavanagh, who made a few back-and-forth taps with a nearby Nick Mazzolini. Mazzolini eventually leveled a shot off the stick of Wildcat stopper Brian Foster, who was much too late diving after Norton’s backhand rebound slide that made it 1-0 at the 14:50 mark.

On the flipside, that effectively perked up the Cats’ newest incendiary trinity. With under 3:30 remaining, vanRiemsdyk made a nimble dump-in for his centerman Thomas Fortney to collect in the far corner. Fortney in turn shipped it in front for an incoming Thompson to jam home from the right alley.

With twenty ticks till intermission, vanRiemsdyk bustled to the cage while his partners prevailed in a scrum and waited to guide home a mid-air tip-in.

“He’s a fantastic player,” Army bluntly noted on vanRiemsdyk, who was originally thriving with a pair of seniors on the top line before the Cats hit a slump. “He’s very, very bright and he’s very gifted and quick, makes a lot of things happen offensively. UNH has traditionally great speed and their defense contributes a lot to the offense, their forwards are very skilled.”

All participants and bystanders at Schneider Arena only honed their understanding of that as the game progressed. For the majority of the second period, as was the case in the first, each offense tested the comparatively supple defenses with bushels of shots (two-period total: 28-25 UNH). But for a comforting while, Providence netminder Tyler Sims stood strong to keep the Cats, vanRiemsdyk and all, muted; that was until there were but two seconds remaining in the middle frame.

New Hampshire boosted its edge to 3-1 there upon finishing a chaotic, congesting buzz in the dirty-nose area before Sims. Thompson and vanRiemsdyk each took their whacks before the puck began to squirt out to the right point. Defender Craig Switzer was there to drill a high-flyer to the right of Sims.

To start the third, in which they commanded the shooting gallery 20-9, the Friars wholly jumbled the outlook of the game. Nine seconds after the customary center-ice draw, winger Greg Collins carried a feed from defender Mark Fayne and let a harmless looking bid from the near circle-top trickle through Foster.

Earning another man advantage shortly after the ten-minute mark, they retied the count courtesy of the captaining tandem. Kyle Laughlin snapped a lengthy cycle and inched to the left post before he offered a quick shipment to Jon Rheault, vanRiemsdyk’s fellow Philadelphia Flyers prospect, who swatted it over Foster’s blocker.

Off the resultant draw, Norton nimbly raced down the far alley and roofed the go-ahead marker. But in yet another seventy-two ticks, the Wildcats turned another decisive pivot to forge a 4-4 count. Thompson managed to bang home a tumbling tip of Fortney’s centering feed from the right corner.

Rheault nearly recompensed the squander in overtime, running a neutral zone forwarding pass from freshman Austin Mayer for a breakaway, but shanked a snapper to the left of the cage.

In less than another ninety seconds, the vanRiemsdyk-Thompson agency completed its night’s work.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Men's Hockey 2, UMass-Lowell 2

Mutual energy cancels; Friars knot Hawks

The increasingly evident parity in Hockey East, conspicuous by its absence most everywhere else in the conference Friday, was at its finest at Schneider Arena. The Providence College Friars, riding the smooth, pleasurable waves of a decisive sweep of Maine last weekend, were insidiously entangled by the of late masters of sister-smooching, UMass-Lowell.

As it happened, the Riverhawks, who already have both conjured up and endured compelling rallies this season, kept an inch behind the Friars and ultimately drew a 2-2 knot.

Incidentally, the most striking early season trends on both benches were to remain untouched. The sophomore-dominated Riverhawks, whose roster makes that of PC look like post-grads, kilned their third consecutive tie and have now earned all four of their conference points through 65-minute games. Then again, the Friars also have the hefty statistical, as well as spiritual leadership, of their petite upperclasses to thank for that mature comparison.

That didn’t change either. Junior Pierce Norton, the decider in last Saturday’s 1-0 pinning of the Black Bears, supplied both Providence goals Friday and received credited assistance from three classmates.

Come what may, Friar coach Tim Army’s presupposition of a “very competitive” game was validated as contesting goaltenders Tyler Sims of PC and Carter Hutton of Lowell faced their small, medium, and large workloads towards a roughly even final shot count of 35-29 in favor of the Hawks.

For all that rapid, boiling chemical activity between the boards, discipline was yet another striking feature in Friday’s contest, which was somewhat of a pity to the Friars since Army had made special teams the prime whetting post in the much more settled down preceding week of practice. Providence would only be sentenced to two minors on the whole night, Lowell one, and neither was flagged at any point beyond the second period.

Nevertheless, the Friars made meticulous, and as would be proven, pivotal use of their single man advantage late in the opening frame, breaking the ice on their one and only power play shot. The team’s of late heat gun boaster, Matt Taormina, withheld the puck at the brim of the attacking zone before sliding it to blueline associate Cody Wild by the near boards. Wild made a broad semi-circle stroll to the parallel post and lobbed a feed in front for Norton to one-time to the right of Hutton at 13:16.

In the middle frame, the Riverhawks uncorked their jolted bottles, and then some, running away with a shooting edge of 18-5 and getting just enough of their willpower’s worth to pull even and in effect solidify the final score.

Less than two minutes in, a PC turnover perked up Mark Roebothan and Mike Potacco, two-thirds of Lowell’s infinitesimal junior class. In a quick and easy, model two-on-one, Potacco set up Roebothan for a near-side sizzler through Sims.

Before tapering off for the remainder of the period, however, Norton renewed the Friar lead in another five minutes, also cashing in on a bobbled play in the other end. Linemate Kyle Laughlin, whose own hot streak had been ironically frozen to its core up in Maine, charged the disc into Riverhawk territory and tapped it to Norton on the far side. With Hutton oozing out of his crease to challenge, Norton nimbly curled the biscuit on his backhand and reeled it in behind Hutton’s back.

But not long after that did the Riverhawks reach full flight and before the halfway mark of regulation, they had made it 2-2. On a slippery swarm with most everybody tilted to the far alley, a duo of sophomores -defender Nick Schaus and forward Nick Holmstrom, managed to set up rookie Patrick Cey in the slot. Cey’s ice-kisser zipped home to the left of a scrunched-up Sims.

“They’re a year older, and a year more comfortable with playing at this level,” acknowledged Army of the opposing crop. “They certainly are a very good team, a year removed from a real learning year. I think they’ve really carried that growth into this year.”

Upon killing a carry-over charging penalty to co-captain Jon Rheault, the Friars reversed the roles of tempest for most of the third period. They also revived the trend from the younger minutes of the first period, constricting the Riverhawks to habitual icing.

During a potentially decisive fifteen-minute stretch, Providence commanded the shooting gallery 12-2, eight of those shots coming unanswered and a handful of over-the-net shanks not even making it to the board.

But Hutton had fused to spotless dynamics by then, as did Sims, who attentiveness was crucially revived in the waning moments of regulation and for two Lowell stabs in the extra five-minute window.

Quick Feeds: The PC Women faltered 2-1 to Ohio State, their third one-goal loss in four outings, in Part I of a two-night visit to Columbus…Junior netminder Danielle Ciarletta charged up a season-high 38 saves, including a whopping ten denials of Buckeyes top gun Tessa Bonhomme…The series concludes Saturday with a slated 4:07 start, likely to fall moments after OSU’s ever-so cherished gridiron tussle with Michigan.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Hockey Log

Preserving the fresh sheet

On heels of Maine sweep, PC Men looking for follow-through

For Providence College, a message that might have served to ease the recurring close-but-no-points angst of a few weeks ago is suddenly acting as the do-that-again kind of dare. That message is the simple fact that there is still a wholesome slate of game action, particularly Hockey East action, ahead.

The generally youthful Friars returned to campus this week having reformed their persona through a decisive sweep of the then-11th ranked Maine Black Bears, a 7-2 goal differential over two games in one of the nation’s more arduous arenas to visit. Head coach Tim Army gave partial credit to the preceding eight-day respite from game action, which had fallen serendipitously after a 5-2 home falter to Boston University November 1, by which point, despite a morally substantial October, he admitted his still-gelling team began to appear a tad musty.

Of the extra time to retool prior to the northern trek, he said, “I think we were able to get back to some basics and recognized some more areas that we needed to me more efficient at, and that was kind of the mindset.

“When we’ve got our legs, we seem to react and skate very well. It seemed as though the guys were playing off each other quite a bit more efficiently (than before).”

That might explain the unprecedented jumpstart in Part I of the Maine series, wherein they exponentially eroded iron giant netminder Ben Bishop to the point that they chased him out of the cage in the third period of a 6-2 triumph. But if that weren’t enough, they carried out the same load and Saturday and squeezed out a 1-0 decision.

If it is even possible to rank the timeliness of such a feat, the prime time would be when all of Hockey East was more or less settling into exclusive intra-conference action. While four other prominent New England ice barns were storming with strikingly balanced competition –even by conventional Hockey East standards- the Friars were busy sculpting their second and third wins of the season, all against ranked competition. They had previously tipped over and knotted #16 UMass-Amherst in a home-and-home at the tail end of October.

“Certainly, winning two games at Alfond against the #11 team in the country, I would imagine, as a coach, when those types of outcomes occur, makes you take a second look at it,” said Army concerning the league-wide reaction to what brewed in Orono. “And certainly, beating them once and beating them a second time on the road, I certainly would think that other teams would take notice. It should give them a sense that we’re a team to be careful with.”

On that note, with more considerable competition bussing into Schneider Arena this weekend: “Our next challenge is to refocus,” Army said. “We had a great practice on Monday, took the day off today, we’ll go shorter and quick on Wednesday and Thursday, work on our special teams and we’ll have to be ready to play a very difficult and aggressive Lowell team on Friday.

“As all Hockey East games are, it will be very competitive. I think this year this league, from top to bottom, is as competitive as it’s ever been. I haven’t seen the depth of competiveness, the depth of personnel, that we have this year. That’s why the games are so close, that’s why there hasn’t been so much separation amongst teams. I think it will (remain that way) as we get into the stretch drive come February and March.”

More hardware for their pockets: Apart from the emboldened self-assurance and the less rigid practice vibe, a couple of Friars were naturally rewarded by the Hockey East offices this week. Goaltender Tyler Sims usurped Bishop’s two-week-running distinction as the Pure Hockey Defensive Player of the Week, which Bishop had actually split with Sims’ steadfast partner, Chris Mannix after the UMass series. Sims earned it somewhat facilely, though, as he dealt with 39 shots while his praetorians practically razed Big Ben down to his Thames River-level crease.

The by and large standout amongst those skaters was the league’s natural Player of the Week, Matt Taormina. Taormina all but veiled his designation as a defenseman by leveling home five points in the Friday blowout and was in on Nick Mazzolini’s Saturday clincher, along with fellow hot blade Pierce Norton.

Quick Feeds: All but three Friar skaters etched at least one shot on net in both Friday’s and Saturday’ wins, senior captain Jon Rheault leading the gallery on Friday with an aggregate six stabs at Bishop and eventual successor Dave Wilson. Rheault saw his hot streak end in Saturday’s defensive duel, but likewise ran ahead on Saturday with seven chips, followed by freshman Austin Mayer’s five…Both Friday’s hosting to Lowell and Saturday’s to New Hampshire will commence at 7:00 and be televised through Cox Communications. That action will be followed by a full week’s rest over Thanksgiving…This weekend will again see a full slate of intra-conference tilts, the Riverhawks and Wildcats swapping get-togethers with the Friars and Northeastern Huskies

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Dartmouth 2, Women's Hockey 1

Slow slippage

Friars’ overworked PK nipped in third

Nearly from the outset, Providence College coach Bob Deraney displayed a fair share of challenge flags to the officiating trinity of Sunday’s contest with Dartmouth. By the second period curtain had dropped, everything on the scoreboard was as dead-heated as could be (score 1-1, shots 23-23). The only thing tipping the balance was the distribution of power plays, and it only swelled to PC’s dismay in the third period.

Most of the way, though, the Friar defense cloaked the stalwart power play strike force that had earned the Big Green the #9 slot in USCHO’s weekly poll, despite their only having played four games prior to this weekend.

But with 9:01 remaining in the third period, wherein PC’s unwanted whistles doubled their two-period total of four, a Dart finally hit the bull’s-eye. Green blueliner Julia Bronson pounced on a rebound as an iced teammate Maggie Kennedy nudged it out of a scrum to her near point position and, taking her own spill in the process, nailed it low into the opposite post. That would be the decider as Dartmouth netminder Carli Clemis withstood her own unfavorable imbalance, fourteen Friar shots compared to her club’s seven, to preserve the 2-1 final.

The Green thus remain spotless at 4-0-1, 1-0-1 against Hockey East rivals, while the Friars –who have put their conference slate in the cooler for their five remaining games in November- now own a 0-2-1 record against formidable ECAC tenants.

The nonconference arm wrestling bout pitted two teams with temporary, but no less conspicuous, depth chart cavities thanks to this week’s Four Nations Cup. The Friars’ Mari Pehknonen is sporting her Finnish colors in the renowned annual tournament while the Green were missing decorated sophomore Sarah Parsons of Team USA.

Even with Parsons returning this season, Dartmouth has had another sizzling scorer early on in Jenna Cunningham, the ECAC’s top performer two weeks running. Three minutes into Sunday’s clash, Cunningham gave her club the upper hand seven seconds after Deraney’s first query, an icing call wherein the puck had appeared to brush a few bodies en route to behind the Dartmouth goal line.

The call nonetheless stood, and off the ensuing face-off, Cunningham scooped the puck from her position along the near outer hash marks, zipped to the cage, and slipped the icebreaker into a slim opening between goaltender Danielle Ciarletta and the left post.

Seven minutes later, however, Providence pulled even via Erin Normore, another international pin-up who barely missed out on making her own mid-season voyage to Sweden with her native Canada, and the uncredited assistance of Rachel Crissy.

Big Green defender Amy Cobb had the puck in the right corner of her own end appearing ready to send her associates into routine breakout mode. But with Crissy creeping in front of her, she thrust the biscuit along the boards directly to point patroller Normore. Normore stepped a few inches to her left and let a skipping-stone snap shot find its way through a butterflying Clemis’ five-hole.

For the remaining half of the period, the Friars dealt with six unanswered shots but wholly inverted those tables to start the second. Through the first 8:45 of the middle frame, they outshot the Green 8-1, including two on a power play, before Jenna Keilch was whistled deep in the attacking end for diving. Demands for an explanation on that borderline call landed the Friars with a bench minor and a full two-minute block of 5-on-3 for Dartmouth.

But PC stood strong, Ciarletta tilting aside five stabs and her associates holding the attackers outside the rest of the way. Moments later, when Alyse Ruff was serving a two-minute hooking sentence, the Friars allowed but one shot and disrupted the swarm with a handful of clearances.

Save for those special teams moments, an air hockey-paced tussle took shape and generally remained so for the young moments of the closing frame. Early on, the Friars were afforded their own power play when Dartmouth’s Marley McMillan checked defender Brittany Simpson at 1:44, but a whopping six shots on that advantage were not sufficient for the lead.

At 6:25, PC’s Amber Yung went off for hooking, but the Big Green were allotted absolutely nothing on that 5-on-4 go-around. A return trip for Yung at 10:33, however, would set up Bronson’s clincher.