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Saturday, December 1, 2007

Women's Hockey 7, Maine 2

Re-Freshing running

Rookie trio pilots Friars past Maine

Bucking trends has been all the rage for the PC women’s hockey team since they settled down on campus for a between-the-breaks six game homestand. Previously looking in need of a hot dish of offense from the neighborhood shelter, they have now exponentially heightened their output in three successive games, and naturally kilned a first-time winning streak in the process.

For the latest installment, the Friars followed a trinity of young blood towards decisively imploding the seemingly unbreakable habit of taking the Maine Black Bears into overtime.

Freshmen Alyse Ruff (hat trick), Jean O’Neill (one goal, two assists) and Amber Yung (3 assists) assumed control to overhaul the equally invincible-looking netminder Genevieve Turgeon towards a 7-2 triumph. The three new heat-gun bearers accounted for 16 of 64 total shots at Turgeon, only two shy of a season-high for the Maine workhorse

Prior to the weekend visit to Schneider Arena, Turgeon was an unmistakable lone star for an abysmally struggling Black Bear team. For all intents and purposes, she remained true to form Saturday, but this time around 57 saves did not cut it for media recognition. The game’s three star honors were wholly usurped by the host team’s radiant rookie trinity.

From the tail end of the 2005-06 campaign, when current PC senior Danielle Tangredi was studying and skating in Orono, to this season’s opener at Alfond Arena, the contesting teams had required a bonus round in five consecutive get-togethers.

Most recently, in their only visit to Orono this year, Providence had kindled a hefty twenty-shot first period and a 2-0 edge before the tables slowly and smoothly turned, allowing the Bears to pull even.

Times have changed. Within the first twenty minutes of Saturday’s clash, Turgeon had already endured twenty-three stabs and, as she has all season, made it clear that the Friars would need to snag an ice pick and sturdy pair of spiky boots to tackle her peak.

Ruff took it upon herself to take that wager, though, inserting the game’s first two goals on tirelessly executed crashes to the net.

With 2:17 remaining in the opening frame, during a lengthy power play swarm, playmaker Erin Normore tapped the puck to her point partner Yung, whose subsequent shot chipped off Turgeon’s stick. Ruff, eyeing the far post, collected the fugitive rebound, after her classmate and second-line centerpiece Jackie Duncan bobbled it in front, and buried it behind Turgeon.

Less than five minutes into the second period, on yet another extra-player sequence, Yung whipped up another dead-on bid from the straightaway point. And yet again, Turgeon failed to get a grip on it and watched the stealthy Ruff slide in on her knees and tap a roller home for the 2-0 Friar lead.

Not long after, the heroic blue-clad glacier officially reached her rapid meltdown motif. Shortly before the halfway mark of the game, O’Neill, despite prolonging a shift, tracked down the puck along the far outer hash marks a shipped a smooth diagonal feed to Yung. She then darted to the cage in anticipation of a rebound, which she poked behind Turgeon before Katy Beach stepped up for an easy tip-in.

A while later, with 8:28 left in the middle stanza, O’Neill was at it again, sizzling after Ruff’s two-on-one wide attempt, collecting it at the far side, and shuffling to the face-off circle, where she whooshed a low rider into the opposite corner of the cage.

Off the subsequent draw, the impoverished Black Bears finally clicked on one of their opportunities as Jenna Ouelette neutralized a heavy traffic scrum and set up Abby Barton, sending Maine back to their dressing room down 4-1.

At 5:57 of the third, however, Ruff completed her night, monitoring another slippery rebound, this one off the stick of Colleen Martin. With a handful of attacking and defending bodies tilted to the far side, where a genuflecting Turgeon was trying to freeze the play, Ruff nimbly extracted and curled the disc into the vacant half of the net.

Less than three minutes later, PC threw out another power play conversion through Brittany Simpson, who wandered into the slot to import a zipping Mari Pehkonen’s offering and flick it high to the right of Turgeon.

Maine did manage to strike the cold mesh that Danielle Ciarletta (16 saves) had been patrolling with 4:15 to go. Jennie Gallo zipped out of a scrum along the near boards and shoveled home a face-to-face backhand conversion.

But the Black Bears were granted no further access after that, and Cherie Hendrickson solidified the 7-2 final with 1:48 on the clock, polishing off another chaotic buzz in Turgeon’s territory and tucking in the remains of a Rachel Crissy shot.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Hockey Log

Last conference calls for the year

The customary December deceleration is upon the collegiate hockey universe, and strikingly enough, both Providence College teams have an easier-said-than-done scenario as they each prime themselves for their last dip in Hockey East play this weekend.

Both the women, hosting Maine in a pair of matinees Saturday and Sunday, and the men –swooping up to Vermont Saturday night then coming right back to retool for a couple of ECAC friendlies, have rigidly gripped .500 records in conference play since before Thanksgiving. That said, the natural choices are to charge up a couple more invaluable points pronto, or skid a dollop below the winning-record label and bear that for six weeks at best.

After the Catamount clash, the men will haul in Brown on Tuesday, followed by Union next Friday before having three unremitting weeks to prime up for the prestigious, Detroit-based Great Lakes Invitational over the holidays. The Friars will not resume conference play until a home-and-home with UMass-Lowell over the second weekend of January.

The women, meantime, have their own bite-sized helpings of ECAC visits next week through Yale and Harvard before dropping game action altogether in the cooler for a full month. Even after ringing in 2008 and dusting off their formal game attire, conference play will be held off until January 19, when the Friars tangle with New Hampshire right where the currently sizzling Wildcats zapped their campaign last season.

Clocking several rounds back to the present, though, an arithmetic anti-UNH is dropping in at Schneider Arena this weekend. The Maine women, whom the Friars tied on opening day up in Orono but seven weeks back, have since tumbled to an abysmal 0-4-2 Hockey East transcript, and 1-12-1 overall. That one win dates back to the tail-end of September, when they steamrolled Sacred Heart 6-1.

Since then, the one and only feel good item brewing on the women’s front of Alfond Arena has been the goaltending tandem of Genevieve Turgeon and not-so-shabby freshman sidekick Sarah Bishop.

Turgeon is carrying the label of this week’s top defensive performer in the conference, having at least partially compressed the Black Bears wounds through a 23-save performance towards a scoreless draw last Saturday with Vermont, the only other winless team in Hockey East. Prior to that, Maine may have taken some morally substantial solace in that Turgeon and Bishop had paired up to ultimately keep the final deficit to two goals or less in their last six games.

Then again, Turgeon’s workload during that storm-pacifying visit to Burlington was conspicuously one of the lighter loads. On ten occasions out of fifteen games this season, the Black Bears have authorized at least 35 shots on net. Seven of those nights, either Turgeon or Bishop had been bombarded with at least 40 stabs, including 42 during their only hosting to the Friars.

Eerily enough, Providence has only recently restocked that once-characteristic rapid fire that seemed to taper off after they bussed out of Orono. They did not again chalk up 40-plus bids in a single contest until last week’s 5-2 Mayor’s Cup triumph over Brown, which they followed up on with a season-best output of 48, seven of which went through against Robert Morris.

For tomorrow’s 2:00 draw, immediate history calls for a netminding rematch between Turgeon and PC’s Danielle Ciarletta, given that Turgeon’s three consecutive prior starts culminated in Maine’s first point since she dueled to that draw with Ciarletta, who has made six consecutive appearances in the Friar crease.

Breakaway opportunity: The PC men have a much stricter set of cards waiting patiently at the face-off dot of Gutterson Fieldhouse. Right now, the Friars and Catamounts are at the top half of a four-way lock in the middle of the conference standings, opposite Boston College and Lowell. With each team subsisting on eight points, by virtue of games in hand, Vermont stands at fourth overall, the Friars fifth.

Of the four aforementioned clubs, only the Riverhawks have more than one inter-conference date left in the calendar year. Toss in the fact that second place is, for the moment, mathematically reachable with UMass-Amherst withholding ten points, while the cellar-dwelling Maine is also within tangible distance with six and will also have two opportunities to bulk up before the prolonged holiday respite.

PC’s posture heading into their solo-game excursion, which thaws out a two-week layoff upon observing Thanksgiving weekend, is point-blankly reflective of their immediate past. When last in action, the Friars snatched a point from the Riverhawks through a 2-2 home draw before spilling an opportunity for more after an earthquake 5-4 overtime falter to New Hampshire, who consequently sits only one point ahead of the Catamounts now.

Having iced the medium-sized bumps from that now seemingly distant clash, the Friars get their first of three season tests with a Catamount team who, like their female counterparts, are coming a tie with Maine, though theirs was a much spicier 5-5 upshot last Sunday and safeguarded a meticulously collected three-game unbeaten streak.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Hockey Log

Hockey Log

Scribe’s note: This week’s edition of The Hockey News (press date: November 27) included an NHL team’s column with a specific focus on “the biggest surprises of this early season” Just for fun, and to provide work for a little more ink, here now is the PC program’s version of that report:

Blue line meshing with red light

It has not been quite as visually flooring as the distinctive speed-skating dynamics of Bobby Orr, but upon curtaining November, both Providence College hockey teams have a designated defenseman atop their respective scoring columns.

As a –for the moment, silently- heartening consequence, the Friars arid depth charts are now moistening and smoothly sprouting more decisive wins –or less spiritually bombarding shortcomings.

For women’s senior A-captain Kathleen Smith, easily the team’s most active puckslinger, less was more in last Sunday’s revolutionary 7-1 overhaul of Robert Morris. Smith settled down her evidently routine eight or nine blasts per game down to five, but ironically, the whole club charged up a season-high aggregate of 48 while she inched her way to the top of the stats sheet with two goals.

This trend, aside from the eccentric numerical leadership, is really nothing new for Smith, whose now familiarly dexterous shots have been the mother of four goals and five assists this season. Her totals in her previous three PC campaigns read 13-41-54 over 102 career games. As she stands now, though, Smith is on pace to, rather facilely, hurdle her impressive sophomore transcript of 24 points and 99 shots over 35 games.

Such an offer by Smith, as well as the more superficial two-way tendencies of Erin Normore and Amber Yung, would not be refused by the Friars by any stretch. After all, Smith was eclipsed that year by the likes of Karen Thatcher and fellow blazing-stick bluelier Kristin Gigliotti, who made her tracks last spring after tapping in a team-leading 39 points.

Over on the men’s side of the barn, the afterglow of Matt Taormina’s five-point buffet in a boosting 6-2 win at Maine is taking its time subsiding.

It would take another week, and the concrete muscles of the New Hampshire backline, to officially compress the PC junior’s five-game firestorm that saw everything from dying second equalizers (a 3-3 draw at UMass) to helpers on must-have conversions (a 1-0 tipping of Maine, where Taormina set up his co-points leader Pierce Norton on the lone lamplighter of the evening).

But even without his ink on the scoresheet, Taormina has consistently been in on umpteen percolating plays, be it man advantage or even strength, and all from his customary point post.

Already, Taormina’s 11-point output in as many games played has equated his freshman transcript and bettered last year’s plebeian sophomore total of seven. His promising resurrection early this season has virtually launched side-by-side with his forward classmates Norton and Kyle Laughlin, who currently bears and even package of five goals and five assists, one point shy of his 2006-07 upshot.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Personal Column

Dunkin’ Nostalgia

PC new yap soaks in old entertainment sphere

Hey, hey, Friartown!

Well, so far I’ve officially been a second-time Rhode Islander for close to precisely three months, having enrolled at Providence College. And thus far, I have not tired of concurring with the Providence College men’s hockey team’s introductory song that goes “Good to be back, good to be back…” over and over again.

But on Tuesday night, I just might have slammed down the hallmark of my homecoming. I made my first trip to a sporting event at the Dunkin Donuts Center in exactly 3,853 days by clinging on to the Friar Fanatic body and taking in some of the ever-heralded PC basketball action, quite pleasingly a 78-48 victory over Maine.

Yeah, that’s how much coming back to that venue meant to me. My previous extended stay at what was then termed the Providence Civic Center was for an American Hockey League playoff game back on May 9, 1997. My beloved Providence Bruins gave me a nice, palm-sized going away present before my family move to Michigan with a 2-1 tipping over of the Springfield Falcons that night. For the ensuing decade that I spent in portions of the Midwest, that moment dwelt comfortably in its own regal display case in my memory bank.

Call me what you will. Obsessed, quirky, drunk with wistfulness, whatever. I would prefer romantic. That’s kind of been my theme over the course of my quest to return to this region, given that I stopped enjoying my first home authentically when I was merely 8 years of age.

Indoor transcendentalism is what it is, at least in this particular case.

To put it simply, though, times have changed along with my comprehension of them. So long before I stepped off one of those Friar Fanatic busses an hour or so before tip-off, I figured my experience would be like Mike Lowell’s personal summary of the aftermath of last month’s Red Sox World Series triumph.

“You think you’re gonna react one way, but then when it hits, you don’t know what to do,” the now re-signed MVP told reporters during the champagne bath.

Naturally, that has held true for me a handful of times this calendar year, and it wasn’t too far from the truth when I followed the directions of my ticket stub and my elder peers to our earmarked student seats. I quickly noticed that they lay in horizontal earshot of the court, and between the same boards where my lifelong minor league hockey heroes do their thing 40-some nights a year.

I can’t say they didn’t warn me about the makeover blotches in the building. I had been warmed up plenty by checking in on the place and its inhabitants via the Internet -an innovation barely removed from gestation when I first departed the Ocean State- over the years. And, of course, this was only my second basketball-based excursion outside of a compact, ho-hum high school gymnasium. That, regardless, would have made for enough of an altered outlook on the Dunk, even if it were still the PCC.

But like I say, we have long progressed into a new millennium, and so the Dunk has acted accordingly. The grainy videoboard that in my former days could only accommodate motionless team logos and tongue-in-cheek animation clips has given way to a trendy, translucent Jumbotron with all the standard trimmings. The bland-looking, concrete concourses and restrooms have passed their torch to more inviting, vibrant modernized pavements and walls. The concession stands have a more diverse selection (you can’t call it the Dunkin Donuts Center if it doesn’t offer you an evening coffee and cream stick, can you?).

And as for my personal designation, I was stuck. Having fixated my vocational ambitions on sports journalism, I have all but eroded my cheering habits outside of the New England pros. Yet the only way I was getting in on the hottest ticket on campus was sitting amongst the Friar Fanatics.

Ultimately, I found a satisfactory median by quietly catching myself up with the arena and, as a new yap, taking note of the Fanatic customs. I quickly grasped, for instance, that standing is a must, save for timeouts, and that a full pair of lungs is advisable in case of a prolonged play in the defensive zone, which requires one of those bouncing “Oooooooohhhhhh,” choruses.

Then there was the new way to cheat traffic by slipping out of the arena before the buzzer. If you want to get back to campus sooner, rather than later, you’d better be poised to outmuscle your peers to the first round of busses. Not exactly as luxurious or romantic as standing by the nearest exit with your dad and then whisking out to the parking garage to flip on the post-game show.

Then again, it’s got the college life flavor. And it’s all a PC staple, a Rhode Island staple.

Good to be back, for sure.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Hockey Log

PC Women looking true to form again

They've got to admit, it's getting better.

A little better, since they’ve been home, where they are to, essentially, slow down and hang about for the remainder of the year 2007.

The widespread critically presupposed humble beginnings that defined the Friars' petite, home-game-free October appears to have been effectively razed and reformed by the calendar Zamboni. Looking ahead to a comparatively relaxing December slate, PC withholds a .500 transcript through five Hockey East games and is riding its first winning streak via last weekend's decisive drubbings of Brown and Robert Morris, which nimbly doubled their overall stash in the W column (4-6-2 record).

The Friars have accordingly settled in to their second consecutive five-day block of game preparation (and second since they commenced their game schedule) before they, albeit temporarily, resume their conference slate with a two-game visit from Maine. That will serve as the middle chunk of a six-game homestand, which will subsequently close out next week when Yale and Harvard drop in.

Naturally, the cursorily viewed statistics have replicated the morphing mood around the women’s front of Schneider Arena. Saturday’s 5-2 Mayor’s Cup conquest and the 7-1 pinning of the Colonials were exponentially innovative margins of victory, arguably enough to recompense the back-to-back shutout ruins from St. Lawrence and Connecticut that magnified the Friars’ initial struggles.

But then there was the alleviating blend of a smooth tune-up week and the still rampant yearning for this collegiately small-market club to unveil its depth. With that, Providence kilned two afternoons of umpteen sugar rushes in the offensive zone, sometimes whacking three or four successive rebounds on a single play.

Such a routine tempest had been ostensibly churning the previous weekend at Ohio State, but the insidious Buckeyes, utterly eclipsed by their authoritative conference rivals in Minnesota and Wisconsin, restricted the Friars to a goal-per-game towards slapping them with a pair of chin-knockers.

Returning to a brightly lit home rink, PC surpassed the 40-shot plateau for the first two times since their opening day 2-2 draw at Maine, with sixteen out of eighteen skaters taking at least one stab at Robert Morris stoppers Brianne McLaughlin and/or her third period successor Daneca Butterfield.

Behind all that, Friar goaltender Danielle Ciarletta, previously forced to sway at the pace of a rod hockey imitation and occasionally requiring a night off, got comparatively regal treatment, facing a mere 15 Colonial shots, only three in the third period.

Although, discipline-wise, the Friars have not yet weaned themselves to more consistently licit play, the penalty kill has admitted but three goals in their last five contests, one of which allotted Robert Morris a transitory 1-0 lead five minutes into the opening frame.

Conversely, the power play thawed out enough for back-to-back multi-goal games and a weekend connectivity percentage of .444. Over five opportunities in the Brown contest, the assertive PC attackers dispensed a head-spinning 19 shots at the head-standing netminder Nicole Stock.

How newly swift was PC in its Sunday encore? Less than ten minutes after the Colonials wrested the upper hand, even leading the shooting gallery 4-2 for a moment, tireless senior defender Kathleen Smith, the club’s leading gunslinger, kindled an enriching bang-bang-bang movement with her first of two goals on the game, inserting a knotting extra-man conversion at 14:19.

Within the nineteenth minute of play, Cherie Hendrickson’s first of four points had given the Friars and ultimately permanent lead, Ciarletta had denied a break by Colonial Ali Proodian, and then watched defender Brittany Simpson tour the disc full-length and set up Danielle Tangredi for a 3-1 edge.

By the closing buzzer, Smith was barely alone at the top of a no-single-standout scoring chart with 9 points. After sole runner-up Hendrickson, who whooshed to 8 on the year, fifteen Friars stand in the 1-7 range over twelve games.

Quick Feeds: Freshman defender Amber Yung inserted her first collegiate goal at 3:50 of the second period, then took precisely three minutes to have a hand –opposite Hendrickson- in on Kelli Doolin’s conversion. Yung’s evident prototype, Erin Normore, charged up her team-leading seventh assist on power play blueline associate Simpson’s strike midway through the third.