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Saturday, December 8, 2007

Hockey Log: Sunday Edition

Eagles carry on without Motherwell’s coddle

For the moment, as they put their Hockey East slate on ice for the holidays, the Boston College Eagles have appeared to convert their negative energy.

Considering the ceaselessly succeeding lesions inflicted all this season on the two-time national finalist, the latest being the abrupt flight of two-way connoisseur Brett Motherwell, there may have been no better cure than a sweep of time-honored rival Boston University. The Eagles attained just that last weekend, stamping the Terriers in a home-and-home series by a 10-5 aggregate and settled into second overall in the conference, albeit tightly sandwiched by Northeastern (13 points) and New Hampshire (11 points going into this weekend).

As of December 3, USCHO’s national poll has them in the #17 slot, behind the 8th-ranked Wildcats, #11 UMass-Amherst, and #12 Northeastern.

Back on November 15, though, BC was precisely in the middle of a six-game (0-3-3) winless slide when the lately troubled Motherwell had opted to bolt Chestnut Hill and parachute onto the AHL’s Syracuse Crunch. For the Eagles, that was 81 games, 44 assists, and 51 blueline-bred points lost.

As if the burden of filling the bottomless skates of another multifaceted skater, the towering Brian Boyle, and the off-season farewell to would-be senior goaltender Cory Schneider weren’t enough. Add the fact that returning scoring beacon Brock Bradford has been out since opening weekend with a shattered arm.

Going into the BU set, the tempest had concocted an uncharacteristic 2-3-3 (3-4-4 overall) transcript for Jerry York’s pupils.

Forty-eight hours, two hat tricks (one by Nathan Gerbe, the other by fast-blossoming freshman Ben Smith), and 74 saves by Schneider successor John Muse later, the Eagles were above .500 for the first time since their stunning, dream-dashing overhaul by Michigan State last April.

And when BC buffs step back, they can take comfort in the fact that they have only witnessed one shortcoming by a multi-goal margin, that being a 5-2 slide at New Hampshire November 10.

Another family album remake

To an impartial city gent, another ho-hum changing of the guard -an event historically inclined to occur when the game switches campuses each year- took place in the PC Men’s 8-0 Mayor’s Cup thrashing of Brown last Tuesday. But as USCHO subsequently reported, it was expectably more to the Friar Fanatics and intriguingly more to coach Tim Army.

Army’s father, Tom, partook in a memorable steamrolling of the Bears back in his day. Tim had his turn as a player. And now the coach Tim Army has, in a way, preserved the at least one-shot tradition for another generation.

The distinguished college hockey website noted that the last Divine City Dance to end so one-sidedly occurred in Army’s junior season with the Friars, when he partook in another 8-0 triumph –mind you the Mayor’s Cup concept was still three years away at the time.

Regardless, Tom Army has his own memories from the program’s most decisive win over the cross-town rival altogether, a 9-0 win from 1961.

The younger Army cited the fact that he and his father have quickly sparked a traditional pre-game phone conversation when the city’s prize is on the line.

In the online report, the skipper was quoted: “I just talked about the importance of the game from a city standpoint, from a state standpoint.

“For alumni and former players at both schools it means an awful lot. We’ve kind of preached the message for three years.”

Crowning Collaboration

The aforementioned Boyle is in the midst of almost spotlessly translating his Chestnut Hill achievements up in New Hampshire with the AHL’s Manchester Monarchs –and with noteworthy aide from a not-too-ancient collegiate rival, that being Teddy Purcell.

Purcell relinquished his three remaining allotted years at the University of Maine to sign with the Los Angeles Kings last summer and in turn snuck over state boundaries to converge with the bruising, blazing monument Boyle, who had already tasted a prolonged 2007 Calder Cup run with the Monarchs.

Though Boyle has apparently settled into a defensive designation –though based on his four-year track with the Eagles, that still may not be written in stone- Purcell has been on the giving end on five of six occasions where the two have collaborated for a goal.

At any rate, Purcell stood atop the AHL charts with 31 points (24 assists among them) heading into this weekend and bagged the league’s Rookie of the Month crown for November. Boyle, meantime, was the sixth-hottest point-getter in the league with 17 through 22 games played.

Meanwhile, in the same organization, ex-UMass Minuteman Jon Quick won his NHL debut Thursday, sufficiently handling a petite workload of 17 shots towards LA’s 8-2 home drubbing of the Buffalo Sabres.

Augmenting Acquaintances

His offensive crop much more substantial post-Thanksgiving, PC Women’s coach Bob Deraney has, for the most part, solidified his depth chart. At the same time, he is in the gradually thawing habit of shuffling at random points of the game, pairing some of his still-dry scorers with those who have progressed of late, the implicit intent being to stretch the already well-shared magic to the whole roster.

Full-time fourth line center Pamela McDevitt was seen sandwiched between freshmen pin-ups Alyse Ruff and Jean O’Neill in place of Jackie Duncan once per period in Thursday’s Yale game. Likewise, the always positionally flexible Stephanie Morris, who this particular season has devoted most of her ice time to defensive tasks, gave Duncan a breather early in the third period.

Lake Whittemore Monsters

Ever since usurping the #1 distinction from the two-time national champion Wisconsin in a mid-November series, the New Hampshire Women have rigidly stayed true to form. Carrying a six-game winning streak into this weekend’s series with #6 Mercyhurst, their last line of business before the holidays, the Wildcats boast a 15-2-0 overall transcript and a flood of individual hardware gravy.

Rookie goaltender Kayley Herman, the league’s top rookie in November, has likely assumed the Wildcats’ once-ambiguous starting position as she sits at the top in five of the league’s six categories in her position. Meanwhile, six skaters, most notably the runaway junior Sam Faber, have point-per-game rates or better for the last undefeated team (9-0, plus a stark 40-8 aggregate score) in Hockey East action.

Merry-Mack

The lottery ball order that has defined the Hockey East standings through the imminent holiday break has applied to everyone, the oft-derided Merrimack program included. Early as it is, a while they are merely tied with Boston University for 8th place at the moment (the Terriers also have a game in hand) the Warriors are already seeing promising specimens, particularly the fact that forwards Rob Ricci and Matt Jones have already exceeded 2006-07 top gun Pat Kimball’s 11 points (Ricci: 16, Jones: 12). Maybe add that their 3-5-1 transcript heading into Saturday’s tilt with basement-laden Maine has essentially matched their 2006-07 conference-only finish of 3-22-2.

Czech This Out

Last Monday, the weekly NHL on Versus broadcast took intermission time to deliver the US World Junior Championship roster, which will include three Hockey East rookies –BU’s Brian Strait and Colin Wilson and UNH phenom James vanRiemsdyk. It will be a not-so-long-awaited reunion for the three ex-National Development Program partners (opposite PC’s Joe Lavin). Strait, Wilson, and vanRiemsdyk will reconvene at their former skating abode, Michigan’s Ann Arbor Ice Cube, later this week before they will fly to the Czech Republic-hosted holiday tournament looking to build the World U18 gold medal that they shared last spring.

Quick Feeds

At Friday’s tilt with Union, unmistakable Bruins vocalist Rene Rancourt appeared at Schneider Arena, decked in a black #20 Friars jersey, Santa hat, and all, to –surprise, surprise- belt out the national anthem and later rouse the Friar Fanatics with a string of Christmas carols during the first intermission....Friday’s game was also preceded with a moment of silence for Dr. Jack Boyle, grandfather of defenseman Cody Wild and devout Friars fan, who passed away December 1…Over their three-game winning wave to start the month of December, the Friars have seen a dozen individual multi-point performances, including one for each game by now leading scorer Jon Rheault (season total of 16). Rheault is also running away in the area of shots on goal with a grand total of 70 through 14 games…Overall, the PC Men are #2 amongst Hockey East teams on both the power play and penalty kill and have the best special team’s net at +13. In exclusively conference play, they are tops with both the PK and net rates…Going into the holiday freeze, PC Women’s freshman Alyse Ruff’s seven goals in conference play have landed her in a four-way with three UNH Wildcats (Sam Faber, Jennifer Hitchcock, Jenn Wakefield) in that area.

Harvard 4, Women's Hockey 1

Buckled-down Friars blinded by Crimson

For the better part of Saturday night’s first period, the Providence College Friars, forty-eight hours removed from a stinging setback to Yale, appeared refreshed and primed to convert their energy against a fiery Harvard team.

But for the second straight game, the second period defined another Friar falter. The 2nd-nationally ranked Crimson, fueled by their starting unit of Sarah Vallaincourt, Jenny Brine, and Liza Ryabnika, broke out for three goals to sculpt the eventual 4-1 final, PC’s first multi-goal defeat in a month.

With the win, the Crimson, who had not played a non-ECAC game before their drop-in at UConn on Friday, augmented their season log to 11-0. The Frias, meantime, continue to have their hard luck with non-conference and ranked rivals, withholding 2-7 and 1-4 transcripts in those respective situations.

Despite the overall array of positives that the Friars had exploited in their 4-1 run prior to hosting the still undefeated Crimson, coach Bob Deraney decided to tweak his formula Saturday. For the first time in the homestand, he did not start his blazing, seasoned line of Mari Peknonen, Sarah Feldman, and Katy Beach –who would concoct the lone home highlight of the night anyway.

Additionally, freshman goaltender Jennifer Smith (28 saves) got the nod for the first time since she compressed another poll-based Hub club –Boston College- at the tail-end of October. And at first, Smith was introduced to Harvard in undemanding 101 form while her associates whittled through the Crimson defense to ultimately lead in shots on goal 7-3 within the first 15:50 of play.

Within seconds of that mark, though, an interference call against Friars blueliner Colleen Martin perked up the Harvard power play for the icebreaker. Hastily regrouping after an immediate off-the-draw clear, Ryabkina shuffled through neutral ice and forwarded the puck to Vallaincourt, whose 22 points through her first ten games matched her linemates’ (11 each) aggregate.

Vallaincourt stepped to the high slot and turned to the far circle to find Caitlin Cahow, who one-timed an ice-kisser through Smith’s pads.

Up to about that point, Providence was faring most pucky dory with its perceptible short-shift strategy –a must when raging against machines such as Harvard- keeping the action virtually uninterrupted in the opening frame. But upon returning to a fresh sheet, the visitors deposited a hefty load of salt before the Friars to steal the momentum.

At 7:53 of the second, Ryabnika absorbed Brine’s feed and aroused a congested crash to the net with her shot, which Smith froze with her stick, but watched as Vallaincourt extracted the rebound and buried it in the gaping right half of the net.

The Friars, who kept enough pace to lather on sixteen shots in the first forty minutes, did cut the deficit on one of umpteen dusty attacking zone grinds at 13:03. Beach found herself a lone ranger to the left of stopper Christina Kessler while her linemates and point patroller Kathleen Smith barely kept the puck onside before the Friars bench. Breaking out into a little more air, Smith rolled the biscuit to the unguarded Beach, who painstakingly retained her balance whilst lacing it home around Kessler’s blades.

It only took another forty-five seconds, though, for a two-minute holding sentence to Jenna Keilch and anther collaboration by the glimmering Harvard strike force –who swept the game’s three-star selection- to restore the two-goal difference.

Vaillancourt, stationed at the far point, whooshed a magnetic parallel pass to Brine, who just as nimbly handed over to Ryabnika for a back-door tap-in.

Within the final three minutes of the second, Brine inserted what would be the final lamp-lighter just as her team was through eroding a mini-PC power play –instituted when Crimson skater Anna MacDonald got a high-sticking call during her own team’s power play. Brine ambushed PC blueliner Amber Yung, who was awaiting a round-the-boards feed from Pehknonen, and hustled away down the far lane to stuff in her third point of the period.

Harvard –though at their busiest in the closing stanza- let up in the scoring department over that span, coming up empty on thirteen sparsely distributed stabs at Smith. But they likewise kept draining the Friars’ tanks, allotting them a mere two shots.

PC’s game total of 18 shots was virtually half of what it had cooked up in each of its six previous games.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Men's Hockey 5, Union 2

Skating Clutch Men

PC power play thaws out in third to top Union

Well in advance of his early December slate, Providence College coach Tim Army had expressed conviction that playing every three nights over a one-week period would be notably taxing for his increasingly evolving corps. And after two seemingly facile triumphs of Vermont and Brown, the Friars were indeed yanked down from cloud nine to start their tangle with a scurvy-stricken Union Dutchmen team.

Union, 1-5 in their six preceding games, jumped to an early shooting edge and lassoed the revamped Friars for a 1-1 tally that stood rigidly for more than thirty minutes of play.

But an ever-dreaded penalty plague ultimately came to haunt the Dutchmen early in the third period as PC busted the knot on its eighth man advantage of the evening via Kyle Laughlin with 17:59 to spare in regulation. Moments later, fellow captain Jon Rheault kept the newfound momentum rushing and the Friars paced themselves to a four-goal frame and 5-2 triumph in their last appearance at home this calendar year.

The Friars will now make a delicate effort to securely freeze this momentum in the three game-less weeks leading up to their year-end excursion to the Detroit-based Great Lakes Invitational.

The uplifting final stanza was a rushed reversal back to what has had Providence turning heads since returning from Thanksgiving break with a collectively resurfaced feeling. But the final product of what is now their lengthiest winning streak this season was nothing short of a gradual climb away from a storyline that defined their games before the rare holiday.

The Dutchmen barely withheld a 13-11 shooting edge at the first buzzer, neither team leading by more than three on that front, and they needed but 64 seconds to respond to the Friars icebreaker around the halfway mark of that period.

First, though, PC’s Greg Collins and Austin Mayer forked in a four-man scrum in the right corner of the Union zone, Mayer eventually pulling through and lacing a feed around the net intended for center Kyle MacKinnon, but which instead reached senior blueliner Trevor Ludwig. Ludwig, without a goal since his freshman campaign, gave the Friars a 1-0 edge with a blast over southpaw goaltender Justin Mrazek’s trapper.

The Dutchmen countered on their very next visit to Tyler Sims’ territory to snap his shutout streak at 130:37 worth of playing time. Off a draw in the far circle, winger Adam Presiniuk sent the PC stopper sprawling after his long-range bid. Center Mario Valery-Trabucco pounced to swipe home the rebound.

Union’s offensive output spiraled in the second to an infinitesimal three shot count. But Mrazek stood his ground against twenty smoothly distributed Friar stabs –eight of them on power plays- to keep the game tied through two.

In the waning stages of the middle frame, there were two most-abbreviated 5-on-3 sequences that favored the Friars (neither lasted more than fifteen seconds). A two-minute hooking sentence to Michael Beynon that carried over to the third was itself 15 ticks from expiration when fellow defender Brendan Milnarrow was whistled for tripping, giving PC’s night-long arid power play unit yet another mulligan.

This time, they clicked as Laughlin, one of the few not to brush the scoresheet against Brown, charged up his seventh of the year.

In another 1:38, defender Matt Taormina hunted down a no-icing behind his own net and laced it around the near boards to Wild. Wild lobbed a neutral zone-length Hail Mary to Rheault at the opposite blue line and watched the captain stretch his multi-point streak to three games with a breakaway, bar-down strike at 3:39.

The Friars subsisted on the resultant 3-1 advantage for the next twelve minutes. Through that stretch, they chalked up another eight shots compared to Union’s four (the Dutchmen were allotted but one shot on their own back-to-back set of power plays), and ultimately sprinkled a pair of empty netters within the final five minutes.

While Collins was off for hitting from behind, Mrazek darted to the bench surprisingly early to afford the Dutchmen a six-pack attack. However, Nick Mazzolini quelled the attack and set Wild up at the other end with 4:14 on the board.

Three minutes later, Mazzolini performed an encore in his own end and helped himself to a leisurely breakaway conversion for the Friars fifth goal, more than enough for Sims and Co. to shrug off Union defender Mike Schreiber’s last-minute power play tally.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Yale 2, Women's Hockey 1

Friars pinned by feisty Bulldogs

Thursday’s contesting teams were rolling in completely inverse directions at puck-drop: the host Providence College Friars smoothly subsisting on a four-game winning streak, the Yale Bulldogs 0-5-1 in their previous six outings. Yet the Dogs proved by far to be the most effectively resistant visitor during PC’s six-game homestand, which concludes Saturday against Harvard.

Whether those circumstances factored in the heat of the play or not, PC coach Bob Deraney acted on his inclination to throw a challenge flag when Yale shone in the middle frame to scurry ahead 2-1. On the equalizer at the 5:22 mark, Friars backliner Brittany Simpson had been chasing a fugitive puck off an attacking-zone face-off, seeking a routine regrouping session in neutral ice.

Instead, Simpson was entangled by Yale’s Caroline Murphy, who dropped on top of her at the far circle top of the Providence end. While the Friar faithful cried foul, alleging interference, Murphy’s fellow winger Kristin Stupay subsequently accepted Danielle Koslowski’s quick handover and snapped it bar down.

Four-and-a-half-minutes later, the officials agreed to go to the newfangled video booth when Helen Resor’s eventual winner was seemingly set up by a high-stick. The call nonetheless stood and the Friars, unable to recompense even in a 16-shot third period saw the 2-1 deficit solidify, and their hot streak vanquished.

Aside from the ultimately decisive, call-it-what-you-will second period, the revamped Providence team had all of its winning elements whirling through Thursday’s contest. Although, the conversely starved Bulldogs kept their borders considerably tighter than, say, the Maine Black Bears or Robert Morris Colonials before them.

The Friars were confined to a game total of 35 shots, their lowest since their last road excursion to Ohio State prior Thanksgiving and were barely outshot in the second by a 10-9 differential.

Nonetheless, they ran away with the shooting gallery for the first chunk of the opening frame, pouring out seven unanswered stabs to lead that category 8-1 by 7:04. But for the next eight minutes of play, the puck took a tour about as random as the footbag that a handful of Friars kick around an hour before each game, and neither team registered another shot until PC’s master puckslinger, Kathleen Smith, unleashed a slapper with 4:19 remaining.

Yale held the Friar strikers off for another lengthy stretch of hot potato in neutral ice before surrendering a wildly executed icebreaker with 1:05 till intermission.

In a sequence rather characteristic of the contest, an array of bodies tumbled in a scrum for the puck along the far red-line boards. When it squirted out, a fresh-off-the-bench Smith swooped in, darted into the Yale zone, and found Kelli Doolin scurrying down the middle alley. Doolin, flocked by backchecking Bulldogs, took her own tumble as she still managed to absorb Smith’s feed and tap it through goaltender Shivon Zilis before pulling off a full-body rollover to the right of the cage.

The Bulldogs, who mustered an infinitesimal two attempts at Friars stopper Danielle Ciarletta, remained hushed even through a power play in the wee minutes of the second period. But not long after that expired, Murray and Stupay caught their peculiar break on the team’s third shot.

Later, at 9:55 of that period, Kristi Howser took her own whack in a heavily congested area along the near post. Ciarletta tilted it over before the vacant left frame of the cage and Resor pounced to swat in the eventual winner.

Yale –which, the win aside, has now not surpassed two goals in its last seven games- looked to have a sufficient grip on its newfound momentum until precisely 90 ticks remained in the middle frame. It was then that defender Carlee Ness was flagged for checking PC’s Pamela McDevitt, seventy seconds before she was joined by Mandi Schwartz, caught tripping in the midst of the Friars growingly familiar power play swarm.

But the Bulldogs deprived the Friars of any shots on the two carry-over advantages, and even when her defending skaters melted and gave her the sweatiest period of the night, Zilis (game total: 34 saves) answered everything.

Providence, which has yet to fall by more than one goal on home ice, ran up five shots in the waning two minutes with six attackers, but could not sustain any prolonged buzzes as Yale cleared its zone three times.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Hockey Log

Scribe’s note: This week’s edition of The Hockey News (press date: December 4) included an NHL team’s column with a specific focus on “how each has done so far by position” Just for fun, and to provide work for a little more ink, here now is the PC program’s version of that report:

MEN

OFFENSE: Last year’s depth chart was so evidently arid that the incoming freshman class was touted as a potential pan of saviors. Mere entertaining thoughts designed first and foremost to fill Schneider Arena was all the veterans needed to step up. After Tuesday’s revolutionary 8-0 thrashing of Brown, top gun Matt Taormina has already doubled his 2006-07 point total of 7 with 15 through 14 games played. A similar storyline applies to Taormina’s fellow juniors Pierce Norton and Kyle Laughlin, with 13 and 11 points respectively. Already this season, the resurgent Friars have thrice forced an opposing coach to switch goaltenders.

DEFENSE: Taormina’s eccentric scoring impression has not seemed to force him to sacrifice his original occupation. But in any case, senior bouncer Trevor Ludwig and junior Cody Wild –when available (Ludwig has missed 8 games, Wild 6)- have kept true to form with a gloveful of building-wide audible hits. Meantime, the deft likes of rookies Eric Baier and Joe Lavin have consistently pitched in to an effort that has comfortably slimmed down the nightly workloads of goaltender Tyler Sims.

GOALTENDING: In conventional goaltender fashion, Sims has noticeably reflected the Friars’ early register, allowing 15 goals in his first four starts and giving way to back-up Chris Mannix for three of the team’s first four Hockey East games. But since returning for a momentous weekend sweep at Maine, Sims has charged up a 4-1-1 transcript with three shutouts.

WOMEN

OFFENSE: Collectively, Providence has cultivated nine multi-goal games out fourteen played and have distributed the scoring wealth rather evenly. Designated senior backliner Kathleen Smith is the only Friar with 10-plus points thus far, but another four (Alyse Ruff, Cherie Hendricksen, Sarah Feldman, Erin Normore) have nine apiece. Immediately after that, Brittany Simpson, Rachel Crissy, and Amber Yung boast eight heading into Thursday. Only two regular skaters have yet to hop on the scoresheet in a game this season.

DEFENSE: Half of the top eight Friar scorers are defenders, but similar to Taormina and Co., they have not harmfully abandoned their original posts. Over the course of a four-game winning streak, PC has confined its opposition to less than 30 shots per game and is learning to contain a discipline detonator that had a way of costing them games in the opening month of the season.

GOALTENDING: Even with the reliable Jana Bugden still around last season, coach Bob Deraney made a point of softening then-sophomore Danielle Ciarletta for her all-but-certain claim of the torch, summoning her for fourteen games. After recording a .500 transcript (5-5-3) that matched Bugden’s and the whole team’s, Ciarletta has appeared thirteen times this season and looks to be steadily ascending with the rest of her team. Over the first four chapters of a continuing six-game homestand, she has rapidly advanced her 1-6-2 overall transcript to 5-6-2 and withholds 2.67 GAA and .900 save percentage.

Quick Feeds: Through her hat trick in Saturday’s 7-2 romp of Maine, Alyse Ruff earned her second Hockey East Rookie of the Week honor in a month…The PC Women, currently affixed in a three-way tie for second place with the lately slipping Connecticut and Boston College, received their first honorable mention this season in USCHO’s Top 15 national poll Monday. Later this week, the Eagles will have two chances to absorb more conference points when they tangle with crosstown rivals Northeastern and BU, but however those ice chips may settle, the Friars will have three games in hand.…Thursday’s tilt with Yale, slated to commence at 7:00, will be the first of two women’s games to be televised through Cox Communications…Tuesday’s Mayor’s Cup game was the first in PC men’s history to be monitored by two referees, a sparsely used format that will come to full time use throughout the NCAA starting next season.

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.”

Monday, December 3, 2007

Hockey Log

Renewed Friars look to strike again

Their game comfortably resurfaced through two smooth blocks of practice sandwiching Thanksgiving break, the Providence College men’s hockey team translated the buildup well enough in their single-dip excursion to Vermont last weekend.

A virtually seamless tray of individual hors d’oeuvres signified a 4-0 pasting of the Vermont Catamounts Saturday night that saw, among other things, a personally revamping captain Jon Rheault pot two goals –both set up by linemates Ian O’Connor and Matt Germain- and Tyler Sims pace his way to career shutout #6, a franchise record. Sims’ workload practically dwindled by the period while his associate strikers chased Catamount starter Joe Fallon out of his crease early in a riotous three-goal second period, and then put their first bid at back-up Mike Spillane turn into the first of Rheault’s two conversions.

Coming home, though, with but a single day’s worth of preparation for Tuesday’s Brown showdown, head coach Tim Army stresses the effort not to get drunk on the pleasure of what may have been the Friars’ best all-around performance, and most momentous Hockey East victory, to date.

“It was good for Saturday night, then we got ourselves re-organized to get ready for Brown tomorrow night,” the anti-negligent skipper offered. “But it was obviously, at that stage of the year, with exams looming and Christmas break, it was certainly nice to go into the holiday season with a win in our last Hockey East game, particularly on the road against a team that’s very strong at home.

“We put ourselves in a positive position as we head into the second half of the Hockey East schedule, with a solid position in the middle of the standings, and with an opportunity, with some games in hand, to close the gap.”

With a 4-3-2 conference transcript in the cooler for the next six weeks, PC is in a three-way points deadlock with the two UMass squads. However, the Lowell Riverhawks, who will be waiting for a home-and-home set when the Hockey East slate does finally resume, have already exhausted eleven games as opposed to the Friars’ nine. The same holds true for second-place Boston College, who only lead those crammed into fourth place by two points.

As for the immediate future, a pair of ECAC rivals in Brown and Union is in store, their respective visits pried apart by a slim three nights. Such circumstances effectively mold together to produce a smattering of yet-to-be-mastered tasks by this edition of the Friars.

Lacking a win out of three previous non-conference games and with anything but the luxurious load of preparation they had prior to the Vermont trip, Army let out his distinctive one-step-at-a-time philosophy.

“What we would like is to continue the play that we maintained at Vermont and start to develop that consistency in our game overall,” he said. “These non-conference games (this week) are very important, because we haven’t won a non-conference game this season.”

The first foe, Mayor’s Cup rival Brown, can make the exact same proclamation. The Bears, who will shoot to renew Divine City bragging rights after their 2-1 squeeze at Meehan Auditorium last year, as well as fortify a plebeian 1-5-3 overall record, their only win coming against ECAC rival Colgate November 9. Their latest two outings –both Hockey East matches- saw them crumple before New Hampshire 5-2 and Northeastern 4-3.

Not that that budges the outlook from the PC bench. Nor does the fact that the other heralded intrastate rivalry, that being men’s basketball versus URI, tips off at the exact same time over in Kingston this year.

“It flies under our radar,” said Army rather simply, never one to divert from the task at hand. “We’ve gotta play with whoever’s here, however many people are here. Those are things that you can’t necessarily control.

“We’re at home, we’re in familiar surroundings. We need to establish the things that we do well as a hockey team and play an assertive game.”

Quick Feeds: Four current Friars have scoring credit in past Mayor’s Cup games. Junior defenseman Cody Wild has charged up an assist in each of his first two experiences, the more recent when he collaborated with John Cavanagh to set up since graduated Colin MacDonald’s lone Friar goal last year. Rheault collected a pair of helpers in the 2005-06 edition, aiding the Friars to a sound 5-1 home victory, while Nick Mazzolini chipped in an assist of his own…Senior netminder Sims has started every Brown game possible in his career, currently withholding a 1-2 log…Perhaps the only arid aspect to PC’s game at Vermont was the fact that it came up empty on four power play opportunities. On the other hand, the Friars penalty kill was equally unyielding and has now completely starved the opposition through four consecutive games…In Tuesday’s clash, freshman defenseman Eric Baier will have his first –and, most likely, only- collegiate encounter with his older brother, Paul. The elder son of the North Kingstown family is a senior bouncer at Brown with 2-1-3 totals through nine games this season.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Hockey Log

O’Neill latest to break out

Early as it still is in her season, and her Division-I career altogether, it is tough to give Providence College forward Jean O’Neill a “late bloomer” label. Although, compared to, say, such fellow rookies as Alyse Ruff (9 goals) and Amber Yung (7 assists and 8 points), she is.

Appearing in every game so far this season, the former Conestoga High School standout and Princeton Tiger Lily sprinkled an assist during the opening week of action and later potted two heart-and-grit goals over the Friars’ first home stretch. But over this past weekend against Maine, O’Neill, affixed with the scoring beacon Ruff and yet another rookie Jackie Duncan on the second line, doubled her point total, racking up a goal-assist package Saturday and pitching in a helper late Sunday.

Beforehand, O’Neill’s sparsely collected statistical highlights were the product of her nosing past the back-checkers (i.e., the fourth goal in an earthquake 5-4 home loss to Northeastern) or the old Ryan Smith strategy of perching herself before the goalie (her tip of Erin Normore’s offering against Dartmouth).

Lately, though, the Friars have all looked touch different what with two uplifting post-Thanksgiving wins and their ability to safely preserve the newfound momentum of five solid days of practice ice before the Black Bears’ visit. O’Neill proved to be no exception; perhaps even the epitome of the team’s collective pivot.

During the second period of Saturday’s 7-2 blowout, wherein PC broke away from a 1-0 to 4-1 edge, O’Neill pitched in on two of the connections through tireless, roadrunner-paced executions.

First, though abysmally late returning to the bench on a line change, she singlehandedly hunted down a fugitive puck in Maine’s breakout area and heaved it to Yung at the far point. O’Neill then crashed the net in anticipation of a rebound and had enough juice to tap the puck through goaltender Genevieve Turgeon before Katy Beach polished the job off.

On her next shift, O’Neill hung back on a two-on-one break with Ruff, reading the play well enough to invite a wide, wildly rolling rebound as it approached her along the far boards. At first unable to handle it, she startlingly crashed Maine’s routine breakout attempt, stepped forward a few paces, and inserted a low wrister for the goal.

Quick Feeds: For the second time in three games, a dozen Friars had at least one point in Saturday’s game. Six of them (Katy Beach, Rachel Crissy, Cherie Hendrickson, Jenna Keilch, Erin Normore, Brittany Simpson) preserved scoring streaks in doing so…One of those who did not chalk up any points in that game (before her two goals Sunday) was Kathleen Smith, though she had a whole other highlight within seconds of first hitting the ice Saturday. In the midst of a leisurely lap during the warm-up period, Smith’s stick got entangled in the baliseauto.com banner on the dasherboard in from of the PC bench, tearing off the middle of it…Smith’s two-goal package in the latter Maine game was her second such performance this season and nudged her back to the top of the Friars scoring chart. Four associates are tied for second with nine points…For one shift during the third period, already up 4-0, Friars coach Bob Deraney gave Duncan an extra breather by placing sophomore Pamela McDevitt between Ruff and O’Neill…The second period of Sunday’s game was the first penalty-free frame the Friars and the given opposition have composed this season. On top of that, only one goal, courtesy of Sarah Feldman, was logged on the scoresheet, and a comparatively slim shooting gallery of 11-5, PC, took place.

Women's Hockey 4, Maine 0

Monday December 3, 2007

Early pounces pave win for Friars

A slim 3:40 had left the first period playing clock before the Maine Black Bears had inscribed four unfavorable entries on the scoresheet.

Precisely thirty ticks removed from slipping behind the Friars, 2-0, Maine forward Abby Barton overdid her counterattack, plowing right into goaltender Danielle Ciarletta’s face and receiving a two-minute penalty box sentence. Off the subsequent draw, Vanessa Vani blew PC’s Katy Beach to the ice, allotting the already flying Friars a whopping 1:56 of 5-on-3 play.

Though Providence did not add any layers to their lead right away, or for the rest of the period, they clamped down and ultimately squeezed out a 4-0 triumph, the team’s first shutout of the season, for a sweep of the Black Bears and a four-for-four transcript over consecutive home weekends.

The Friars have effectively boosted themselves to a 4-2-1 conference transcript, and will have another two-thirds of their Hockey East schedule still waiting in the cooler after New Year’s. The blunderstruck Black Bears, meantime, are still without a win in the last two months.

Maine did not simply succumb to their early lesions by any means. However badly shagged out she may have been from her second heaviest sweat of the season twenty-four hours previous, Genevieve Turgeon got the starting nod for the Black Bears again Sunday, and her defensive corps held the Friars off much better than on Saturday (36 total shots faced). Furthermore, the visiting skaters unhesitatingly reached out when they had their chances against Ciarletta, including two lengthy two-player stretches of their own.

But Ciarletta, making her eighth consecutive start, stood firm to withstand a total distribution of twenty-three shots, more than half of those coming in a heated first period, and earn her second career shutout as a Friar.

Before she needed to answer any urgent calls, though, Ciarletta watched her incessantly gelling praetorians nab the immediate upper hand. At 2:07, Sarah Feldman and Kelli Doolin were forking for the Friars in the near corner of the offensive zone before Feldman assumed full control and zipped the puck out to defender Erin Normore.

Normore, with eight helpers heading into the game but no goals of her own to speak off, hatched that G-column goose egg by leveling a straightaway slapper in through a screen.

One minute later, just as the PA description of the previous conversion was wrapping up, another healthily offensive-minded blueliner, Kathleen Smith, made it 2-0 when she looped the biscuit around the near post and stuffing in her first of two goals on the day.

Maine was pushed back a little more by the aforementioned jitter-induced penalties, but Turgeon tilted away all three PC power play shots. In the latter half of the period, the Black Bears seized their own scoring chances and effectively held the puck down at the other end of the rink.

Within the final four minutes before intermission, PC’s Mari Pehkonen and Doolin had both been whistled, resulting in 1:48 worth of a 5-on-3 kill. But while Maine closed the shooting gallery gap from 13-6 to 13-12 Ciarletta withstood all of the head-spinning.

Four minutes into the second period, the Friars’ starting line, which has curiously been letting its nine striking associates take most of the credit, teamed up to make it 3-0. Pehkonen journeyed from the far alley of the zone behind the Black Bear cage and forwarded a short range feed to Feldman.

Feldman in turn left a drop pass for Katy Beach and then turned a counterclockwise semi-circle into the slot, waiting for Beach’s return feed, which she absorbed and wristed high to the left of Turgeon.

Maine only managed four stabs at Ciarletta through the middle frame, but reloaded its desperate gun rack for the third, logging a total of nine. The Friars, meanwhile, sprinkled on another fourteen at Turgeon and used an early power play to solidify the eventual score.

Exactly one minute after Lexi Hoffmeyer went off for making contact to Pehkonen’s head on an open-ice check, Smith accepted Jean O’Neill’s shipment from the behind the net, wandered from the near circle top to the opposite post, and flicked one home top shelf.

The Black Bears earned another prolonged 5-on-3 stretch, a total of 91 seconds, within the final five minutes of regulation, but managed merely two shots and were repeatedly forced to regroup over PC clearances.