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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Yale 2, Women's Hockey 1 (OT)

Friars feel Yale-ment again
Report based on Gametracker

New Haven, Conn.- Howser giveth and Howser taketh away.

They like their hosts taking a tantalizing pace to thaw out after three-plus weeks free of game action, the Friars yesterday initially nursed a brittle 1-0 lead, planted at 3:26 of the second period while Yale’s top gun Crysti Howser was incarcerated for hooking.

But upon failing to stock up any additional support while goaltender Genevieve Lacasse stared down on a snowballing frequency of stabs in her area, they ultimately paid in the form of watching Howser & Friends jet off in a torrent of triumph. Merely fourteen seconds into a bonus round made possible by a third period power play conversion, Howser deposited her team-best 11th goal of the season on her team-leading seventh registered stab on the day, granting the Bulldogs a 2-1 triumph at Ingalls Rink.

The structural and sequential parallels between yesterday’s fall-from-ahead misadventure and the previous convergence of these programs at Schneider Arena were unnerving and unwelcoming from a Friartown viewpoint. Providence had, just as they did on December 6 of last year, slit a not-so-catastrophic wound on a team perennially eclipsed by their ECAC superiors (Dartmouth, Harvard, St. Lawrence) and subsequently authorized a Yale comeback, effectively spilling another pair of invisible, but vital, nonconference points.

A substantially shorthanded Yale bench –restricted yesterday to merely 10 strikers and 5 blueliners- did nothing to fetter the home team in an arm wrestling match between Lacasse (34 saves) and Jackee Snikeris (26 saves). The Bulldogs rate of scoring chances only accelerated as time pressed on.

Although, through the opening frame, a previously laser-beamed defense that had allotted the opposition no more than 21 shots in each of its last four games prior the break gave out to let the Friars discharged 13 SOG in the first period. But Snikeris, who would improve herself to 4-3-0 and has now allowed a shallow 15 goals in seven starts, didn’t budge and her praetorian guards made a jutting contribution by confining the PC power play to one shot over its first two unanswered opportunities.

But at 3:01 of the middle frame, not long after Lacasse had neutralized a five-shot sugar rush on the Bulldogs’ part, Howser’s infraction granted the Friars a third 5-on-4 sequence. Within precisely 25 seconds, the acetylene Laura Veharanta recovered her reliable touch to convert a setup by Ashley Cottrell and Erin Normore –who each earned their 10th helper on the year.

So the most radiant Friars from Part I of the season were back, if only for a one-shot splash. And the radiant rookie Lacasse kept firm at her post even while Yale pulled ahead in the shooting gallery, upgrading their bushel of stabs from eight in the first period to a cumulative 23 after forty minutes.

But PC’s pleasantly unblemished discipline fizzled in the wee minutes of the third, granting the Bulldogs its first power play at 0:43 (Christie Jensen going off for obstruction hooking) and second at 5:12 (Stephanie Morris flagged for roughing).

Lacasse’s skating quartet of penalty killers, not unlike the one before Snikeris in a previous stretch, stifled the bulk of Yale’s power play onslaught, blocking two shots and turning three wide in each PK sequence. The stopper herself needed to deal with but three bids.

But that third swing fell with a table-turning vengeance, senior forward Maggie Westfal thrusting home teammate point patroller Heather Grant’s soapy rebound to draw a 1-1 knot with 13:02 to spare in regulation.

The Friars, whose offensive output slimmed from 13 opening frame shots to an aggregate 13 over the latter two periods, went numb over one last power play of their own. Veharanta saw her solitary PP bid blocked while the Bulldogs spotted a pair of far-between shorthanded hacks at Lacasse.

Those ominous implications over the momentum translated smoothly into a blink-long overtime, where Howser –who last season assisted on classmate Carry Resor’s tiebreaker in Yale’s first program victory on the Divine Campus- polished this one off firsthand.

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com

Monday, December 29, 2008

Hockey Log

Yung deviates normal itinerary
Wrapping up USA holiday camp while mates visit Yale

For once, Finnish Flare Mari Pehkonen is not required –indeed, not authorized, per a U22 age limit- to donate another block of her time and aptitude to her homeland program. She’d otherwise be in Germany once more for the annual MLP Cup tournament (nee European Air Canada Cup).

Coincidentally, on tomorrow’s matinee visit to Yale, PC shall mark a perfect attendance milestone for another senior –Erin Normore, who as of her first shift on the day will have offered up her all-encompassing services in each of 125 career opportunities during her distinguished stay on the Divine Campus.

Hardly an auspicious time for yet another Friar to briefly pull her blades off an intercollegiate ice surface. But, as the can’t-be-perfect universe of elements dictates, Normore’s stylistic understudy, sophomore Amber Yung, is in the midst of USA Hockey’s Minnesota-based holiday camp, which will culminate Wednesday morning.

Yung, who devoted a worthwhile sliver of her summer regimen to the U22 Select series versus Team Canada, was one of 58 icers penciled in to the age-equal camp, conducted in part by former Friar player and coach Jackie Barto.

Intermingled with a smattering of established international gems, increasingly usual suspects, and sheer newbies, Yung is toiling with Team Red, opposite three Hockey East cohabitants in BC’s Meghan Fardelmann and New Hampshire’s Kacey Bellamy and Sam Faber.

The Reds and Blues (who roster the likes of Karen Thatcher) will wrap up their five-day regimen of practices and scrimmages when they face one another off at 8:15 CST Wednesday morning, after which Yung is expected to return here and rev up for next week’s Cornell series. Team White consists strictly of the U18 team fostering for the forthcoming World Championships.

In the meantime, Yung’s voluntary absence immobilizes her own bid for a Normore-like presence record with the Friars after 53 consecutive games played. This leaves classmate Alyse Ruff and frosh Ashley Cottrell, Jennifer Friedman, Christie Jensen, and Laura Veharanta as the only other perfect attendees active in the program.

As he did last month while junior Colleen Martin was recuperating from a temporary ailment, head coach Bohb Deraney will most likely reel Normore back to the blue line, though the two-way connoisseur has long established that she can comfortably take a forward assignment once the defense’s numerical constraints let up once more.

Fence-ridden and defense-minded
The Bulldogs, 5-6-0 overall and 3-4-0 against ECAC rivals, have concocted an even 27-27 overall scoring differential in their first 11 games on the season, amounting to a game-by-game median of 2.45 red lights on each end.

The Friars, though they offered hints of an escalating offensive production rate before they went on their long hiatus, currently boast an average of 2.53 GF per game while authorizing a slim 1.82 GA.

Projecting tomorrow’s goaltending card is one of the more constricted calls on the schedule. PC’s dynamic duo of Genevieve Lacasse and Danielle Ciarletta and Yale’s youthful pairing of Jackee Snikeris and Genny Ladiges are all nurturing supra-.900 save percentages. Although, the Bulldogs have apportioned their work load most evenly, with each stopper seeing action in six games and Ladiges holding the upper hand in the GA department, 14-13.

Quick Feeds: Yale was one of the late bloomers in commencing their 2008-09 schedule –their season opener fell on Oct. 25 at New Hampshire- in large part owing to the extensive offseason renovations to Ingalls Rink. As a result, today will merely mark Date #12 on their 34-game season schedule. They will cram the remaining 22 outings, all but two of them ECAC games, within the first 52 days of 2009…The Friars and Bulldogs are two of only four teams –opposite UNH and Quinnipiac- between the two eastern conferences who have yet to grant a shorthanded goal to the opposition…Senior Cristi Howser is on relatively stable pace to claim Yale’s scoring title for the fourth time, topping the charts with 10 goals and 16 points to date…Tomorrow’s 3:00 showdown can be followed via Gametracker through either club’s website or through an audio or videocast courtesy Yale’s home page.

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Hockey Log: Sunday Edition

Imagine a “Cup Championship Series”

The man who, come about midday January 20, will be the new “decider” has spoken up about it. So maybe now, more than ever, Division I football’s Bowl Championship system will undergo sincere consideration for refinement effective about a year from now. Major League Baseball cooperatively perked up its ears when Senator Mitchell of Maine took a stand against steroids, did it not?

Or the system may just retain its rigidity and resist change of any sort.

Come what may, perhaps it’s high time hockey devotees offered up their holiday gratitude that the authorities in their collegiate game do not brandish the same financial means, ironically unquenched avarice, and disregard for public opinion of their pigskin cousins.

Otherwise, if, hypothetically, the latest national polls (disseminated on December 15) froze in place through championship weekend, we could have been facing this itinerary come April.

Disclaimer: Yes, the BCS is so disorderly that they don’t even assign teams in even general accordance with their final rank. In unreal reality, the committee would know where to put these teams based on the upshots of conference championships, etc.

Additionally, any and every one of these events’ names is subject to smothering sponsorship (e.g. the Bickford’s Grill Cup presented by CCM/RBK).

National championship – Rotating sites (This year at Verizon Center – Washington, D.C.)
2009 Matchup: #1 Notre Dame vs. #2 Miami (Ohio)
Two years ago, the gridiron selection committee wouldn’t have it when the peerless Michigan-Ohio State rivalry had a statistically apt chance to spontaneously rekindle six weeks after their prescheduled get-together. For them, it’s strictly nonconference only, whether followers like it or not.

But here, heck, Maine arm wrestled New Hampshire through overtime en route to the national crown a decade ago. And six years later, four WCHA tenants converged in April wondering where the fifth participant was and whether they needed treatment for uncontrollable déjà vu. All that considered, these two out-of-the-blue powerhouses who have made the better rungs of the CCHA look like the CCCP have each earned their right to square off for the title, whether followers like it or not.

Hockeytown University Classic – Joe Louis Arena – Detroit
2009 Matchup: #3 Boston University vs. #4 Minnesota
Take it from someone who spent a four-year block of his boyhood on the outskirts of Detroit: College Hockey at “The Joe” is fairly addictive to local puckheads. And the “season” only stretches from the Great Lakes Invitational to the CCHA Championship. One more twirl between two randomly selected programs would surely be an embraced excuse to break out the Joe College mascot –a skating graduate complete with a cap, gown, and 1970s goalie mask- one more time.

Speaking of the 70s, here’s how one justifies the intraleague matchup for the title game, beyond sticking to proper poll positions. Who doesn’t want a chance to revisit the rivalry that stirred the famous Frozen Four Bloodbath of 1976? We’ll still have one holdover in Professor Parker, who claimed a MacInnes Cup of cheer in the 2002 GLI in his last voyage to Detroit. And Michigan’s hockey mansion will make for perfect neutral grounds between visitors from its two sandwiching puck-centric regions.

Bay State Cup – DCU Center – Worcester, Mass.
2009 Matchup: #5 Denver vs. #6 Northeastern
Hey, we’re realistic. The Garden, what with its NHL and NBA tenants, the Beanpot, the HEA championship, high school events, etc., would likely be a tad too strained to host a championship event year in and year out. Plus, disgruntled Denver fans may perceive a bit of an unfair advantage in favor of this Beanpot staple. So this event is happily settled on a genuinely neutral pond.

Cabin Cup – Xcel Energy Center – St. Paul
2009 Matchup: #7 Boston College vs. #8 Princeton

The self-proclaimed State of Hockey can do better than this newfangled “Minnesota College Hockey Showcase,” which merely convenes the state’s four WCHA inhabitants and, despite the rigid dreaminess of Commissioner Bruce McLeod, can’t duplicate the Beanpot. Here’s their chance. Not to mention, here’s a chance for BC junior defenseman Carl Sneep –a proud gem plucked out of Brainerd High- and Princeton sophomore Matt Godlewski –hailing from Elk River- to clash on the site of thei distinguished state high school championship contests.

Olympic Village Classic – Herb Brooks Arena – Lake Placid, N.Y.
2009 Matchup: #9/10 Colorado College vs. #10/9 Cornell
First issue to resolve: who wears white? Do you base it on a coin toss between the participating clubs or the dictating poll panels? (USCHO favors the Tigers by an ice chip; USA Today is siding with the Big Red). Cornell’s Ithaca campus sits but a roughly three-hour drive southwest of the historic Olympic barn, but there are inherent Miracle memories in CC’s participation. After all, that seem of Soviet slayers was initially assembled at the late Broadmoor World Arena in Colorado Springs, ex-home of Tiger hockey. Everyone’s a sentimental winner in this arrangement.

Mile High Melee – Pepsi Center – Denver
2009 Matchup: #11/12 Air Force vs. #12/11 Michigan
Same pregame bump as the Lake Placid tangle. And once you’ve hurdled over that, there’s no escaping at least a few grunts of home ice advantage in favor of the Falcons. Then again, the Wolverines have utitlized Yost in past regional tournaments to stamp facile tickets to the Frozen Four. Regardless, to paraphrase Rihanna, shut up and drive to Denver, fans.

Coffee Pot – Dunkin Donuts Center
2009 Matchup: #13 Vermont vs. #14 Wisconsin

Hey, Friar Puck’s not utilizing this facility or tournament name anymore, so why not have at it, NCAA? As for the game itself, you’re looking at one team that merely missed out on Sweet 16 membership in 2008 on account of Boston College zapping them in the Hockey East final, in effect swiping the requisite automatic bid. On the visiting end, you have a program that mysteriously followed five of its conference cohabitants to the dance and hosted its own regional –even though it brandished a losing record and missed out on the WCHA Final Five. One will skate off with a fun-size piece of hardware. Catamount fans, in particular, ought to be salivating right here.

Buckeye State Cup – Nationwide Arena – Columbus, Ohio
2009 Matchup: #15/14 New Hampshire vs. #16/15 Nebraska-Omaha

It is still fairly perplexing that the 2005 Frozen Four was held at the former Value City Arena as opposed to the slightly larger, more posh shrine to the NHL Blue Jackets. But this way, Columbus hockey fans will finally get a firsthand feel for post-season action, let alone with firsthand championship implications.

Quick Feeds: PC women’s assistant coach Amy Quinlan will serve as Team USA’s video coordinator at the seond annual U18 World Championships, answering to head coach Mark Johnson, Jan. 5-11 in Fussen, Germany…New Englanders privileged enough to own or track down a TV set carrying Versus for last week’s Bruins-Devils tussle must have taken note of the jutting presence of former Friar and P-Bruins captain Jay Leach in the New Jersey lineup. After he had whittled off slivers of credit for two games in Boston three seasons ago and two in Tampa last season, the bruiser has seen action in 15 of the Devils’ last 19 ventures, garnering roughly 15 minutes of ice time per night, a cumulative +4 rating, and 21 PIM…Happy birthday to a former BU parent and soon-to-be UNH parent, Ray Bourque…This author’s picks for the out-of-market game of the week: two honorable mentions in recent polls in UMass-Lowell and Minnesota-Duluth seek to upgrade their respective national postures in Day 1 of the newfangled Shillelagh Tournament –infamously transplated from Tampa to suburban Chicago late last summer. In the women’s spectrum, BU vies to retain its first-half luster with a two-night visit to the similarly hungry Ohio State program.

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com

Friday, December 26, 2008

On Hockey

Centers of attention
vanRiemsdyk, Wilson anchor veteran core at WJC


New Hampshire sizzler James vanRiemsdyk somehow squeezed his destructively gawk-worthy frame into that unheard-of median that offers nascent NHLers a third tour of duty in the World Junior Championships.

There are those, like Sidney Crosby, who crack their country’s roster so early (minimum age limit: 16) they have to pack an all-encompassing face shield per IIHF rules. But, by the same token, those peerless players will have graduated to The Show by 18.

More commonly, though, one is selected for the post-holiday adventure when he is a collegiate freshman or the equivalent age and, lo and behold, watches his eligibility evaporate after no more than two tournaments.

But vanRiemsdyk, who won’t hit 20 until May, got a jumpstart to his magnetic attention seizure while a member of the National Team Development Program two years back and has since forged a flexible timetable with the Philadelphia Flyers, who laid claim to his rights with the second overall pick in the 2007 Draft.

Citing a personal cautionary decision to whet his blades for at least another year, concomitant with a timely resurgence on Philly’s part, vanRiemsdyk is topping the scoring charts in Hockey East as a UNH sophomore and now returns to Team USA as the reigning point-leader (11) in the WJC pool.

He and fellow towering pivot Colin Wilson of Boston University both. Wilson, whom Nashville plucked from the pool seventh overall last summer, will split the “A” with associate Terrier Kevin Shattenkirk in his second World Junior excursion, beneath head captain Jonathon Blum –another Predator prospect fostering with the WHL’s Vancouver Giants.

The Americans commence round robin play at suburban Ottawa’s ScotiaBank Place in a 3:30 twig-lock with Germany this afternoon. The aforementioned returnees –together with Minnesota freshman Jordan Schroeder, fellow Gopher Cade Fairchild, Notre Dame’s Ian Cole, and Michigan’s Matt Rust- recall coming within hooking distance of hardware and hope this year’s offering tips the scale.

"I know we've got a lot of talent on this team," vanRiemsdyk said in Monday’s issue of the Toronto Sun. "We've got (seven) guys coming back from last year's team and it's exciting to be playing in this tournament again. It's also exciting to play with Colin and Jordan again. We had some good success in the past and hopefully we'll get it started here."

By “it,” he implicitly means a new habit of playing somewhere a tad more upmarket than the bronze medal game for a change. In the four tournaments since the youthful Star-Spangled Skaters broke themselves new ice with gold in 2004, the program has been lodged in a pothole of 3rd/4th place finishes, only once claiming a medal in 2007.

Last winter, the Amerks posted an infallible 4-0 log in round robin action, but puffed out inconveniently when they confronted Canada in the semifinal, losing 4-1 on the minimal strength of vanRiemsdyk’s late third period goal. The following day, they submitted to Russia, 4-2, to relinquish the bronze.

Wilson, vanRiemsdyk, and one fellow Hockey Easterner in BC freshman Jimmy Hayes constitute three of four U.S. strikers boasting the Cyclopean combo of a 6-foot-plus stature and 200-plus pounds in weight. All will indubitably pack in considerable muscle-based maneuverability, but the vets have the rest of their dressing room leaning forward with an expectant, little-brotherly smile for their seasoning and recent radiation in intercollegiate action.

Amongst all HEA puckslingers, vanRiemsdyk is #1 with 26 points overall; Wilson third with 21. In the way of assists, vanRiemsdyk is tops with 17, Wilson #2 with 14. Wilson has been the most proficient individual on anyone’s power play, charging up 4-7-11 totals when the Terriers are a man up. An otherwise shallow New Hampshire PP brigade has been supplied with four goals and six helpers via vanRiemsdyk.

Fifth-year NTDP U18 head coach Ron Rolston –who claims the rotating torch as American foreman from Warwick native John Hynes - has reacquainted himself with both centerpieces, who each underwent last-minute college prep grooming with him in Ann Arbor, Mich. And curiously, he has partnered the two on the top line with Schroeder, another early bloomer who finished second behind vanRiemsdyk with eight points in the 2008 tournament, then went back to business in Ann Arbor before he enrolled at “The U.”

But the statistically gluttonous arrangement flaunted no flaws in this week’s pair of exhibition games. The coastal rivals-by-winter collaborated twice in a tone-setting first period en route to a 13-2 throttling of Latvia Sunday –a goal apiece for van Riemsdyk and Wilson, assisted by the other. They reran that act Tuesday in steamrolling the rival Russians, 5-1, complete with a 40-17 shooting discrepancy.

“A lot of talent,” the simply spoken UNH kid said prophetically, as was also underscored by full-time Wolverine Aaron Palushaj’s hat trick. They just need to be sure that talent comes with a lot of shelf life, preferably with a Sell By date of Jan. 5 or later.

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

2008 In Review: Women's Hockey

Change of starting pace
Fire beneath burns hotter for Friars


If they weren’t clear on it at any time prior, the PC women were plainly wary of “old” shortcoming patterns by the time the legacy of their first –and, to date, only- NCAA tournament bid became a complete hologram.

That was precisely what happened in the evening stages of Winter 2008, when the Friars duplicated the upshot of their 2006-07 campaign. Pinned right on the .500 fence overall through their 34-game regular season slate, they were yet again helplessly left to rely on the capricious automatic bid that comes with a conference crown.

Once again, they had enough sentimental Rockstar to guide them safely through a stretch drive thriller and a semifinal triumph, this time a 5-1 shellshocker over WHEA tournament host Connecticut. But, yet again, the dream took a Wildcat-enforced nosedive in the title game. The almighty New Hampshire stamped a tensely excecuted 1-0 triumph to stretch their reign of Hockey East supremacy to a threepeat.

And so, the last skating specimens of the fêted 2002-05 dynasty collected their degrees at the Dunk and parted from PC. And their immediate descendents have been left with an enterprise to rekindle the Friars’ national relevance in their own right.

As he approached his tenth year behind the bench, though, head coach Bob Deraney pledged a resurgence of the very sort sooner rather than later. More wholesome recruiting classes were on the horizon, he said, now that constant tangible success wasn’t exactly scaring talent off with the threat of strictly prioritizing veteran pin-ups.

If any fragments of the status quo from where the Friars had left off had a chance to carry over into training camp, it would have been the fast-trendy PRO Line of Mari Pehkonen, Alyse Ruff, and Jean O’Neill. Converging as a unit somewhat circumstantially when Pehkonen returned from a Team Finland obligation in mid-January, the trinity proceeded to charge up a combined 31 points over the final 10 games of the season, unmistakably anchoring PC’s close shave playoff push.

But a preseason upper body injury to the sophomore O’Neill opened the door to new blood and new depth. Ultimately, rookie Laura Veharanta filled the O’Neill void and has since cemented a stable partnership with Ruff and classmate Ashley Cottrell on the top line. Already, Veharanta speaks of a 12-6-18 scoring log over her first 17 games, Cottrell a 2-9-11 transcript.

Generally speaking, the rest of the depth chart has yet to catch on, though it has progressed well enough to clear everyone’s immediate memory of a choppy 2-5 start to this season. The Friars have thus hit the holiday break with a winning record for the first time since the current seniors were freshman, equating the 9-6-2 mark they boasted when the December deceleration of 2005 settled in.

Even when they struggled to thaw out in October, Providence was convincingly self-controlled owing a hefty debt to keen defense and goaltending. At their current pace, the cage tandem of freshman Genevieve Lacasse and incumbent Danielle Ciarletta makes a reckonable candidate for the WHEA’s virtual equivalent of the William Jennings trophy, having authorized a slim 29 cumulative goals (plus two empty netters).

Lacasse, more than anybody, has laid claim to the pleasant surprise label, having pole-vaulted three returnees to earn the nod for 12 of the first 17 ventures. She has pushed away 360 of 379 opposing shots for a league-leading save percentage of .950 (tied with Northeastern’s own freshman phenom, Florence Schelling) and an 8-4-0 record, complete with two shutouts.

Raring to delve into Part II of their season this coming Tuesday, the revamped Friars are modestly yearning for a way to enhance their commanding grip on each individual game, which will, in turn, make for a more relaxed plow into the postseason as opposed to the habitual, detrimental test-cramming they’ve been reduced to in recent years.

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

2008 In Review: Men's Hockey

Thinning ice
Men’s puck on downward spiral, seeks resurgence in New Year


Jon Rheault and the 2007-08 Friars hit a symbolic peak over the second weekend of February. The senior captain and two-time defending team MVP piloted a team perched in the #11 slot of the national leaderboard into a two-game home series with the stealthy Vermont Catamounts.

Rheault proceeded to scrape out four points in the weekend, the third of those a helper to linemate Greg Collins for his 100th collegiate point. Two periods later, Point #101 came in the form of a porch-based tip-in, granting Providence a 4-3 overtime victory before an invigorated throng of 2,121.

Inconceivably, that was indeed on the former bookend of this calendar year. Since that instant classic, the Friars have been fruitless on home ice when tangling with a conference cohabitant, having gone 0-6-3 in that scenario. They’re only home victory overall was a 4-3 squeaker past Bowling Green on opening weekend of the active season.

Apart from two home knots (1-1 vs. New Hampshire Feb. 15; 2-2 vs. Boston College March 1) in the climactic stage of the last stretch drive and a 2-2 draw with the Catamounts here Nov. 7, PC’s most freshly cultivated Hockey East points came February 29 at BC’s Conte Forum no less.

A mere 15 nights later, Friar Puck returned to Chestnut Hill to curtain the most tumultuous Ides of March in PC history (men’s hoops made national ripples by canning ten-year coach Tim Welsh that day) through a 5-1 submission to the eventual national champion Eagles. Such cut short yet another formerly hopeful-bone-tingling bid for a passport to TD Banknorth Garden.

Change Friar Fanatics cannot nor care to believe in percolated rapidly over that pivotal month. It has since leached in a tormenting manner, and only after athletic director Bob Driscoll penned in head coach Tim Army for at least another five years over the summer. To date, the ominous implications from the March meltdown have made a Zamboni broom out of the hints of promise declared in July.

PC fizzled unceremoniously by a cumulative score of 18-2, a sum of two shutouts at the hands of Boston University that zapped their bid for home ice, and the aforementioned quarterfinal sweep by BC. Consequently, they passed on good wishes to the glue guys Rheault and goaltender Tyler Sims –recipient of the Mal Brown Award for student-athlete excellence. Then fan favorite bruiser Cody Wild, a would-be senior this season, hastily made his tracks to start fostering in the Edmonton Oilers’ system.

Wild’s defection, coupled with the graduation of Marc Bastarache and Trevor Ludwig, was readily supplemented with the advent of three freshmen defenders this autumn (Bryce Aneloski, Dave Brown, and Danny New). Meanwhile, Rheault was the lone striker to watch his time run out –voluntarily or involuntarily- and an overwhelming influx of new forwards left the 2008-09 Friars with 20 offensive specialists and the league’s most populous overall dressing room with 31 bodies.

But the adage favoring quality over quantity has acerbically stuck out before the Schneider Arena masses in the first half of the season. The Friars were decisively slit in their belated opener, 4-0 by Northeastern, and have since scrambled to compress the wound, let alone inflict a little damage themselves.

In all 16 games to date (3-12-1 record), they have tuned the opposing mesh 35 times while authorizing 67 strikes in their own territory. With precisely one-third of their Hockey East itinerary done with, they stand at 0-8-1 with an aggregate scoring deficit of 40-14.

The numerical stuffiness and negative databased energy in the locker room has already smothered the resolve of three Friars. Blueliners Joe Lavin and Aneloski and rookie forward Chad Johnson withdrew their membership and returned to the junior life at the conclusion of the most recent semester.

Still with plenty of time to let the calendar Zamboni raze 2008 and let the 2009 surface freeze into place, Providence has little on its fundamental checklist beyond restoring order and scrapping resolutely for a legit run at the Hockey East playoffs, a privilege this program has never missed out on in the league’s 25-year history.

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com

Monday, December 22, 2008

Hockey Log

The Hockey News has released its annual “People of Power and Influence” issue. In traditional accordance, the Free Press ranks the most influential people in PC hockey from 2008.

1. Brian Burke, 1977 alumnus- A first-place finish for the foil-fisted executive was already a few strides beyond moderately secure by the time he had a quarter’s share in the Lester Patrick Award to go with his summer appointment as GM of the next U.S. Men’s Olympic Team. But for good measure, Burke went ahead and transplanted himself from the Anaheim Ducks’ front office to the same post in Toronto last month, cementing his distinction as the hockey world’s most influential PC connection in 2008. Naturally, he can get used to prospecting top-shelf hardware like this. And interestingly enough, he did say, “If I had to hire a coach today, I’d hire Ron Wilson,” when he arrived to his one-time classmate and new Leaf Nation colleague. As one can gather, he will have to hire somebody to tutor the Americans come next February in his old vocational home of Vancouver. (Hint, hint? Please stand by…)

2. Cammi Granato, 1993 alumna- Herself a partial recipient of last year’s Patrick Award, Granato has only accelerated her chronic, single-handed plow in captaining Operation Integration for the women’s hockey world. Her hat trick for this calendar year: first female inductee to the IIHF Hall of Fame (opposite Canadians Geraldine Heaney and Angela James); first female inductee to the Lazarene U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame; newly declared namesake for the WHEA’s MVP trophy.

3. Mike Logan, Cox Sports TV/WOON broadcaster- While confined to fairly obscure, not-always-accessible media outlets, the longtime voice of PC hockey is reliably there for the most scoop-hungry Friar Fanatics. His decade-plus of consistent game-to-game service to the program’s fan base earned him this year’s Joe Concannon Media Award prior to the season’s commencement.

4. Bob Deraney, women’s head coach- One semester away from rounding out a full decade of stable service to the Skating Sorority. He hopes the cherry on that sundae comes in the form of his exponentially evident youth movement blossoming into another round of conference crowns and NCAA invitations. Currently, he has his pupils off to their best start (9-6-2) in a collegiate generation, smoothly subsisting on defense and patience.

5. Tim Army, men’s head coach- An externally untiring preacher of composure and discipline, the fourth-year skipper, for all the statistical and psychological lesions his team has absorbed in Part I of the active season, has yet to resort to stepping up to a podium and spewing, “Hal Gill is not walking through that door, Fernando Pisani is not walking through that door, Nolan Schaefer…” Although, his ultimate torture test waits in the forthcoming stretch drive as the Friars look to freeze and repeal their melting glacier after a sorely needed holiday hiatus.

6. Fernando Pisani, 2000 alumnus- Pisani was nearly yet another Friar Puck product brandishing a little hardware in 2008 when his resurgence from ulcerative colitis brought him back to noticeable normalcy with the Edmonton Oilers at midseason and had him one of the last three Masterton Trophy nominees standing. He would fall short only to Toronto’s Jason Blake, who had veiled the effects of leukemia treatment to play the full length of the last regular season.

7. Karen Thatcher, 2006 alumna- A perennial partaker in international competition since her graduation, Thatcher is the one visible pioneer inclined to blow a second wind into PC’s Olympic tradition come next February. Not to mention, she has practiced another PC principle by giving back to the game as a volunteer skating instructor for teams of varying levels and genders as her own training regimen allows.

8. Ron Wilson, 1977 alumnus- In May, the San Jose Sharks asserted that Wilson’s connectivity with their club had run dry after a three year rut of snuffing it in the second round of the playoffs. But the veteran coach coolly reran the personal recovery process he had followed in 1997 and 2002, ultimately sealing his dream job behind the Maple Leafs’ bench. Now conjoined with the aforementioned Burke, Wilson had the baby-stepping Buds at .500 (13-13-2) through 32 regular season games.

9. Matt Bergland, men’s freshman forward- Jon Rheault, who among others missed membership on this Top 10 list about as closely as Gordon Bombay missed clinching the Hawks a peewee title on his penalty shot, graduated as the 48th admitted member to Friar Puck’s 100-point club. And so pleasurably soon, Bergland has stepped in on the other end of the summer and kindled 16 points in as many outings so far.

10. Erin Normore, women’s senior defender/forward- Normore stores a full package of items essential to her game: consistent productivity (78 career points); leadership (she shares the “A” with Katy Beach); and an iron build (not a single game missed in 124 cumulative ventures). Not to mention, her visually appealing style of play that has something to do with the better-than-nothing crowds her team draws.

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Commentary

Of Ice and Women

The night of Thursday, January 31, 2008 was a conventional game night for me. As always, I made a point of grabbing an otherwise improperly timed dinner (this meant hitting the dining hall about 5:00) and dashing off to Schneider Arena, home of Providence College hockey, well in advance of a 7:00 face-off.

This despite my experience-honed wisdom that the doors would take eons to open and I wouldn’t have anybody competing with me to get my first choice of seating –especially when this particular team does not charge admission nor require spectators to pick up a ticket stub.

My incurable, compulsive propensity to hustle down there might have been more justified if, say, this were PC’s historically celebrated men’s hockey team tussling with the likes of Boston University. Instead, those two schools were pitting their women’s programs against one another. It was therefore an invincible bet, far beyond shouting distance of a gamble, that the rink would be getting the fledgling Federal League team treatment.

I don’t make that point out of derision, but flat observation, concomitant with a self-contained dollop of lamentation. There was no realistic hope of any Friar Fanatics kindling their witty “Sucks to BU!” chant tonight the same way they would if this were the Tim Army Corps vs. Professor Parker’s Pupils.

No, the only fellow students I would observe or hear comment on the game this evening would be six young men from PC’s ROTC program. As I waited out the 6:00 door-bust before the main entrance facing Huxley Avenue, the cadets strolled down the neighboring sidewalk en route to or home from an evening project.

Noticing that the arena lobby was illuminated, one of them asked, a little perplexed, what for. Another volunteered to explain that it was “girls’ hockey tonight.” After a brief pause, he tossed in a taboo, baselessly stereotyping D-word, much to the amusement of his colleagues.

I only wish I had a way of getting MSNBC primetime commentator Keith Olbermann on speed dial so as to submit a tip for his “Worst Persons in the World” segment. Those cementheads were a surefire “winner” in my book.

The next best thing, though, is to cautiously and temporarily sashay from my routine journalistic regimen and deliver this “Special Comment” (to borrow another Olbermann phrase) in this midseason break while the news is a tad slow. As a writer, I vow to remain nonpartisan in terms of specific teams and schools. But the aforementioned incident was a cheap shot to women’s hockey –and, arguably, all of women’s sports- as a whole. That calls for unanimous, stern, rulebook-based retaliation. It is no different than watching your talented teammate take a spear to the stomach and translating your rage to a blistering power play goal.

Any young male athlete or sports enthusiast of any degree who unconditionally and baselessly belittles women’s hockey has not a clue what he is missing out on. From my experience dating back to the beginning of my teenhood, a prime “turn-on spot” for the opposite sex is common interest. Are you telling me you would rather date a girl who groans over your itch to watch a pivotal football game with your best bros than someone who might actually consider an hour of open ice rental an ideal romantic outing?

Admittedly, growing up, this logic was purely second nature for me. And as a result, the following story tells of the single best, perhaps sole positive experience I had during my own altogether brief, unfulfilling athletic career: in late February 2004, my season on the JV hockey team at University Liggett School –a private day school in Michigan- was winding down and our coach had spontaneously decided to fill our final practice time slot with a scrimmage against the girl’s team.

Upon this revelation, I was pumped for one self-explanatory reason: I had taken “that kind” of interest in one of the female pucksters several months prior. An unmistakable factor in the development of my feelings was seeing her come to class in her hockey jersey one day, signifying her membership in the program. And now we were to take to the ice simultaneously.

And just for the record, we had long ago established that this girl didn’t even return my feelings. I couldn’t give a flying puck at this point. Sometimes, in sports and life alike, you learn to appreciate the smaller victories when the paramount endeavor is lost.Think I’m shallow yet? It gets kookier. In the second period, with us the JV guys up, 2-0, my crush cut our lead with a long-range airborne wrister from the circle-top. Watching from our bench, I promptly mused, “If I can somehow get a goal myself, this will be the perfect game whether we lose by 10 or win by 10.” Incidentally, I did manage to tune the mesh at the other end later that period, and I could have and should have hung up my blades on the spot.

By night’s end, while I beamed with a rare sip of personal joy, everyone else in our dressing room was coolly wrapped in celebration of our 10-1 exhibition victory –emphasis on exhibition. They would take any petty scrap of evidence and manipulate it in order to advance their opinions of girls’ sports –those that they voiced without care and those that they kept within the locker room. All this despite the fact that we literally had the worst work ethic of any high school program in history, which amounted to an endless slew of blowout losses in regulation games, while our female counterparts –handfuls of whom were novice pucksters simply exploring a new winter activity- scraped out a respectable record year in and year out.

The most pathetic proclamation I can recall from the locker room was a teammate assessing his notion of a three-way caste system in the University Liggett hockey program. It had Varsity (he meant “Boys’ Varsity”), JV, and Girls in descending order, because “Girls’ Varsity isn’t really Varsity.”

Mr. Olbermann, I have another belated nominee for “Worst Persons.”

But as a guy, you have to be careful about neutralizing these attacks. Apparently (and this is just another hypothesis based on locker room talk), if you object to the belittlement of female athletes, you’re gay. After all, the boundaries of acceptable physical attraction end well before you consider young women who, like you, strap on that gear and sweat in it for a few hours before they shower and return to a presentable state in society. And I’m sure all ladies just die to whiff a hockey hunk in his gunky gear as opposed to when he’s fresh from a self-lathering of Old Spice.

Gee, shame on me for fantasizing about buying my crush a soda after the game and exchanging genuine pleasantries about hot topics in the NHL.

My viewing angle shifted drastically when I transferred to the Minnesota-based hockey powerhouse at Shattuck-St. Mary’s, where I responsibly purged my twig and picked up my pen.

But the gender-based tensions I witnessed were arguably worse. So much so that in my first full year on the SSM hockey beat, when the Boys U18 team fell short in their bid to repeat their 2005 national championship, a few members vent their frustration on their female counterparts, who did lug home a second banner. There were reports that while the banner sat glimmering in the main entrance of the school building, a few disgruntled male skaters spit on it.

What the puck? To put it flatly, you would have thought these guys were picking a fight with time-honored rival Culver Academy or the Boston Junior Bruins (the national tournament nemesis who swiped their title away). Instead, they were slighting and antagonizing their fellow Shattuck-St. Mary’s Sabres; their classmates; their potential prom dates; their fellow torch-bearers in the ceaselessly growing Sabre hockey tradition.

And, implicitly, all because of a case of threatened masculinity; all because the dudes just happened not to hit the pinnacle of their natural hockey habitat this year while the ladies did.

Perhaps I just don’t get it. After all, I entered and hastily left the game mindful of my modicum of physical gifts. I never had any sense of supreme stardom to defend. I was in it for sheer love of the game. But for an underweight, bespectacled nerd, firsthand participation is not the way to foster one’s love for a sport. The perpetual persecution I underwent leading up to my prompt “retirement” is biblically just compared to what the proficient female pucksters have to confront just for blackening in the “F” oval when an application or standardized test asks about their gender.

For other wannabe, go-nowhere athletes of my gender, the tang of reality is less sensible. During my senior year at Shattuck, shortly after the Girls U19 team had clinched the Minnkota District crown, renewing its right to vie for the national title, one of my classmates from the second-level boys’ team, himself not bound for any high-profile tournaments, termed it “embarrassing.” He hailed from the Bay Area in California, and now his female peers were about to win his school a third national championship in San Jose. He couldn’t take it.

Embarrassing? How? This particular dis rolled off the tongue of a young man who had attended and skated at Shattuck for five years, split amongst three different teams, none of whom play at a level that qualifies for Nationals. He understandably enrolled craving a crack at a national title and a subsequent NCAA scholarship, but it was not to be. So the next best thing is to cheap shot those who do achieve such privileges. And I guess it’s that much more cathartic if you can throw misogynistic cheap shots.

But, as is generally promised, albeit to a minimal extent, the transition to college equals an upgrade in maturity. And I do pleasurably report that in covering PC’s Skating Sorority for the Free Press and, since the beginning of this season, The Cowl, I have seen packets of devoted buffs of the male gender at every home game. It is also not uncommon to see the better half of the men’s team in the stands as their schedule allows the same way the women take in their games when both teams are on campus.

It doesn’t help to take up an all-or-nothing attitude. Progress is happily evident. Still, here you have the consistently winningest winter team in the Providence athletic department –a program that is an over-the-shoulder glance removed from four conference championships and an NCAA tournament appearance, and which generations prior had produced the face of women’s hockey, Cammi Granato- consistently drawing throngs well below 500 to their home games.

Not to mention, on top of the apathy, the poison problem still lingers in the form of sexist ROTC cadets –who, incidentally, have a noticeable handful of female colleagues in their department- and fellow students of the same narrow-minded sentiments. (Say, if you call women who don and labor in hockey equipment unprintable names, what exactly do you call women who don and labor in military uniforms?)

I think I’ve made enough out-of-my-way points, except for maybe one more that I shall openly present and then carry on with my second nature habit of following. To quote Shattuck U19 head coach Gordie Stafford, cultivator of three USA Hockey championships in his first four years at the helm, we are talking about “athletes who happen to be female.”

And so, when college hockey’s general itinerary thaws out for Part II of the season, I’ll simply carry on with my never-humdrum habit of strolling into Schneider the minute the door opens, walking past a collection of amiable, footbagging Friars en route to my seat, and internally savoring the entirety of my project the same way I would in an NHL press box.

Let me report, and the let the girls continue in their hard-grinding dig for more substantial, evenhanded publicity. We’ll let you decide what to make of them. Of these hockey players will all the trimmings who happen to be female.

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Hockey Log

PC Men’s First Half Player Reports

Bryce Aneloski, D- Minimal spurts of promise could surface for this sizeable freshman bruiser, who has now elected to regress to the Cedar Rapids Roughriders of the USHL.

Eric Baier, D- Both recurrent minor injuries and an overcrowded dressing room have confined the sophomore to only eight games played this season –half of what the team has consumed from its schedule- after he had missed but three ventures as a freshman. When he has been available, though, Baier has put up a not-so-shabby productivity rate of three assists, including two against nationally ranked Dartmouth three weeks ago.

Andy Balysky, LW- By all counts, this rookie has concocted a so-so breakout with a goal and assist over his first 10 games.

Matt Bergland, LW- The Ned Braden of these pre-Hanson Chiefs, Bergland has confirmed unmistakable innonence with a perfect point-per-game (5-11-16) average, good enough to top the charts amongst Hockey East rookie strikers.

David Brown, D- Has snuck two power play helpers into his otherwise own-zone-centric approach.

David Cavanagh, D- The stay-at-home bouncer is implicitly in the regular rotation for the first time in his three years here, and just as well given the newfound constraints in the defensive brigade.

John Cavanagh, C- The junior captain and first-line centerpiece leads all of his regular forwards in the way of shooting accuracy, tuning the opposing mesh five times out of 35 stabs for a .143 rate (toss in five helpers to his scoring credentials, too). The other skate naturally drops in that he could employ that promising proficiency a little more frequently. And like so many of his Friar Puck associates, Cavanagh could stand to thaw out a subzero plus/minus rate (-7).

Greg Collins, LW- One of the more noticeably fettered Friars, having come in with 28 points split between his full-length freshman and sophomore campaigns only to follow through with a single point in eight games played. He has watched the other eight from afar.

Chris Eppich, RW- Sent a nice “Please Stand By” trailer when he finally sprinkled a few points in the lone two games on the December schedule.

Ben Farrer, LW- Hoping to cement a spot on the active depth chart, especially after having missed four of the last six games. And like so many of his associates, hoping to thaw out his scoring resume.

Mark Fayne, D- One of the few pleasant surprises to spotlight so far: PC’s heftiest bruiser has already compiled five points over 15 games played. He missed the Bowling Green game Oct. 18 as penance for three penalties on opening night against Northeastern, but has established cleaner, productive play since.

Justin Gates, G- Has assumed the bulk of the workload ahead of senior Chris Mannix in the continued absence of Ryan Simpson. A young track record of mostly iffy goal-save differentials is chiefly attributable to bouts of psychological numbness that comes with the opposition breaking the ice.

Matt Germain, LW- See Eppich.

Paul Golden, RW- Got his first slurp of action in October after red-shirting last year, but yet to appear since the 9-4 UMass muddle on Halloween.

Jordan Kremyr, RW- See Eppich and Germain; toss in his forlorn state as the lone PC skater with a positive plus/minus rating at this time.

Kyle Laughlin, C- For a senior captain, Laughlin’s snakebitten example signifies the Friars’ general struggles. Little has changed since his struggles began around this time last year.

Joe Lavin, D- Omitted from the game night roster four times out of 16 chances after he had scraped out a pleasurable eight assists over the full length of last season, this one-time prized recruit has bolted for the USHL’s Omaha Lancers.

Kyle MacKinnon, C- Eclipsed on the team’s hardly saturated scoring chart after he had come along encouragingly under the tutelage of graduated linemate Jon Rheault last season.

Rob Maloney, C- Granted, Maloney has absorbed coach Tim Army’s never-tiresome homilies on discipline, taking but one minor penalty in his first 13 games played. But hints of a little excess tameness have resulted in the rookie forward’s charging up one solitary goal while tying three fellow skaters for a team-third-worst rating of -7.

Chris Mannix, G- Like his crease colleague, Mannix has been suffocated by off-putting circumstances. In six ventures, he has yet to authorize fewer than three goals and his best save count (29) was his first game and lone victory of the season against Bowling Green on opening weekend.

Austin Mayer, LW- Army temporarily shuffled the full breadth of his depth chart, assigning Mayer to Bergland’s normal perch. Such further emboldens the sprouting of Mayer’s wings. The sophomore has missed but one game this season after playing less than half of last year’s schedule.

Nick Mazzolini, C- Self-spoken size and seasoning have been missed profusely since Mazzolini doubled over during a Nov. 7 tangle with Vermont. Concomitant with a passable three points in his first six games, the senior pivot was PC’s most efficient face-off man, winning 60 out of 94 draws for a .638 percentage. Only Balysky, Collins, and Matt Taormina have surpassed that –all a perfect 1.00 rate- but none of them have taken more than five stabs at the dot. Mazzolini’s return to old form come January will be just one other welcome item in the Friars’ anything-we-can-get situation.

John Mori, C- Near the bottom of the dense, populous forward hierarchy, with only four games played to speak of.

Danny New, D- Working with the proficient senior Matt Taormina, New kicked off his collegiate career with a promising sugar rush of a goal and two assists in his first four appearances. He has since gone empty in his last five games while sitting out another five.

Pierce Norton, RW- An invaluable colleague of Bergland’s on the primal power play unit, having charged up three goals and three helpers on the man advantage this year alone. And even with his longtime linemate Mazzolini out, Norton has flexibly acclimated to keep his productivity around his general standards. Much like John Cavanagh, Norton has kilned a pleasurably shooting percentage (.129) but could therefore stand to upgrade his puckslinging regularity.

Ian O’Connor, LW- Supplementing the top line with Bergland and Cavanagh, O’Connor has followed through with the most consistent productivity in his sophomore class, sprinkling three goals and four assists to go with his class-best 5-6-11 log of last year. He has also earned high-ranking membership in the penalty kill department.

Ryan Simpson, G- Still banking on establishing long overdue regularity in the crease after four outings apiece in his freshman and sophomore years, Simpson is at a point where his health may be losing all trust with his followers. And even if he is pronounced fit to toil without risk of bodily damage, he might not be fit to play without the risk of statistical damage. Best case scenario has him rerunning last year’s cycle of getting a few late slurps of gametime java, then looking to evenly split the shifts with his fellow Jr. Monarch alumnus Gates next year.

Matt Taormina, D- The point-based puckslinger equates his classmate Norton’s power play point total with six points (all of them helpers). His current transcript of 3-8-11 isn’t quite on pace to replicate or surpass his eye-catching junior data of 9-18-27, but is all the more satisfactory when one remembers the egregious collective scoring scurvy on the Friars’ depth chart.

Shawn Tingley, LW- Recuperating from a preseason ankle sprain for most of the fall term, Tingley at least got to whet his collegiate blades by dressing for the Mayor’s Cup. If all goes according to plan, the arithmetically mature freshman will have his chance to translate his saturated scoring resume from the EJHL in the thick of a taxing Hockey East playoff push.

Matt Tommasiello, LW- Still slated to break in his game jersey at the other end of the break after underoing preseason sports hernia surgery.

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com

On Hockey

D Fenced
Abrupt departures shrivel PC backline to bare minimum


The Tim Army Corps has been slashed two-handedly, and two-bodily, with a true Scrooge-like Christmastime ideal. The surplus population in Army’s dressing room has decreased, as has now been confirmed by their revised roster on the program’s website.

Defensemen Bryce Aneloski and Joe Lavin have both withdrawn their membership with the Friars in favor of a second tour at the junior level, the freshman Aneloski destined for his old USHL club in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and sophomore Lavin –a US NTDP product- latching on to the Omaha Lancers.

The Cedar Rapids Roughriders had rejoiced in the second coming of Aneloski last Saturday, though more local sources did not affirm the notion until Tuesday, one day after PC had wrapped up its first of two academic semesters. Regardless, Aneloski should be raring to rekindle his tenure of toughness in the Tier I ranks tonight when the Riders host the Indiana Ice. Lavin, meanwhile, could make his debut as early as tomorrow night in a home tussle with the Lincoln Stars

Meanwhile, the still fairly stuffy dressing room on the men’s half of the House That Lou Built will still house a colossal collection of 19 forwards (the twentieth man, rookie Chad Johnson, had yet to play a game before he sifted out the door himself to an undisclosed alternative). And, pending Ryan Simpson’s overdue recovery, they’ll have the just-right trinity of goaltenders (but then, there’s also walk-on David Spagnoli in case of an emergency).

But just by their puck luck, the loss of Aneloski and Lavin snips the Friars’ allotment of designated defenders from eight to six. Seven spare strikers, one-to-two remaining stoppers, no room for error along the blue line.

This means, most ideally, no lengthy, immobilizing injuries and no sleepskating acts that would force Army to assign a backliner to the upper bowl, as he did with Lavin for four games this autumn. Should either dreaded circumstance arise, the natural second resort is to convert a member of the copious offensive brigade.

But who? With an otherwise appreciable gunsmith/bruiser like Matt Taormina –one of only two defenders, besides Aneloski, to have appeared in all 16 games to date- Providence hasn’t so much as offered a full-time forward the chance to patrol the point on a power play. At this time, the odds of cultivating defensive value from a forward are ambiguous to any viewer’s eye.

One would, and should, just as soon knock on Sherwood and hope this is the last of the roster ruffling for the remainder of this inexplicably dysfunctional 2008-09 campaign, which is on a timely hiatus and doesn’t even pose another intercollegiate engagement for the next 23 days.

The timing of these two deletions is all the more ominous given that this prolonged deceleration ought to have served as a divinely bestowed opportunity for the Friars, 0-8-1 in the Hockey East standings, to restore their individual and group senses before they pursued a saving second wind in the 18-game stretch drive. Instead, lingering angst pulled through in its internal grudge match with the impatient likes of Aneloski and Lavin.

Simple educated logic rules that Lavin, in particular, was psychologically melting at a glacial pace even from the summer prior to his arrival. Recall that the crackerjack prophets from Central Scouting had promised he would go no later than the wee minutes of the third round in the 2007 NHL Draft. Instead, the Chicago Blackhawks made him a late, 5th-round addition to their teeming youth movement.

Lavin subsequently came here bearing the label of “project defenseman” but had gradually honed his entertainment value and productivity, buying into Army’s offensive-compulsive menatality to venture beyond his point perch and charge up eight helpers last year.

But this season, he was just one in a handful of epitomes to the collective Nightmare on Huxley Avenue. He now departs with one point (another assist), a shallow bushel of 15 SOG, and a toe-curling -10 rating in 12 games played on the year.

Lavin’s implicit logic: the ice barns of the Heartland and their flanking farm barns are the perfect refuge and the site of athletic rebirth.

Aneloski, who hardly had time to prove he was a timely plug-in for the void left by Cody Wild, is back where he’s a tad more free to fight. And where non-Ocean State skies –be them in the NCAA or Canadian major junior ranks- are the professed limit.

The limits are more noticeably snug back here. And the Friars’ rest-recuperate-regroup regimen has been bumped back a few strides.

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Hockey Log

PC Women’s First Half Player Reports

Kate Bacon, forward- Her productivity (4-2-6 in 15 games) has been just a few rungs less flashy than some of her fellow freshmen, but Bacon has flaunted her turbine power in stirring some exhilarating rushes, a few of them shorthanded. That was exactly how she nailed her first collegiate goal, thrashing two-on-none with Katy Beach in an Oct. 25 tangle with Boston College.

Katy Beach, forward- Voted one of two A-captains for the year, Beach is on pace to squeeze out a career year with eight points at the halfway mark of the regular season. All four of her goals and two assists have come on the power play.

Danielle Ciarletta, goal- Surprisingly dislodged from her #1 spot by a thriving Genevieve Lacasse, the senior stopper’s services are still plenty good when her partner needs a breather. With five start-to-finish outings to her credit, Ciarletta is posting career best numbers with a 1.96 GAA and .919 save percentage.

Ashley Cottrell, forward- The forgotten piece of a radiant rookie trinity –opposite Lacasse and Laura Veharanta- Cottrell has emerged as an invaluable playmaking centerpiece on the top line. Nine of her first 11 career points have been helpers, including seven recorded collaborations with Veharanta. Cottrell also stands out as the plus/minus leader among Friar skaters (+9).

Lauren Covell, forward- One of four PC skaters yet to etch a single point on the year.

Jackie Duncan, forward- Duncan, one of only four juniors, appears to have restored her regularity in the lineup. She has already charged up five points in 14 games (missing three with a brief injury), made a series of silent special teams contributions, and has not taken a penalty in her last 10 ventures.

Christina England, goal- Has yet to see action, owing chiefly to the consistency of Ciarletta and Lacasse, but should be ready and able in case of an emergency.

Jennifer Friedman, defense- Inseparably linked with fellow rookie Christie Jensen since the end of October, Friedman’s aptitude in every zone, but especially her own, is currently reflected in a not-so-shabby +4 rating.

Abby Gauthier, forward- The rookie’s blatantly publicized twig of endless ammo hasn’t exactly carried over to the Divine Campus. She has kindled but six shots on net for a 1-2-3 scoring transcript in 14 games played.

Christie Jensen, defense- The stay-at-home freshman has been a regular on the penalty kill –although her own PIM total of 22 ranks second on the Friars chart- and has demonstrated efficiency in setting up the breakout from her behind her cage.

Genevieve Lacasse, goal- With all of the offensive speed bumps that have plagued the Friars early on, Lacasse’s surprise stability in the crease makes her the runway leading candidate for team MVP. From her October debut on, she has authorized three goals on but two occasions and consumed a hefty bushel of 360 saves in 12 appearances –a spot-on median of 30 per night. With the December deceleration in effect, she is on pace for the Hockey East Triple Crown, leading her peers in GAA, save percentage, and winning percentage in league action.

Colleen Martin, defense- The junior defender has already equated her freshman and sophomore totals with four points.

Pam McDevitt, forward- On call for 16 of 17 games this season, McDevitt splashed a personal drought with her first point (an assist) in the latest 4-1 triumph of Maine.

Stephanie Morris, forward- On November 22, Morris joined her fellow fourth-year Friars in the 100-career-game club, but has yet to hatch any goose eggs in her 2008-09 scoring chart.

Erin Normore, forward/def.- Normore has responsibly kept at it with her venturesome, board-to-board habits and flexibly accepted her variable assignments between the front and back lines. Come the resumption of PC’s game schedule –a Dec. 30 day trip to Yale, she will become the 32nd Friar on record to dress for at least 125 career games.

Jean O’Neill, forward- O’Neill has yet to return to her freshman form after a preseason injury, but splashed a personal drought just before the team went on respite by raking home the game winner –her first goal since February and the source of McDevitt’s aforementioned helper- in Part II of a sweeping excursion to Maine.

Mari Pehkonen, forward- What would have ideally been an explosive senior season has been docked by international obligations, illness, and general team-wide trouble concocting offensive outbursts. Assuming she has enough time to restore full strength, expect the Finnish Flare to resurge for the next two-plus months of her final Hockey East pennant race.

Arianna Rigano, forward- Still acclimating to a upgrade in tempo at the Division I level, the junior transfer out of Saint Anselm has been on call every night and scraped out three points.

Leigh Riley, defense- Lately assigned to a unit with Martin, Riley stands out as an all but unbreakably sportsmanlike player, having taken a slim two minor penalties in 15 appearances.

Alyse Ruff, forward- The established first-line winger has had a few cold spurts on the scoresheet, but nothing close to a sophomore slide –a decent six goals and eight points through 17 games. Add the fact that Ruff has inserted four deciding goals (three clinchers, one equalizer) and that the Friars tend to win when she scores (5-0-1).

Breanna Schwarz, defense- Has yet to see game action in her three-month-old collegiate career.

Brittany Simpson, defense- Simpson has followed through on her appointment to the captaincy, anchoring the top power play unit for seven of her nine points (all but one of them assists) and leading her fellow full-time blueliners with a +6 rating.

Jen Smith, goal- Ditto England.

Laura Veharanta, forward- The database and highlight reels speak for themselves. Veharanta is on a seamless streak, all the more impressive given that she arrived to a somewhat offensively fettered, defense-minded squad. Like her fellow winger Ruff, Veharanta is filling up on firsthand strikes (12 of her 18 points are goals) and has slugged seven of those on the power play.

Amber Yung, defense- Yung has somewhat mellowed the take-after-Normore approach of her freshman year but still has four assists to go with her less credited defensive responsibilities.

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Hockey Log: Sunday Edition

Wholesome hibernation
Both sides of Friar Puck can make good of break

PC men’s hockey fans, like Jim Mora, have spent the last month-plus feeling they could be assuaged by just one ultimately immeasurable victory. Either that, or they sat and rotted through a 45-day time slot that spanned three calendar months, one five-game homestand, and 0-9-1 showing altogether, the same way a starving, salivating tourist waits out an unexplained waiting line at Marchetti’s. The unsolved hunger pangs eventually run their course and utter indifference takes over.

Come what may, the Friars finally hooked their way out of the pothole of futility via a 4-3 scraping of Brown last Tuesday, sending them off on a month-long respite with the Mayor’s Cup, a 3-12-1 overall transcript, and another two-thirds of their 2008-09 Hockey East slate left to consider.

Subsisting on but a single point -extracted out of the since sizzling Vermont in a 2-2 home knot Nov. 7- in the conference standings, Providence can use this December deceleration to compress most any physical and psychological wound it has absorbed in eight consecutive weekends of intercollegiate activity.

Even before their questionably late start to locking twigs with other programs –season opener: a 4-0 suffocation via Northeastern on October 17- they were losing bodies. Junior stopper Ryan Simpson, already coming off two injury-crinkled campaigns, felt another flare-up in practice and has been slow to recuperate. Meanwhile classmate Matt Tommasiello underwent hernia surgery while the others delved into the schedule.

And then, as the frosted Friars crammed to thaw out and catch up with their adversaries, senior pivot Nick Mazzolini made like Simpson and invoked old visions of pain. Eight months removed from Boston College’s Benn Ferriero decking him like a rabid puppy does your living room lamp in the playoffs, Mazzolini went down at the hands of a scorching shot in the aforementioned Vermont game. He hasn’t been available since.

But if all goes according to plan, all three will pace themselves to a satisfactory shift-ready state in time for a January 10 tussle with UMass-Lowell. And even if they cannot factor themselves in so readily or sufficiently (Simpson’s state, historically speaking, is the most dubious), the other constituents of Hockey East’s most populous dressing room have no reason not to restore order in their collective backbone.

The likes of freshman goaltender Justin Gates, in particular, should feel free to take comfort in their accumulation of experience, but dust away the statistical barnacles on top of it. With the torrential leak that amounted to a cumulative 67 goals against in 16 games (a toe-curling median of 4.1875) having circumstantially subsided, the Friars simply must accept the offering for a breather and consider 2009 their chance to reverse the momentum.

Their nine superiors –ranging from ninth-place Merrimack and their six points to regal Northeastern and their 17 points- will hardly be inclined to let up. All the more reason for PC to plop all of the last three months’ worth of Zamboni snow onto the immediate past and meticulously balance its month-long recuperate, retool, and refocus regimen.

Down the hall and on a sharp right turn, the women’s program needs to somehow deploy a momentum trapper between now and their matinee excursion to Yale two weeks from Tuesday. Ever since they comfortably neutralized a shaky course of action in October –starting 2-5 overall, competitive upshots to every game aside- Bob Deraney’s dogged pupils have squeezed out a 7-1-2 run for a 9-6-2 transcript with exactly half of the regular season consumed.

They already proved in one spurt that they can take unusually lengthy leave from game action without losing their touch, waiting out a full seven-day interval between an authoritative sweep of Robert Morris and a heady 2-0 tip-over of rival Connecticut mid-November. They’ll have to stretch their patience and persistence a tad longer before they attempt to build on yet another road sweep in Maine last weekend.

If the PC women are to use any aspect of their holiday to their direct benefit as opposed to strictly fidgeting for fear of momentum loss, they ought to rationally chew over the implications of the second half, then sharpen their skates and canines for the thundering throttle their fans have long missed.

Four of the Friars’ next five games constitute the remainder of their nonconference schedule, where they are currently an iffy 4-4-1. A January 13 excursion to Dartmouth spells their best chance of restoring membership in the national leaderboard.

Otherwise, they need to keep their so far Great Wall of Defense (31 GA in 17 games) from letting up and inject a pinch of consistency into their offensive brigade in order to ascend through the Hockey East standings. Of the 13 remaining intraleague games, seven are against their statistical superiors from New Hampshire (3), Boston University (2), and Boston College (2).

They’ve already fizzled and spilled a gift-wrapped win before the Eagles and tripped in a shootout versus the Terriers. The Friars’ New Year’s Resolution, therefore, should revolve around refining their statements to the Hub Clubs and asserting themselves as a still-certified contender.

Cup of jeer
An unidentified webmaster from Inside College Hockey offered 10 tongue-in-cheek promotional schemes that may have augmented the Meehan Auditorium masses at last Tuesday’s Mayor’s Cup contest. Two standout examples: “It’s Buddy Cianci Bobblehead Night” and a suggestion that Rhode Island’s primetime pop culture representative, Peter Griffin, reenact his prison yard “Milkshake” dance at intermission.

The INCH author also made an intriguing flashback in the faux proclamation “Proceeds from tonight's 50-50 raffle go toward Save the Skating Friar, because the cause should never be forgotten,” referring to the penultimate year of Paul Pooley when the program temporarily purged its iconic jersey logo in favor of the PC basketball emblem. Incidentally, a new Uniform Reform movement this year is probably focused on trying to reverse the seemingly unpopular silver helmets.

Strange statistical structures
With the standings virtually frozen in both sets of Hockey East till after New Year’s, a light sprinkling of peculiarities shall remain unruffled for the time being:

1. Though they are the runaway leaders in the way of points, the Boston College women rate #4 in the way of winning percentage at .682. In that unrecorded column, they trail the fourth-place Friars (.6875), third-place New Hampshire (.722), and runners-up BU (.750). Then again, all of the Eagles’ conference cohabitants have at least two games in hand on them.

2. The Vermont men, comfortably solitary in second place, bear a negative GF-GA differential of 28-29. Blame it on a 7-2 home lashing by BU back on November 1.

3. Same problem for the New Hampshire men, who are knotted for third with BC, but have authorized two more goals (34) than they’ve scored when clashing with conference cohabitants. That can be attributed to Brian Foster’s brief mid-November injury, during which rookie Matt Di Girolamo was started in haste and let 16 through over a span of two nights.

4. Sticking with the theme of offense-defense proficiency, UMass-Lowell brandishes the second-best scoring differential of 33-24, yet they still in seventh place at 5-5-0 –albeit three points shy of lassoing the second-place Catamounts.

5. The BU women have already rounded out and swept their season series with the formerly almighty New Hampshire. But to the shorthanded Wildcats’ credit, they pushed two of those three falters into a shootout, affording them two valuable points.

Quick Feeds: Here’s a toe-curling twist of news for those puckheads who dispense all their passion on college rinks and detest the prospect of “professionalizing” the collegiate game: UMass-Lowell goaltender T.J. Massie, summoned to emergency active backup duties during Carter Hutton’s recovery period was (albeit voluntarily) “sent down” to Tier I juniors and will likely spend the rest of the year with the USHL’s Tri-City Storm. There’s no convincing indication his days as a Riverhawk are done with, though…After a minor sophomore recession (together with the rest of her team) last year, BC women’s scoring beacon Kelli Stack is on pace for a relatively facile career year with 14 strikes and 31 points to top the league scoring charts. PC’s Laura Veharanta, though, currently splits the top slot in terms of power play goals with seven apiece…A year ago about this time, with a sizeable packet of teammates away at World Juniors, Michigan forward Aaron Palushaj had his breakout game (goal, two assists) at the expense of the Friars in the Great Lakes Invitational. He has since evolved to the top of the Wolverine scoring charts and will don a USA uni himself next week in Ottawa…UConn sizzler Dominique Thibault leads the WHEA in both plus/minus (+21) and shots on net (103). Her third registered stab against BC last week made her the first, and so far only, puckslinger with at least 100 shots on the year…This author’s picks for the out-of-market game of the week: the Dartmouth women, sizzling up till a two-game sweep at the hands of Minnesota-Duluth, snap a 17-day hiatus from game action to play host to Harvard.

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Hockey Log

Short list of feel-good specks
Individuals break out for PC men before break

On the whole, the next 30 days worth of psychological house cleaning is still atop the list of preferences for the lacerated Friars –now 3-12-1 overall and still tantalized by a menacing winless showing in Hockey East action.

But with the series of savory individual sprinklings that decorated their scoresheet in Tuesday night’s 4-3 Mayor’s Cup triumph, a free dollop of material optimism may accompany the recovery regimen.

The top line of Ian O’Connor, John Cavanagh, and Matt Bergland, reunited after brief experimental separation, composed a combined 15 of the 46 shots PC heaved at Brown goaltender Mark Sibbald. And Bergland, the lone specimen of scoring stability since the Nightmare on Huxley Ave. commenced, pitched in two points with his familiarized power play brigade, extending his scoring streak to three games and freezing his first half totals to a point-per-game 5-11-16.

One other three-game hot streak to carry over into January: that of conventionally professed bouncer Mark Fayne. The burliest Friar on paper chipped in four SOG and collaborated with associate defenseman Matt Taormina to set up Bergland’s third period power play strike.

The “bottom” line stood out with a +2 rating apiece, two-pointers for sophomores Jordan Kremyr and Matt Germain, and junior Chris Eppich’s second career goal –and only on the heels of hatching that three-year-old goose egg when he singed Quinnipiac’s Nick Pisellini last Friday.

By picking up a goal-assist value pack, Kremyr, an apparent regular having been iced for the last five games after playing merely three of the team’s first 11, splashed a personal scoring drought dating back to his two-striker against Boston College last February 29. Germain likewise cultivated his second and third points –all helpers- in the light December schedule, enhancing his season transcript to 1-5-6.

Freshman forward Shawn Tingley, complete with his promising EJHL resume and an overdue clean bill of health after he sprained his ankle in a preseason run through, took his first slurp of NCAA game action, anchoring the third line with classmates Andy Balysky and Rob Maloney. Tingley, Balysky, and Austin Mayer were the lone three Friar skaters not to whip up at least one registered shot at Sibbald.

Discount the last seven chippy minutes of the closing frame, wherein the contesting parties aggregated seven infractions and 22 PIM, and the Friars substantially out-disciplined the Bears, claiming only four citations from the conservative officiating quartet while drawing eight penalties against Brown.

Long time coming
Friars foreman Tim Army only needed to take two stabs before he successfully wrested the Cup from the Bears on Meehan Auditorium ice in his own right. But Tuesday night’s win marked his first share of triumph across town since November 20, 1990, when he was a sidekick to Mike McShane and PC throttled the Bears, 7-1. It would be the broadest scoring discrepancy in the modern era of the Mayor’s Cup until last year’s 8-0 breeze here.

Prior to this year’s twig-lock, Army had openly noted that the Friar Puck program was initially slow to equate Brown’s competitiveness in the pre-Lamoriello, pre-Schneider Arena, pre-Hockey East days. But with the latest win, Providence has pulled even in the all-time series, standing jaw-to-jaw at 43-43-2 with their neighbors.

Quick Feeds: PC has struck on at least one power play –rolling up a combined total of 12 conversions- in each of its last eight meetings with Brown…With Tingley’s debut, 28 out of 31 rostered Friars have seen game action. Only the still-healing Matt Tommasiello, Ryan Simpson, and Chad Johnson have yet to put in an appearance. Meanwhile, only Bergland, Cavanagh, O’Connor, and Taormina have withstood the rapid, populous carousel well enough to dress for all 16 games up to this point…Overall, Bergland leads all Hockey East freshmen scorers with the only perfect point-per-game median to speak of. Maine’s Gustav Nyquist trails with 13 points over 14 games…The Friars will wake back up for a one-night weekend, hosting Lowell on Saturday, January 10, then will visit three conference cohabitants over a space of six nights –Boston University on Jan. 13, UMass-Amherst Jan. 16, and Maine Jan. 18…Ten of PC’s 18 remaining games –all within Hockey East boundaries- will be on the road. They will visit each opposing venue except Lowell, where they’ve twice been thrashed by a cumulative 10-2 score this autumn.

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

On Hockey

A peasant-like playoff
2008 Mayor’s Cup more about ego salvation

Providence College, whose packet of royal rooters is malignantly rotting and threatening to disintegrate, carried its “Failure to Launch” theme clear through November and well into last Friday’s 5-2 falter at Quinnipiac.

Brown University, whose laptop loiterers in the USCHO fan forum have dubbed their approach to this season, “Nowhere to go but up,” only hatched the goose egg in its win column that same evening, edging Union at home, 5-4.

Tonight’s Mayor’s Cup get-together at Meehan Auditorium will pit a PC program brandishing a 2-12-1 overall record and negative GF-GA difference of 31-64 against a Brown program subsisting on a 1-7-2 transcript together with a 21-40 scoring discrepancy. Hardly a heavyweight card that’s likely to give local events like Trinity Rep’s A Christmas Carol or Holiday on Hope –which will be on the exact same street as the game- a competitive marketing derby.

Yet the fraying Friars and battered Bears alike are expressly more than happy to take leave of their respective ruts and enjoy a somewhat serious pre-holiday friendly.

After all, somebody is literally going to have a Cup of cheer after the final buzzer. That dollop of cheer may by all means function as ointment to soothe the series of psychological lesions these teams have accumulated for the first half of the season.

Whoever doesn’t lay claim to that minipack of relief will have to accept yet another clip to the chin and let it run its own course until after New Year’s. Tonight will round out the Friars nonconference schedule and commence a full month off from game action, not to end until a home bout with UMass-Lowell January 10. After this, the Bears have their break followed by a little Christmastime fostering for the Minnesota-hosted Dodge Holiday Classic over the first weekend of January.

Looking at their respective conditions, the contesting clubs have mutually modest wishes to deck their struggling neighbor and get something genuinely substantial to nibble on while they retool for Part II of the season. That is how, if nowhere else in the building, the typical implications of the Mayor’s Cup will be well-preserved at ice level.

“It’s a rivalry for sure,” said Brown skipper Roger Grillo in a Providence Journal multimedia snippet. “It’s just a different one. It’s instate, it’s bragging rights, there’s hardware involved…There is a little extra bite to that game than a normal nonleague game for us, for sure.”

Simply put, a quote that general on its own doesn’t indicate whether the Bears are 9th in the ECAC –which they are- or 9th in the nation. They just want to assert themselves as the civic superiors and then get on with the rest of their agenda.

Ditto the Friars. In the same ProJo online featurette, head coach Tim Army only reeled back to his first and, to date, only business trip across town two years ago, when his pupils swallowed a 21-shot, two-goal firestorm in the first period and never recovered en route to a 2-1 Brown triumph.

He said it last year prior to a retaliatory 8-0 lashing of the Bears at Schneider Arena, and he said it again to rev up for this year. Brown’s win back on November 26, 2006, was far more facile than met the scoreboard.

“The only thing I remember is that we got beat over there two years ago, and they really came at us,” said Army. “We gotta really be ready to get at it.”

Friar Fanatics can see the smudge on that CD lens. The Friars have now absorbed eight straight Ls, regularly inviting the opposition to sculpt a quick multi-goal lead and letting the remainder of the game pan out on that pace. Some nights, like in the latest loss to Quinnipiac, they hiccupped without hesitation. Other nights, they have stalled to capitalize while the getting was good and ultimately spilled everything on a fleeting opposing outburst –as was seen the last time they were in town against Dartmouth two weeks ago.

The last of their all-out concessions, saturated with uncalled-for penalty minutes and gaping margins of defeat, appear to have subsided. But the fundamental fact is they have not concocted a formula sufficient to be on the victorious side since the week before Halloween, when Brown was just getting its game schedule off to a belated start.

Tonight’s choice as to the end result for the Friars is simply as follows: hit the hiatus on a smiling note, or staple two consecutive calendar months without a win.

The bragging rights affixed to the Mayor’s Cup are immoveable, as the contesting coaches say. But this particular year, it looks more like a charity kettle. And only one needy party will get the goods.

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com