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Thursday, January 17, 2008

Hockey Log

Little man Marcou big help to Amherst

Blessed are the poor in size, for they shalt inherit the rink.

Well, maybe not entirely, but when the NHL awoke from its lock-out induced coma back in the summer of 2005, it profusely promised that its refurbished on-ice product would be more accommodating to the game’s Mighty Mite strikers. There was at least a dollop more conviction that there would be room for more where Maine alumnus Paul Kariya and ex-Vermont Catamount Martin St. Louis came from.

And here and there, encouraging examples have propped up both in The Show and its collegiate feeder system.

Before last week, the 5-8 Sergei Samsonov appeared next in line to be handed a scarring “has-been” pink slip, having been the object of one-time passes between three other franchises since his 2006 deadline trade from the Bruins and reduced to an AHL demotion by injury and waiver issues. Now, all of a sudden, he appears to have found his place in the eye of the Carolina Hurricanes, with whom he has four points in as many games.

Scroll down to the collegiate game and wave to North Dakota’s Ryan Duncan, the 5-6, 142-pounder who nonetheless hauled away last year’s Hobey Baker Award and currently tops the competitive Fighting Sioux scoring charts at 9-13-22.

And the UMass-Amherst Minutemen, Friday’s visitor to the PC campus, have yet another radiant figure in their efficient youth movement to go with invaluable goaltender Paul Dainton; freshman forward James Marcau.

The undrafted Marcau comes into this weekend’s action leading the Minutemen with 19 points in as many games played –15 of those coming in the form of assists- even though he boasts a humble frame of 5-7, 155 lbs. Only Boston College’s surprise smash, Joe Whitney (5-22-27 totals), and New Hampshire’s ultra-heralded James vanRiemsdyk (8-11-19) have been more productive amongst Hockey East rookies.

All through this season, Marcou has been a mainstay winger for classmate Michael Lecomte and appears to have yet another rookie –Chase Lingeraap- affixed to his unit now. Lecomte’s decent data of six goals and nine points includes six scoresheet collaborations with Marcou, be it one assisting the other or both nabbing credit for a helper.

Meanwhile, the comparatively more hulking Lingeraap’s (6-2, 215 lbs.) breakthrough performance –a November 9, 5-3 road overhaul of Boston University- consisted of a goal-assist package with Marcou pitching in on both plays himself.

Apart from his sphere of scoring influence, Marcou is exponentially stoking a clutch trait that has enriched Amherst’s painstaking maintenance of a contenders’ label. Eight of his helpers and nine of his points have been kindled on the power play.

In the earlier hunk of the season, during the league’s telling sister-smooching epidemic, Marcou scored one game-tying goal and assisted on another against UMass-Lowell.

Since then, he has been in on the deciding conversion in each of the Minutemen’s last three wins, the latest being an assist on Matt Burto’s OT clincher over Colorado College for the Lightning College Classic championship. In addition, he neatly spread seven points over those three games, doubling his bushel of multi-point outings to six in his young collegiate career.

Springboard Search: The pleasantly thriving Minutemen (9-5-5 overall) saw a six-game unbeaten streak snapped last weekend when they relinquished all four possible points in a home-and-home with New Hampshire, their first instance of back-to-back losses this season. UMass squandered a 2-0 lead towards an eventual 3-2 falter at home and then saw two power play conversions go for naught when the Wildcats snagged a 5-3 final in Durham.

Providence, meantime, is seething for a chance to rinse out the last-second vinegar it took last Saturday in Lowell, which at best barred them from taking three-fourths of the points from that back-to-back series.

Quick Feeds: Out of four appearances this season, Friars’ goaltender Chris Mannix has seen every dewdrop of action against UMass this season –dating back to a home-and-home set in October that saw a 3-1 win and 3-3 tie. But given that he has since rediscovered his game and made 11 consecutive starts, Tyler Sims is more likely to take this one on. Sims is 3-1-1 with one “no decision” in his career against the Minutemen…Friday’s game will be PC iron man Jon Rheault’s 125th of his career. And provided he gets the nod, it will be Sims’ 100th game…First line winger Kyle Laughlin is on a three-game scoring streak against Amherst, including a pair of two-point transcripts in the October series…Cox Communications will resume its Friar hockey coverage with Saturday’s tangle with Maine, one of three more games that it plans to carry this season.

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