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Thursday, January 24, 2008

Hockey Log

In the latest edition of The Hockey News (press date: January 29) “Team Reports tell you who the ‘glue guy’ is on each of the 30 NHL teams.” Here now is PC’s answer to that feature:

They’re both seniors and they have both consistently topped their team’s respective scoring charts throughout this season.

Sounds like a one-dimensional assessment. But the essence of Jon Rheault and Kathleen Smith to PC Hockey has an even greater depth than the fundamental stats convey. Rheault, co-captain opposite junior Kyle Laughlin, has already seen his name etched on the Lou Lamoriello Award as team MVP two years running. And that was only after he had earned the Friars’ distinction of top rookie in 2005.

His smooth, generous productivity avenue over all four years in Providence is a right-place-at-the-right-time reward for durability and tireless puckslinging. As of this week, his 126 cumulative games played are most closely matched by goaltender Tyler Sims (101). This year alone, he has registered 94 stabs at the opposing net –followed by Laughlin’s 60.

And if head coach Tim Army didn’t take direct paper-based notice of Rheault’s runaway career totals of 51 goals (again, Laughlin is the runner-up with 18) and 95 points (twice everybody else’s save for junior defenseman Cody Wild), he at least caught a subtle hint of it on the ice.

Lately, Rheault has been made a team scoring missionary, elevating between lines and spreading his influence. Most recently, he has been manning the right wing with rookies Ian O’Connor and Matt Germain, though prior to that he had been helping another frosh –Kyle MacKinnon- to his first smattering of collegiate points.

On the women’s side, Smith likewise leads the Friars in shots on goal, having just broken 100 against Mercyhurst, and then teeming an additional nine on Boston University. Fellow defender Brittany Simpson is a not-so-close second with 65 bids through 22 games.

Smith is in better company than Rheault in terms of iron bodies as four other seniors (Rachel Crissy, Kelli Doolin, Cherie Hendrickson, and Jenna Keilch) are all well past their 100th career game. Nonetheless, Smith, who will play game #125 when the Friars visit Vermont Friday night, is the runaway active scoring leader in PC’s skating sorority with 77 points. Two more goals on her senior transcript, and she will have equated her freshman/sophomore/junior aggregate of 13.

And perhaps Smith’s implicit who-says-defenders-don’t-score philosophy is contagious. Always adventurous junior Erin Normore is right behind her with a cumulative 55 points and Simpson has imploded her productivity this season with 4-6-10 totals.

At the moment, Rheault and Smith each have a salient seven multi-point games to their credit this season and are waiting for their associates to join in on their team’s 20-point club for the year.

Husky equality: Since Army assumed the helm here in 2005, all but one of his seven bouts (3-3-1 record) with Northeastern have been decided by one goal, four of those games going into overtime.

“It was a tight game the last time, obviously,” the skipper observed, hearkening back to the Hockey East opener in October when the Huskies pulled off a come-from-behind 3-2 bonus round triumph in the Hub. “I think we’re fairly evenly matched. The series over the years has always been tightly contested, and I would expect more of the same.”

In the three months since, the resurgent Huskies –rated #11 in the nation this week- have rigidly fixated themselves around the top segment of the league standings at 8-5-2. The 6-5-2 Friars will come into this home-and-home set with two games and two wins in hand.

“It’s been a while since we’ve played (each other),” Army acknowledged. “We’ve played a lot of teams in the interim, but I think it’s two programs moving in a positive direction, so it should be a pretty competitive weekend.”

Quick Feeds: Friday's game up at Matthews Arena will be senior defenseman Trevor Ludwig's career 100th, which would make him the third current Friar to break that plateau. Should they continue their expectable regularity in the lineup, juniors Laughlin, Matt Taormina, and Nick Mazzolini could nimbly double that group’s membership before season’s end...The Friars have yet to lose when ahead after two periods (6-0-0) or to rally when trailing through the second intermission (0-5-0)...PC's overall .500 limbo is meticulously paralleled in every recorded goal margin. The Friars are 3-3 in games with 1-goal differentials, 2-2 in 2-goal games, and 4-4 when the difference is at least three notches…Both of the PC Women’s face-offs at Vermont’s Gutterson Fieldhouse this weekend are slated for 7:00, marking their first instance of back-to-back night games this season…Brittany Nelson, a sophomore transfer from PC, is tied for third amongst Catamount scorers with 4-4-8 totals over 22 games played.

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