• Check out the Free Press founder's new Rhode Island/New England sports blog
  • http://providencesportsscribe.blogspot.com/

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Men's Hockey 5, Northeastern 2

Friars play role of teaser

Initial U-turn morphs into sweep of Northeastern

Condensed to his first start on the bench all season Saturday by virtue of Friday’s 5-1 shellacking, Northeastern’s precision stopper Brad Thiessen watched as his back-up, Mike Binnington, and skating peers started to spoon out some eye-for-eye justice on the Friars, sculpting a 2-0 lead within the first 10:07.

Fast-forward to 6:50 of the middle frame, and Thiessen was summoned to play the infrequent role of firefighter as the Friars had now pulled ahead 3-2. From there, Providence paced itself to a 5-2 triumph before 2,229 at Schneider Arena, stamping a brassy home-and-home sweep on the Huskies.

“He is a big staple of their program, and goaltending always will be,” said Friars’ coach Tim Army before the series regarding the established Northeastern nucleus. “But in order to penetrate against a good goalie, you gotta get a high volume of shots, get in his sightline, and work for secondary opportunities.

“The more shots you get to the net, the more you get in front of him, you’ll create more secondary opportunities around the slot area and then you’ve gotta be in a position to capitalize on those.”

Husky skipper Greg Cronin caught on to PC’s productive strategy well enough up in the Hub on Friday when they overcooked Thiessen with another batch of their profuse ammo. But to start the rematch, even as they stared down a cold rookie Binnington, with no more than 30 minutes played on his collegiate resume, the trick was at first turned on the Friars.

At 9:19, Northeastern etched its first hint of plans to vengefully penetrate Tyler Sims (25 saves) by striking on its first power play. Forward Chad Costello, floating over the left circle-top, handed the disc over to David Strathman at the center point. Strathman’s responsive ice-kisser slithered through a rather disorganized collection of bodies in front but was guided home by Husky Wade MacLeod.

Only 48 seconds later did Tyler McKneely prevail in a frantic scrum in the near corner and hand things off to Jimmy Russo, who looped it in from a complicated angle for the 2-0 edge.

But the Huskies mustered just one more whack at Sims over the next seven minutes, during which the awakened Friars peppered Binnington with nine and pulled even before intermission.

Junior captain Kyle Laughlin bustled with the puck out of his own end and fended off pressuring back-checkers all the way to behind the Northeastern cage. There, in a swift manner reminiscent of the DHL-endorsing football stars, he left it for linemate Nick Mazzolini to loop right back around the far post. Mazzolini’s up-for-grabs bid found an incoming Pierce Norton, who stuffed it home behind Binnington’s back with exactly 5:00 to spare.

In another 2:03, the Friars kindled a power play conversion when Norton’s near-circle wrist shot briefly stayed in Binnington’s clutch but then dripped behind him in the crease. Net-crashing center John Cavanagh buried it for the equalizer.

Providence carried on with thawing out their shooting gallery in the second period, by the end of which they commanded a 31-16 shot difference and 4-2 connection difference. In the seventh minute, Cavanagh absorbed a breakout feed from defender Mark Fayne and in turn shipped it across the neutral zone to left winger Ben Farrer.

Farrer’s blistering, low flying rocket spelled the eventual game-clincher and good-night to Binnington (18 saves), who would receive his first career decision in the form of an L-shaped albatross.

Meantime, Thiessen’s (17 saves) stretch was but 3:35 of play and three shots old when the Friars conjured their fifth power play conversion of the weekend. Moments after he had been released from the bin himself –which had made for 63 seconds of 4-on-4 action- defender Cody Wild carried partner Matt Taormina’s feed deep into the zone and whooshed it to Thiessen’s porch, where Norton batted it in for his third point of the night.

The Huskies compressed the PC cannons well enough to outshoot the Friars, 11-9, in the third, and to withhold the puck in offensive territory for more time than that shot count may suggest. But Sims had every answer, including a three-shot penalty kill tempest shortly after the halfway mark.

Within forty seconds of completing that kill, John Mori solidified the 5-2 upshot for the Friars at 12:57. He nabbed a fugitive puck in the high PC slot, outraced shadowing defender Mike Hewkin, a roofed a snapper over Thiessen’s blocker.

No comments: