Sweep and sour
Third period rally a waste as PC men submit to Merrimack
Oh, how deceitful superficial looks can be.
The Friars, arid on the scoreboard all weekend and in a hair-pulling, mad-grunting 2-0 hole, suddenly seemed to have a rally-of-the-year candidate kindling in the third. Through strikes from Pierce Norton and Greg Collins at 6:17 and 8:37 respectively, all of the ingredients for a double-reversal were in place.
But the visiting Merrimack Warriors -victors in a 2-0 epic on Friday up at their place- regrouped, tripled the load of uncanny twists in the series, and mounted the vinegar in the Friars' glass. With 3:41 to spare in regulation, Matt Jones refreshed the lead and ultimately solidified a 3-2 final.
With the loss, the Friars have extended their profuse losing skid to three games, their worst muddle since starting the season at 0-4. This time around, though, this means scratching deep into the lower middle half of the league as the Hockey East lotter balls settle after another weekend of coast-wide guessing games.
PC had bustled through the infamous snowstorm to the Valley on Friday with partial claim to third place, proceeded to dump their routine rubber blizzard, then came back to campus to do it again. But an aggregate 89 whiffed attempts and two tooth-chippers later, they are now draped around fifth place opposite Northeastern -which due to an extra win has first dibs.
Meanwhile, through their first 100-some minutes of back-to-back, head-to-head action, Merrimack appeared to have regained their playoff pulse by usurping the Friars' offensive pulse. The reality was that they were letting goaltender Andrew Braithwaite work up a nice follow-up on what was the sweat of his life three weeks ago when he pushed away 50 PC stabs to forge a 1-1 tie.
By the third period of Saturday night's tilt at Schneider Arena, Braithwaite had carried over an unblemished 42-save transcript from Friday's win and zapped 34 shots through forty minutes.
Braithwaite's praetorian guards, whose most productive period in terms of perking up Friar stopper Tyler Sims was a 10-shot second period, berry-picked their first two strikes over the first two stanzas. Friday's hero, Rob Ricci, spared his mates the drama this time, pouncing on PC's first penalty kill for the icebreaker at 3:16 of the first -a period which otherwise saw an 18-5 shooting discrepancy in favor of Providence.
JC Robitaille squeezed out the pivotal 2-0 advantage at 4:13 of the middle frame.
BU women breathing: In the wake of Saturday's 3-0 falter to the regal New Hampshire, there would be no consolation from Commonwealth Avenue for the Friars. Boston University utilized its last dollop of life for a playoff spot to bump rival Boston College, 4-1, at Conte Forum Saturday night.
With that, the Terriers (9-9-1) nimbly avenged their mortifying 4-0 home loss from Friday and realigned themselves one point ahead of the Eagles (8-9-3) and three short of the third-place Friars (10-6-2).
Providence, though, does have a game in hand on both of the hard-grinding Hub Clubs and will make use of it Sunday afternoon up in Durham. A tie or win would in effect put the Friars five or six points up on the Eagles, next weekend's adversary, thereby ruling BC out of contention.
Otherwise, the potentially decisive dirty business will have to be done face-to-face next week.
Real Wild Cats: With their win over the Friars Saturday, the New Hampshire women locked away first place in the league. Only hours later did their male counterparts mutilate the distantly second-place BC, 5-1, to achieve the same feat in the men's conference. Meanwhile the Eagles, having absorbed a decisive sweep from the Wildcats, have submitted their #2 claim to the resurgent Vermont Catamounts.