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Monday, February 25, 2008

Hockey Log

Power outage docks Friars

In Part I of the recent home-and-home with Merrimack, Providence College had a magnificent seven opportunities to flaunt their long league-leading power play. One of them was a fab five minute window granted when Warrior Chris Kane took a hitting-from-behind major at 5:54 of the third period.

By that point, the Friars were in a zilch-all deadlock despite having nearly doubled the Warriors in shots (27-14 by the second intermission). And Kane's blunder -the first major infraction by a PC opponent all season right after the Friars had committed two of their own in consecutive weekends- was only 34 ticks after Francois Ouimet absorbed a charging minor. Providence thus had -at most- a 1:26 5-on-3 sequence before a 3:34 all-you-can-score buffet.

But the one element that had lately called for the most rehydration -as head coach Tim Army implied prior to the series- sprouted squat out of a slim two stabs at chin-standing goaltender Andrew Braithwaite.

By night's end in the Valley, PC was 0-for-7 on the man advantage -on which they spent a grand total time of 15:34- with nine cumulative whacks at the cage. Twenty-four hours later, they soundly outdisciplined the Warriors once more, but spilled five power plays on five shots in an eventual 3-2 drawback.

Meanwhile, another implicit fear of Army's came to pass at 3:16 of the first period when Merrimack heat gun Rob Ricci finished a carry-over natural hat trick (he was the lone goal-getter in Friday's 2-0 final) by spotting the icebreaker on a PC PK.

Only for an altogether unsubstantial two minutes and twenty seconds -early in the third period- did the Friars' tellingly tireless strike force kick off the phenomenal Braithwaite blanket. Between the 6:17 and 8:37 marks, they forged a quick 2-2 knot with the maximum goal/assist credit going around.

Among other things, Kyle Laughlin -with an assist on the Pierce Norton icebreaker- splashed on an egregious seven game pointless streak while co-captain Jon Rheault helped Greg Collins to the equalizer to end his uncharacteristic three-game spell.

Other than that, and perhaps Tyler Sims' milestone of appearing in a Friar keepers' record 111 career games, the visibility of blocks to build on is fogged in Friartown. PC, now plagued by a three-game pointless hex in the standings and a 1-4-2 tailspin, skidded from #14 to #19 in this week's USCHO leaderboard.

They have slipped back to .500 (13-13-4) overall and 10-9-4 in conference play, stuffing them into a technical tie for fifth with Northeastern while the resurgent likes of Vermont and Boston University (newly ranked #16 this week) have leap-frogged into the home half of the playoff picture.

PC has already squared away its eligibility for quarterfinal action in mid-March. But there is a millimeter-thick chance they could land in eighth place when the ice chips settle. If that were to occur, it would mean visiting the newly clinched regular season champion New Hampshire -the reapers for both the 2005-06 and 2006-07 seasons.

Still, only three knobs seperate the Friars from the Catamounts and Terriers -and the forthcoming Boston College is somewhere in the middle of that as well. As Army told USCHO's Bill Koch on the scene of Saturday's debacle, the Friars need to recognize that most anything can still go in this inimitable banner race.

"I think maybe our confidence is a little bit lower, and we’ve just got to keep getting better and go play the best hockey we can play," he said. "If we play well we’re going to have an opportunity to win."

Uncanny selection: In a span of three weeks, the sophomore Braithwaite worked up the three most worthwhile sweats of his career -all against Providence. With 50 saves back on February 2 followed by 42 last Friday and 47 Saturday, he did his share to stamp a 2-0-1 final on the season series.

The five points spooned off of PC are the most the Warriors have extracted from anybody so far (they also took four from UMass-Amherst). All those have helped amount their season total to 14, only three below the league poverty line.

Quick Feeds: Freshman forward Ben Farrer was out of action for the first time since October this past weekend... A handful of tweaks were made in the line charts between Friday and Saturday. For instance, noted bouncer Trevor Ludwig played left wing on Friday's fourth line -opposite Laughlin and John Mori...The nomadic Rheault took the right side with Ian O'Connor and John Cavanagh Friday, then Collins and Matt Germain Saturday...The Friars have now outshot the opposition in twenty consecutive games.

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