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Thursday, February 28, 2008

Hockey Log

Men's matchup a battle of resiliency

This season, Boston College head coach Jerry York has at times needed to employ an Aeneas sort of optimism to prop up the spirits within Conte Forum. And, to their credit, the Eagles have C-cut around the various speedbumps well enough to charge up a 16-9-7 overall record, a Beanpot title, and steady membership in the national leaderboard.

Not unlike the Friars, though, they will enter this weekend's home-and-home series trying to compress a few fresh wounds. They were just singed by the breakaway New Hampshire Wildcats 2-0 and 5-1 and consequently dipped from second to fourth in the standings. Providence (10-9-4) need only conjure a duplicate of their epic 3-2 triumph on Chestnut Hill four weeks ago to forge a tie with the Eagles (10-7-6).

For York's guys, coming in with the nominal honor of being back-to-back national runners-up was plenty enough to boil a seething pot of determination this season. But the Eagles have since dealt with the loss of one integral veteran to injury in Brock Bradford, another to mid-season pro signing in defenseman Brett Motherwell, and -as if any Hockey East inhabitant needed a reminder to expect the unexpected- another bolt by rookie Ryan Hayes.

Bradford reaggravated a broken arm sustained in the season opener after four games in January, though he cultivated three goals and five points over that stretch. But not long after he pitched in a precious helper for a 2-2 draw with Boston University January 19, he was pronounced disabled for the remainder of the season.

Bradford's fellow junior Motherwell -44 point-produced career assists and all- similarly lasted through the titanic tussle with Michigan on October 12 before he was caught in syrupy off-ice troubles, as was senior blueliner Brian O'Hanley. Motherwell has long since relinquished the remainder of his collegiate eligibility and is now scraping out minimum wage between AHL Syracuse and ECHL Elmira -both Columbus Blue Jacket farm clubs.

Two months after the jossling Motherwell development, and less than ten days before the Bradford sweet-tart cycle was completed, Hayes hooked on with the OHL's Plymouth Whalers. After being allotted a mere six appearances with the Eagles and sprinkling three points, Hayes has charged up a point-per-game transcript through 18 outings in Plymouth.

But as for those who have hung about, BC has received skate-kiss-worthy compensation from a rookie trinity in Joe Whitney, John Muse, and Brian Gibbons. Of Whitney's 39 points, best among Hockey East freshmen, a Motherwell-like 32 have been assists. And it hasn't been uncommon -particularly on the power play- for Whitney to collaborate with sophomore Ben Smith (17 goals 35 points) and junior Nathan Gerbe (team best 22 goals and 44 points).

The goaltender Muse is about three sheets beyond the no-questions-asked point, having digested every minute of the 32 games played so far. The question now may be "Who, again, is Cory Schneider?"

Gibbons has just turned up his twig -18 points between Thanksgiving and Valentine's Day for a season total of 22- though he and all his mates are now in midst of a post-Beanpot muddle. Since repressing Harvard for that long-craved crown, Gibbons is dry on the scoresheet and the Eagles are 1-3-0.

That's nothing the Friars can't relate to. PC's swaying enterprise, recent national recognition aside, is currently in one of its sour stretches. The Friars are on a three-game slide and have only two Ws to speak of in the dying month of February.

And the only opponent they have managed to polish off in regulation this month happens to be these Eagles. Since that get-together on February 1, Providence is a cringing 1-4-2 and fresh off a double-dose of Merrimack vinegar.

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