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Saturday, February 9, 2008

Men's Hockey 4, Vermont 3 (OT)

Matt Tear-em-ina
Friars pull through in tempestuous marathon with Vermont

With 1:15 left in regulation, a 3-3 deadlock, and a draw looming in Vermont territory, the oft-carnivorous student cheering section of Schneider Arena rose to its feet.

By the time the game was finalized, defenseman Matt Taormina led a rampant cavalry charge straight towards a jubilant Friar Fanatic mass upon inserting the winning strike with 14 ticks to spare in the bonus round.

After Providence had failed on three other whacks during the five-minute overtime, John Cavanagh skipped a face-off win from the near circle back to Hockey East’s master blueline puckslinger. Taormina settled the play and let an oily wrister drip through a screen and home behind goaltender Joe Fallon (season best 39 saves), granting the Friars the 4-3 win and a split of their weekend hosting to the Catamounts.

Capping off an altogether dreary day as far as PC sports go –both basketball squads and women’s hockey all endured chin-knocking losses Saturday afternoon- and trying to rinse away their personal vinegar from Friday’s inept 2-1 falter, the Friars served up a comparatively gourmet dish for the rink-going evening mass of 2,121.

Taormina’s decider averted any spoilage of a milestone night –senior captain Jon Rheault charged up career points #99 and 100and pole-vaulted the Friars back into third place in the Hockey East standings. At 10-6-3, they are cozily squished between Boston College and Northeastern, who were both resting up for their Beanpot affairs on Monday.

The Providence offense, blanketed by Fallon and Co. in Friday’s inept fixture, made haste to get cracking in Saturday’s opening frame. At 10:20, Rheault lit the initial match on a shorthanded rush, picking off the puck and darting end-to-end whilst shadowed by two Vermont attackers-turned-backcheckers, and roofed a snapper for a 1-0 edge.

Less than six minutes later, the Friars power play would also cut off its recent hibernation. For a full fifty-two seconds after Catamount Bradey Irwin went off for cross-checking, Cavanagh snatched linemate Pierce Norton’s whiffed attempt behind the cage and thrust it out in front. An incoming Nick Mazzolini was there to flick it in.

But Vermont was anything but submissive to the fast-thawing Friars, who had just kilned their first multi-goal period in a somewhat long eight opportunities. Furious forking behind the PC cage ultimately set up defenseman Slavomir Tomko for a Mark Johnson-type of booster –a goal coinciding with the clock expiring for intermission.

No protest from PC, though; just a nimble redeemer at 1:02 of the second period. Rheault clamped down defender Trevor Ludwig’s rebound along the near post and handed it off to Greg Collins, who batted it into a gaping left half of the cage.

Compared with what had preceded throughout the weekend, Saturday’s final 40-plus minutes had no boundaries in terms of shot allotment. A heated, back-and-forth second period alone saw the Catamounts sculpt a 16-14 edge in the shooting gallery. And at the 11:19 mark, they made like the Friars in splashing a dehydrated power play force to cut the deficit to 3-2.

Far point patroller Viktor Stalberg forwarded a straight-line feed to Brian Roloff, who let a curving bid travel to Jack Downing, who tapped it home from goaltender Tyler Sims’ (30 saves) porch.

Downing was right back at it in the middle of the third, pouncing on a neutral zone giveaway by Taormina and improvising an odd-man rush. Journeying into attacking territory, Downing lured Sims far to his left and out of his crease and in effect laced in the equalizer with 12:38 remaining.

But Providence, which had made point-docking squanders of leads in its two previous outings, shook it off and tipped the shooting scale at 17-8 for the period. In the more climactic stages of regulation and carrying over to the extra session, they generally confined the play to Vermont territory and set the redemption stage for Taormina.

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