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Wednesday, February 27, 2008

On Hockey

Electric PC/BC bonanza this weekend

Of all the gadgety features a laptop keyboard offers these days, a lightning strike punch is not one of them. Perhaps just as well since, if it did, the Young brothers could have filed a plagiarism claim out of Glasgow if they stumbled upon the headline for this feature.

Come what may, there is all cause for charged-up, saluteable rockin' across the four corners, four teams, and four games of Providence College-Boston College hockey this weekend. Residents of New England's heralded Dominican and Jesuit campuses have the privilege to shake their ice barns all night (and day) long.

Between 2 p.m. Friday and likely no later than 10 p.m. Saturday both the men's and women's teams for the two schools will have both conducted a pivotal home-and-home series. And for them, there won't be a whole lot of room for done-dirt-cheap, power play-granting deeds.

For the two Skating Sororities in question, it's a race to answer the last call for a playoff spot before next weekend's semi-final action on the UConn campus. Of the two spots still unclaimed, the Friars, Eagles, and Boston University are still eligible. Ironically, the third-place Friars would have had their berth squared away last weekend if not for BU's 4-1 knockout of the cross-town rivals last Saturday.

As it stands now, though, Providence (10-7-2) sits three points up on the Terriers and four on the Eagles. Do the math: these two games are must wins for BC. Should the Friars ply out at least a point Friday up at Conte Forum and BU gets any further ahead, they will return Saturday for their home finale with third place cemented and a visitor merely playing for pride before they crack open their off-season training guides.

If the Terriers slip up in Part I of their series against Northeastern, the Friars will get their passports to Storrs regardless and then it's a long-distance fight for fourth place between the Commonwealth Avenue rivals.

When the women are through with their first bout at Chestnut Hill, the He-Friars and He-gles convene on the same surface at 7, though not before PC coach Tim Army takes the spotlight at BC's Walsh Hall for an alumni reception.

All of the thank-you-for-your-support sentiment is not likely to last. At puck-drop, both Army and opponent Jerry York will each have a roster scrapping for recovery from recent slides and a way out of the Hockey East gridlock.

York's students (10-7-6), though #8 in the country this week, are 1-3-0 in their last four games and clenching fourth place with their canines. The Friars are winless in their last four (0-3-1) and losers of their last three, yet are only two points behind BC at 10-9-4.

Unlike the women, the men will have an additional two games to snatch and chew after their follow-up at Schneider Arena on Saturday. But if it can be helped, they would prefer to clear some air now. After all, only a week ago were the Eagles and Friars still second and third respectively in the league. For the moment, BU and Vermont have wizardly usurped those positions. Then again, all teams still have eight points up for grabs and 7th-place UMass-Lowell is a mere seven behind the Terriers.

PC proven: The matchups for this weekend will double the number of get-togethers between Friars and Eagles teams this academic year. Aleady, a PC team has tangled with BC somewhere in Greater Boston on four occasions, pulling through every time.

Men's soccer stamped a head-turning 1-0 triumph at Chestnut Hill on October 16. Precisely two weeks later, women's hockey dropped in and splashed an early season drought by way of a 3-2 win.

Men's hoops hung up one of its few precious highlights December 1 when it topped the Eagles at the Garden-based Hall of Fame Challenge, 98-89, in overtime. And most recently, men's hockey nipped the Eagles at Conte Forum, 3-2, four weeks ago.

Barring any spontaneous tournament encounters, the only other Friar-Eagle clash will be on the PC softball diamond May 1.

Picture nearly set: The three-way hustle between the PC women and the two Hub clubs is all that's left as far as playoff implications go. Maine and Vermont -seventh and eighth respectively- have a pair of dates in Orono this weekend while New Hampshire and Connecticut could harmlessly treat their home-and-home set like a few games of mansion backyard tennis. Data has the Wildcats guaranteed to finish first while the Huskies are uncatchable in second place.

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