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Friday, February 8, 2008

Vermont 2, Men's Hockey 1

Catamounts cut off Friars’ climb

For all the hors d’oeuvres of potential momentum laid before them in Friday’s contest, the Friars made next to no use to collect enough to last them through the night.

They owned a 1-0 edge for a transitory 80 seconds, fell short on their other 36 registered bids at Vermont keeper Joe Fallon, and blew six power play opportunities –including a 5-on-3 bullion that lasted for 1:53 in the second and a full two-minute carryover into the closing frame.

And finally, the visiting Catamounts pounced to wrest away a 2-1 decision before 2,075 bystanders in Part I of this back-to-back series at Schneider Arena.

Vermont defenseman Josh Burrows’ eventual decider –carried out with 12:20 to spare in regulation- was a visually apt reflection of the off-balance end-to-end action on display the whole evening. Upon winning a draw in the Providence end, center Colin Vock handed the disc off to winger Corey Carlson, who in turn laced it back to the far point boards.

Burrows awkwardly stamped it well enough to spare his team a regrouping session in neutral ice and thrust a low rider in through goaltender Tyler Sims’ gaping, upside-down-drawbridge five-hole. The Friars’ offense hit the peak of its rabidity afterward, eventually sculpting a 15-5 shot differential in the closing stanza. But the Green and Gold graters shriveled all of those attempts into digestible bites for Fallon.

From the start, Friday’s fixture was anarchic and generally air hockey-paced as intolerant defenses on both fronts accepted their share of time in the box –all of which they killed- for the sake of keeping their goalies undisturbed. The Catamounts unleashed the first three shots of the game within the first five minutes, but only one was on a power play afforded at the 0:48 mark when Jordan Kremyr took a hitting from behind ticket.

Providence didn’t register any bids until a while after its first man-advantage had expired at 7:08, though it tossed out three in succession on its first sustained attack and went on to berry-pick enough to lead the shooting gallery 9-7 at intermission.

But both teams needed fresh ice before they could strike the back of the mesh, which they both did within the first two minutes. To start, the Friars took flight as John Cavanagh seized the remnants of Sims’ sprawling save on Vermont top gun Dean Strong and bolted down the right alley. Cavanagh would hand it off to his own hot hand, Jon Rheault, who dinged his 15th tally of the season home off the opposite post at 0:34.

Instant karma? Hardly. Try instant payback –not to mention a long-awaited cleansing of the Friars’ one-sided visit to Burlington back in December- on the part of the Catamounts.

After stoning the reasonable 20-shot bushel he faced at the Gutterson Fieldhouse, Sims had no answer for the stalking backdoor patroller Wahsontiio Stacey. Stacey’s linemate, Viktor Stalberg, forwarded a magnetic behind-the-net feed to Kyle Medvec, whose subsequent slapper brushed Sims’ boot and roosted right in Stacey’s clutch for the nimble rebound insertion.

To their credit, the Friars gradually thawed out their good-and-plenty shooting trend and pulled further ahead in that category. And after withstanding back-to-back penalty kills (including 13 seconds with two men missing) around the halfway mark of the game, Providence effectively flustered the Catamounts into their own moments of shame in the box.

But there would be no shame for Fallon to swallow as he instead engulfed four power play shots late in the middle frame then needed to tilt aside just one from Joe Lavin –his fellow Chicago Blackhawk prospect- while killing a two-minute boarding sentence taken by defenseman Patrick Cullity at the second period buzzer.

PC logged another four stabs before the Catamounts made haste to run off with a near-miss by Friar Matt Germain in the eighth minute. Sims summoned a whistle at 7:32 by handling a Stalberg shot, but within another eight seconds would relinquish the game clincher, Vermont’s penultimate shot of the night.

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