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Sunday, October 5, 2008

Hockey Log: Sunday Edition

Mike’d Up
PC’s play-by-play man bestowed by league

From his own self-effacing account, Mike Logan merely had the 2008 Joe Concannon Media Award –which he formally accepted at the Hockey East Media Day gathering- dropped on his lap in passing.

Reached via e-mail last Monday, when his selection for the honor was publicly disclosed, Logan merely explained that he had been notified by Pete Souris, the league’s public relations director, a month in advance of his slated acceptance.

An Al MacInnis slapshot-paced “No” was all he needed to answer whether or not he had ever entertained thoughts of clutching 17-year-old prize. Even after 13 years and counting as the Friars official TV and radio voice. Even with his selection making him the award’s first Providence-based recipient.

You could let the hockey humility pass, no question. It’s bound to have rubbed off on Logan after conveying roughly half of the PC men’s games each season for radio, and another smattering of men’s and women’s action for Cox Sports TV.

And, given that Hockey East hasn’t branched out to distinguish the talkers and the typists, the Concannon Award serves a most all-encompassing pool. In its history, it has already laid claim to three NESN employees, two former Boston Globe scribes (including the award’s late eventual namesake, who won it in 1998), and another five writers and five broadcasters –all hailing from Massachusetts, New Hampshire, or Maine.

Still, it had to brush the Ocean State sooner or later. And all Logan has done is try to build on his booming introduction to the Schneider Arena booth in the 1995-96 season, which culminated in the Friars’ most recent Hockey East crown.

Since then, he has observed and detailed the latter half of Hal Gill’s college career, the full scope of Fernando Pisani’s stay on the Divine Campus, the program’s last March excursion to the Hub in 2001 –which was earned by way of a Game 3, triple-OT overthrow of Boston University, the not-so-climactic finish to the Paul Pooley Period, and the first three years and counting of Tim Army’s bench tenure.

Through it all, plus the more trivial series of alterations in the Friars’ radio affiliates, uniform schemes, and supplementary color commentators, Logan has only hardened the ice supporting his posts and moorings. Although, he is quick to lend credit to the PC athletic department, which has offered him full auspices since the former WLKW-AM 790 station pulled away in 1999.

“They have been very loyal and supportive ever since then,” Logan noted emphatically.

Whitehead or lighthead?
Weighing in along with five other select Division I men’s coaches on collegehockeynews.com, Maine skipper Tim Whitehead struck again with his innovative, outside-the-boards thinking. Queried on the shootout –which only the CCHA, the WCHA women, and the Hockey East women plan to enact this season- and other tiebreaking options, the man who once proposed a two-ref system long before any other NCAA coaches this time suggested taking a step back in time. “If the coaches vote to keep the status quo again for 2008-09, I have already decided to propose that we go to 7-on-7 for all OTs in 2009-10,” Whitehead told CHN’s Adam Wodon.

Hockey history bookworms ought to know what this means. Whitehead wants to bring back the rover, a position that was commonplace in the pre-NHL era, for all bonus round action.

But why? That’s bound to congest the ice surface that some anti-two-ref advocates already insist is unduly bunged up. Logically, this would amount to less efficient puck movement, therefore less chance of someone potting the walk-off goal.

Exactly, Whitehead elaborates, likely swerving into thorough tongue-in-cheek mode.

“That will increase the odds of the game ending in a tie, and should make them feel better,” he said. “Another positive of a possible 7-on-7 OT format would be that youngsters attending the games will already be asleep by the time they reach the car, making it easier for their parents to put them down when they get home.”

Granted, Whitehead does parent two grade school-aged children, so there may be that ice chip-sized possibility that he genuinely feels for other parents who want their kids to doze off at a favorable time and, as an added bonus, give them a visual history lesson before bed.

Cats hardly declawed
The very morning that the Hockey East coaches’ polls were unfurled to the public eye, New Hampshire women’s skipper Brian McCloskey offered a spotlessly undaunted self-assessment to the Foster’s Daily Democrat. “Any concerns about having no fewer than three empty seats on your bench every night?” the coach was implicitly asked.

"We just don't have the margin of error we've had in the past,” McCloskey granted. “We have a group that very much is going to have to rely on each other."

And yet, "On paper our core of athletes are certainly proven scorers, proven defenders and a proven goaltender," said McCloskey. "We're not concerned that we're not going to have a strong, strong team again."

Sure enough, neither do half of McCloskey’s challengers. The Wildcats topped the poll charts, claiming half of the eight first-place votes. The second-rate Boston College Eagles and bronze medalist Friars split the other four.

Two cents from PC foreman Bob Deraney, a direct dagger victim of McCloskey’s these last two years: “Quality, not quantity…What’s interesting is that, for the first time, it’s not seven votes for the first place team and one for somebody else. It’s spread out pretty good where a couple of coaches think of us to give us a couple of votes, but BC got two votes too, and UNH only got four votes instead of seven or eight like last year.

“But UNH is going to be good again this year. Don’t let their numbers diminish how good they’re going to be. It just means that those players are going to be on the ice more.”

He could have been theirs
Time for a quick look back at the Fall 2008 recruiting tempest and where, on the Friars’ schedule, a coaching staff will confront a freshman who, under altered circumstances, could have been on their side:

PC blueliner Danny New had the option of Northeastern (the Friars’ adversaries come the season opener October 17), among others. Winger Andy Balysky, meanwhile, may just as easily have been a Holy Cross Crusader (October 25).

On the flip side, goaltender James Mello was reportedly pursued by the Friars, though he ultimately landed at Dartmouth (November 28. And, incidentally, PC sophomore defender Eric Baier will get a look at his other commitment option in this game). Forward Matt Marshall is a newly arrived Vermont Catamount (coming here November 7).

Both PC and Boston University were open to admitting Bruins ’07 draftee Tommy Cross, who instead committed to BC. The Eagles, who will pay two visits to Schneider in the latter half of the season, also beat the Friars in the derby for Barry Almeida, Paul Carey, and Edwin Shea. The Terriers (March 6), meantime, have enlisted Andrew Glass.

For a time, Phil DeSimone literally had half the league ogling him (six institutions to be precise), and Dick Umile ultimately managed to stamp the Capitals’ prospect on his New Hampshire roster. Finally, Kelen Corkum could have gone to the Tim Army Corps or either of the Hub Hunks, but naturally pounced at the chance to play for father Bob’s alma mater of Maine.

Acclimation rounding out
PC men’s head coach Tim Army, raring to tutor the last band of seniors picked by Paul Pooley’s cabinet, skated right to the point on his confidence in the captain tandem of senior Kyle Laughlin and junior John Cavanagh –one of his first recruits.

“I’m entering my fourth year at Providence College, and this is the best group of captains that we’ve had,” he insisted during the media day assembly at TD Banknorth Garden this week. “I think they have a real good understanding of the culture that we are creating and they’re truly an extension of our coaching staff in the locker room.”

Trickling directly off of that prophecy, Army offered this equally optimum prediction in an encapsulating assessment of his 08-09 roster as a whole: “I expect this year’s team to be more consistent on a game-to-game basis. When I say consistent, I’m emphasizing a truly competitive approach each and every night.”

Special Ks
Unlike the brood of the now-disgraced Roger and Deb Clemens, PC’s skating sorority still offers a cute trivial tidbit specific to those whose first names begin with a K. Glance over your shoulder to the advent of the Women’s Hockey East Association in 2002-03, and in each of the last six seasons, either Kelli Halcisak, Karen Thatcher, Kristin Gigliotti, or Kathleen Smith has topped the Friars’ scoring chart. Is Katy Beach raring to keep this trend alive in 2008-09? And, planning further ahead, will current rookie Kate Bacon be ready to let the legacy move into her twig?

Quick Feeds: Former Friar Cammi Granato’s singlehanded string of strikes in Operation Integration can’t even be stopped beyond her control. Currently finalizing her acceptance speech for next weekend’s US Hockey Hall of Fame ceremonies in Denver, where she will go down as the first female honoree, she has received official notice that the WHEA Player of the Year award will be named after her effective at the next year-end gathering…According to her foundation’s website, Jamie Coyle, the 12-year-old member of the RI Selects program stunningly stricken during a game in August, was released from Boston’s Spaulding Rehabilitation Center on Wednesday. The P-Bruins were the latest of umpteen generous entities to conduct a fundraiser in her name at Friday’s preseason game at The Dunk…Highlighted categories in the freshly announced Hockey East 25th anniversary fan ballot, honoring the most regal achievements in the league’s history: best goaltender, best goal scorer, best playmaker, best defensive player, best defensive forward, unsung hero, most memorable moment, best individual performance, best coaching performance…As far as the keenest eyes can conclude, the goaltending showdown for the Beanpot’s first round nightcap on February 2 –John Muse of BC countering Northeastern’s Brad Thiessen- is on Paleolithic ice. But, so far, the other half of the Hub –that being BU and Harvard- is so bug-stricken with Brett Bennett’s takeoff from the Terriers and Kyle Richter’s leave of absence from Cambridge that you can’t tap that “submit” icon just yet…This author’s picks for the out-of-region game of the week: The Syracuse women make their College Hockey America debut with a two-night (Friday-Saturday) visit to regional rival Robert Morris.

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com

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