• Check out the Free Press founder's new Rhode Island/New England sports blog
  • http://providencesportsscribe.blogspot.com/

Friday, October 10, 2008

Hockey Log

Shades of Friars, Eagles in Saints
Coaching change breeds curious outlook

Over the summer, Paul Flanagan, this decade’s answer to Jackie Barto, bolted the program he enriched and sustained at St. Lawrence for nine years to flood an all-new Division I pond in Syracuse.

So now, the Saints –six time NCAA dancers in the tournament’s eight year history- are left in the tutoring care of novice foreman Chris Wells, a 1992 alumnus of SLU’s men’s program who split the last 14 years as a sidekick to the men’s skippers of Colgate, Western Michigan, and his alma mater.

Under Flanagan, the Saints, unmistakably prosperous on a consistent basis, were still hampered by a clear case of 21st century Yankee Syndrome. They have constantly given a reputable run at both their conference and national crowns, yet have fallen short in every last endeavor.

Three ECAC championship games –including the last two- and five Frozen Fours –including a smooth-flowing streak of four snapped this past spring- and no untarnished, everlasting glory.

Does Wells’ advent invite an initial step back a la Joe Girardi in the Pinstripes clubhouse? More to the purpose of puck scrutiny, the Boston College saga of late offers at least a minor cautionary communiqué. There, you had Tom Mutch taking off –albeit for dubious, blurrily publicized reasons- on the heels of a 2007 Frozen Four appearance and leaving the reins for Katie King, under whom the Eagles missed the 2008 Hockey East tournament by the tip of their beaks.

But then, lo and behold, there’s also the local example. Minus a nosedive of a 1997-98 campaign, the Friars were comfortably reckonable for the duration of two decades under the Barto and John Marchetti administrations. Enter Bob Deraney in 1999, and PC continued to hover in the middleweight bundle for two seasons before their four-year league championship sprint.

In Wells’ case, not unlike Deraney’s, it may be little beyond a matter of making requisite tweaks to coach the women’s game –preferably sooner rather than later for SLU’s sake. Certainly, the Saints’ winning provisions and hardware hankering before him have not receded.

Whole new sheet, again
Barring a spontaneous NCAA tournament fixture, tonight’s bout at Schneider Arena is the last call for this PC generation to knead a W out of the Saints, something the Friars haven’t mustered since November 7, 2004, when a Karen Thatcher hat trick and a five-pack of power play strikes amounted to a 5-1 triumph at home.

Since then, St. Lawrence has indulged in burial fun in its annual interleague get-together with the Friars, all but hitting a pinnacle last October, when Providence grudgingly observed All Saints Night, submitting an 8-0 final in the rustic Appleton Arena. Two of the five multi-point artists from that game –Marianna Locke (three first period points, hat trick) and Tara Akstull (goal, assist)- are back for more.

Chartier sharpens the crease
Junior goaltender Brittony Chartier, partnering with the relatively unripe Nikki Bongaerts and Maxie Weisz, should resuscitate her formal game face after red-shirting through the 2007-08 campaign, her first at St. Lawrence upon transferring from the University of Minnesota. While a Gopher, she assumed the bulk of the crease time between 2005-07, charging up a cumulative record of 27-13-2 and claiming silver in the 2006 Frozen Four.

Chartier saw the full length of the action in the Saints’ exhibition bout with McGill University last week, pushing away ten of twelve shots faced in the first two periods before barely holding off a 17-whiff tempest in the closing frame to preserve a 5-4 win.

Quick Feeds: The Saints’ won their previous visit here, 2-1, on October 14, 2006. Current PC senior Katy Beach pitched in the lone goal for her club and absorbed a team-leading three penalty citations that afternoon. The only other Friar still existing in the program with a point against SLU to speak of is two-way connoisseur Erin Normore, who logged an assist in a 6-1 collapse in Canton three years ago…Friar Mari Pehkonen previously faced Chartier when they were instate rivals in the WCHA. Over three encounters in the 2005-06 campaign, Pehkonen, then a Minnesota-Duluth freshman, drew up one shot at the Gopher Chartier and packed an assist as part of a 6-0 Bulldog triumph October 29, 2005…Tonight’s game will be accessible through online video streaming courtesy friars.com and CBS College Sports.

No comments: