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Sunday, October 19, 2008

Men's Hockey 4, Bowling Green 3

Friars thaw in time to tame Falcons

With a 2-2 draw at hand, and Bowling Green’s top center David Solway boxed for hitting from behind, in the final minute of the second period, the Friars could have taken the standard, patient option. They could have ground it out and then accepted a fresh sheet, refreshed five-set of legs, and still another 86 seconds worth of power play time to work with the begin the indubitably vital closing frame.

Instead, they exercised the Mark Johnson Magic option, potting a go-ahead conversion with a mere 0.2 seconds on the clock. Near point patroller Matt Taormina –who had planted PC’s game and season icebreaker earlier in the period- thrust a low rider to Matt Bergland behind the net. Bergland handed it a few inches upward to John Cavanagh, who tucked it through goaltender Jimmy Spratt for the 3-2 advantage.

From there, the rookie Bergland scooped up his own goal –yet another man-up connection- less than two minutes into the third period, ultimately pacing the Friars to a 4-3 triumph before 1,392 at Schneider Arena.

The anguishing offensive coma from Friday’s 4-0 submission to Northeastern carried over and lingered for one more period last night, in which time the Falcons claimed an initial 1-0 lead. But by night’s end, Bergland had his first three collegiate points –his first a helper on Taormina’s strike in the third minute of the middle frame- and was flanked in the multi-point night club by elder likes of Cavanagh, Taormina, and Pierce Norton –all of whom picked up a goal-assist value pack.

While everyone waited for the exponential wake-up, though, the first period saw some generally air hockey-paced action with a fairly sized, sparsely distributed offering of shots for both Spratt and PC counterpart Chris Mannix. The standout exception to that trend served to spawn the early Bowling Green lead less than five minutes into the night.

Rolling along with their power play cycle even after Friar Ben Farrer’s jailbreak, the Falcons’ Todd McIlrath eventually put himself within breathing distance of a stickless Mannix and furiously forked at the puck until the goaltender let himself fall on it at the 3:02 mark. Subsequent calls to the video judge verified that the disc had kept out of the net, but for exactly 62 seconds of the next draw, Bowling Green maintained a fluid swarm that culminated with pointman Kyle Page –who had delayed the draw a tad more to replace a broken twig- letting a low shot blip off Mannix’s skate and into the clutch of Solway, who nimbly buried it at 4:04.

The Friars, who were 0-for-8 on the man advantage in their first four periods of the season, finally clicked and pulled a 1-1 knot at 2:55 of the second. The very second Kai Kantola’s two-minute sentence for tripping expired, Taormina discharged a blistering ice-kisser to the right of Spratt.

Seven minutes later, Nick Mazzolini churned with linemate Ben Farrer’s feed out of the far corner and into the slot. Mazzolini turned to find Norton cutting to the left post and shipped him a backhand feed for him to lob home top shelf.

The resultant lead, though, was but 26 seconds young when Kantola poked in James MacIntosh’s rebound to forge a 2-2 draw at 10:13. And one protracted play later, PC rookie blueliner Danny New was flagged for holding, granting the rabid Falcons their seventh power play of the night.

But the Friars held their ground for the moment, repeatedly clearing the zone, inducing the Bowling Green strike force to an icing, and chalking up a shorthanded shot via Austin Mayer. And another five minutes later, Cavanagh renewed the lead to take into the final stanza.

After Bergland augmented that lead by raking in a one-timer off Norton’s feed from the near circle top, the persistent Falcons spiked their attempted output and outshot Providence, 14-7, the rest of the way.

But Mannix (29 total saves) retained his rigidity through a six-shot Falcon power play –allotted courtesy Ian O’Connor’s interference infraction at 13:50- and merely bent within the final four seconds while the Friars killed a late 5-minute major to O’Connor, drawn with 2:53 to spare.

With a mere 3.5 ticks on the clock, Solway’s straightaway blast from the point found its way through the aid of McIlrath’s twig, at least cutting the deficit to 4-3.

But the resolute, every-last-second push that sparked the Friars the previous period simply didn’t have the means to turn the tables back this time.

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com

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