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Thursday, October 30, 2008

On Hockey

They just need to win
Pollsters clearly scout for victors

By the time the PC women’s hockey team ships up to Boston for a matinee bout with the BU Terriers this Saturday, the calendar Zamboni will have just razed October in favor of November. And, already through eight games, the Friars have consumed nearly a quarter of their 34-game regular season schedule.

Etching that in his players’ collective minds, head coach Bob Deraney has drained the last of his flexibility for incomplete game-to-game output, which explains why he winced over both last Saturday’s fall-from-ahead, 3-1 setback to Boston College and Sunday’s redressing 4-2 knockoff of Maine that could have been a second dish of vinegar-based defeat.

Given Deraney’s perpetually expressed ambitions, he has no other choice in his approach. Looking at a 3-5 overall record, including a toe-curling 1-3 transcript and nine dates yet to come in interleague play, all of the tiresome trends are again thawing out like clockwork for these Friars.

As it has been seasonal week in and seasonal week out since the Day the Dynasty Died circa March 2006, Providence was looking up at all the certified national bigwigs and their team-lift-required bushels of poll points and glanced back at the marbles of recognition in its palm.

Key word: was. Key tense: past. The Friars indubitably spilled the slim sampling of points that they had over the weekend when they dropped before the Eagles, who in effect ascended from the #7 slot to the #4 perch of the USCHO leaderboard, pole-vaulting them over New Hampshire as Hockey East’s most acclaimed program this week.

Imagine, though, if that fateful third period –wherein BC speared Providence for three unanswered strikes, abolishing a 1-0 deficit- could be deleted and/or succeeded by a duplicate of the opening frame, when Kate Bacon swept in a visually exhilarating shorthanded, 2-on-1 conversion. It’s no secret: PC could have cracked the Top 10 surface. That glowing puck was square on their collective blades.

But since those blades had more motor oil than frictional athletic tape in the critical climax of last Saturday’s outing, the Friars are completely out of the poll picture for the first time this season.

Deraney, his coaching colleagues, his pupils, and their fan base could seethe at the panel for not taking all the finer points into account. They could try underscoring the fact that they have yet to submit a defeat of two-plus goal margins.

But based on Deraney’s recent accounts, the folks in control at ice level are not filing those complaints. They are making reluctant concessions and pressing on like professionals.

Those who would like to fault the Great Ranking Masters’ superficial approach have only a limited validity to their argument. The fact is the poll personnel cannot come close to witnessing everything they evaluate. There is no fraternal twin to NHL Center Ice servicing NCAA puck junkies/pundits.

Owing to that inconvenience, teams are, generally speaking, ranked based on their own scoreboard success rate and that of the programs they tangle with every week. The greater your opponents’ profile of late, the more you ought to drool over the prospect of a spotlight feast should you catch this piece of big game.

The piercing truth is that the Friars have yet to do that. They charged up a pair of one-goal skid marks versus a similarly aspirant Ohio State team. They numbed and softened the almighty St. Lawrence, but couldn’t deal the lethal hack. And they let the other skate drop on them when all was good against BC.

But PC isn’t exactly a Ron Paul in its pool of fellow competitors. The few analysts who do take in a constant, firsthand observation of the Friars know they are missing nothing in the achievement kit.

Over Phase II of their five-month quest, the Friars have another three poll regulars slated over a month’s total of seven contests. BU, thriving on the backs of what will be the young program’s first graduating class, is currently #8 in USCHO’s eyes with 46 points. The implicit explanation: they stand at 5-2-1 overall and made superficial waves a week ago tonight by slapping New Hampshire with its first Hockey East loss since November 2, 2006.

And on the other end of a two-night getaway to Robert Morris, PC shall return home to face two current honorable mentions in Connecticut (November 16) and Mercyhurst (November 21).

Complex a game as this may be, generous as it can be in passing out moral Ws, Deraney and Co. have expressly vowed to refuse those sentimental, empty calorie treats from here on out. They know, after all, that nothing woos a selection committee quite like an assertively polished victory over a fellow heavyweight.

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com

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