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

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

On Hockey

A peasant-like playoff
2008 Mayor’s Cup more about ego salvation

Providence College, whose packet of royal rooters is malignantly rotting and threatening to disintegrate, carried its “Failure to Launch” theme clear through November and well into last Friday’s 5-2 falter at Quinnipiac.

Brown University, whose laptop loiterers in the USCHO fan forum have dubbed their approach to this season, “Nowhere to go but up,” only hatched the goose egg in its win column that same evening, edging Union at home, 5-4.

Tonight’s Mayor’s Cup get-together at Meehan Auditorium will pit a PC program brandishing a 2-12-1 overall record and negative GF-GA difference of 31-64 against a Brown program subsisting on a 1-7-2 transcript together with a 21-40 scoring discrepancy. Hardly a heavyweight card that’s likely to give local events like Trinity Rep’s A Christmas Carol or Holiday on Hope –which will be on the exact same street as the game- a competitive marketing derby.

Yet the fraying Friars and battered Bears alike are expressly more than happy to take leave of their respective ruts and enjoy a somewhat serious pre-holiday friendly.

After all, somebody is literally going to have a Cup of cheer after the final buzzer. That dollop of cheer may by all means function as ointment to soothe the series of psychological lesions these teams have accumulated for the first half of the season.

Whoever doesn’t lay claim to that minipack of relief will have to accept yet another clip to the chin and let it run its own course until after New Year’s. Tonight will round out the Friars nonconference schedule and commence a full month off from game action, not to end until a home bout with UMass-Lowell January 10. After this, the Bears have their break followed by a little Christmastime fostering for the Minnesota-hosted Dodge Holiday Classic over the first weekend of January.

Looking at their respective conditions, the contesting clubs have mutually modest wishes to deck their struggling neighbor and get something genuinely substantial to nibble on while they retool for Part II of the season. That is how, if nowhere else in the building, the typical implications of the Mayor’s Cup will be well-preserved at ice level.

“It’s a rivalry for sure,” said Brown skipper Roger Grillo in a Providence Journal multimedia snippet. “It’s just a different one. It’s instate, it’s bragging rights, there’s hardware involved…There is a little extra bite to that game than a normal nonleague game for us, for sure.”

Simply put, a quote that general on its own doesn’t indicate whether the Bears are 9th in the ECAC –which they are- or 9th in the nation. They just want to assert themselves as the civic superiors and then get on with the rest of their agenda.

Ditto the Friars. In the same ProJo online featurette, head coach Tim Army only reeled back to his first and, to date, only business trip across town two years ago, when his pupils swallowed a 21-shot, two-goal firestorm in the first period and never recovered en route to a 2-1 Brown triumph.

He said it last year prior to a retaliatory 8-0 lashing of the Bears at Schneider Arena, and he said it again to rev up for this year. Brown’s win back on November 26, 2006, was far more facile than met the scoreboard.

“The only thing I remember is that we got beat over there two years ago, and they really came at us,” said Army. “We gotta really be ready to get at it.”

Friar Fanatics can see the smudge on that CD lens. The Friars have now absorbed eight straight Ls, regularly inviting the opposition to sculpt a quick multi-goal lead and letting the remainder of the game pan out on that pace. Some nights, like in the latest loss to Quinnipiac, they hiccupped without hesitation. Other nights, they have stalled to capitalize while the getting was good and ultimately spilled everything on a fleeting opposing outburst –as was seen the last time they were in town against Dartmouth two weeks ago.

The last of their all-out concessions, saturated with uncalled-for penalty minutes and gaping margins of defeat, appear to have subsided. But the fundamental fact is they have not concocted a formula sufficient to be on the victorious side since the week before Halloween, when Brown was just getting its game schedule off to a belated start.

Tonight’s choice as to the end result for the Friars is simply as follows: hit the hiatus on a smiling note, or staple two consecutive calendar months without a win.

The bragging rights affixed to the Mayor’s Cup are immoveable, as the contesting coaches say. But this particular year, it looks more like a charity kettle. And only one needy party will get the goods.

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com

No comments: