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Thursday, December 18, 2008

On Hockey

D Fenced
Abrupt departures shrivel PC backline to bare minimum

The Tim Army Corps has been slashed two-handedly, and two-bodily, with a true Scrooge-like Christmastime ideal. The surplus population in Army’s dressing room has decreased, as has now been confirmed by their revised roster on the program’s website.

Defensemen Bryce Aneloski and Joe Lavin have both withdrawn their membership with the Friars in favor of a second tour at the junior level, the freshman Aneloski destined for his old USHL club in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and sophomore Lavin –a US NTDP product- latching on to the Omaha Lancers.

The Cedar Rapids Roughriders had rejoiced in the second coming of Aneloski last Saturday, though more local sources did not affirm the notion until Tuesday, one day after PC had wrapped up its first of two academic semesters. Regardless, Aneloski should be raring to rekindle his tenure of toughness in the Tier I ranks tonight when the Riders host the Indiana Ice. Lavin, meanwhile, could make his debut as early as tomorrow night in a home tussle with the Lincoln Stars

Meanwhile, the still fairly stuffy dressing room on the men’s half of the House That Lou Built will still house a colossal collection of 19 forwards (the twentieth man, rookie Chad Johnson, had yet to play a game before he sifted out the door himself to an undisclosed alternative). And, pending Ryan Simpson’s overdue recovery, they’ll have the just-right trinity of goaltenders (but then, there’s also walk-on David Spagnoli in case of an emergency).

But just by their puck luck, the loss of Aneloski and Lavin snips the Friars’ allotment of designated defenders from eight to six. Seven spare strikers, one-to-two remaining stoppers, no room for error along the blue line.

This means, most ideally, no lengthy, immobilizing injuries and no sleepskating acts that would force Army to assign a backliner to the upper bowl, as he did with Lavin for four games this autumn. Should either dreaded circumstance arise, the natural second resort is to convert a member of the copious offensive brigade.

But who? With an otherwise appreciable gunsmith/bruiser like Matt Taormina –one of only two defenders, besides Aneloski, to have appeared in all 16 games to date- Providence hasn’t so much as offered a full-time forward the chance to patrol the point on a power play. At this time, the odds of cultivating defensive value from a forward are ambiguous to any viewer’s eye.

One would, and should, just as soon knock on Sherwood and hope this is the last of the roster ruffling for the remainder of this inexplicably dysfunctional 2008-09 campaign, which is on a timely hiatus and doesn’t even pose another intercollegiate engagement for the next 23 days.

The timing of these two deletions is all the more ominous given that this prolonged deceleration ought to have served as a divinely bestowed opportunity for the Friars, 0-8-1 in the Hockey East standings, to restore their individual and group senses before they pursued a saving second wind in the 18-game stretch drive. Instead, lingering angst pulled through in its internal grudge match with the impatient likes of Aneloski and Lavin.

Simple educated logic rules that Lavin, in particular, was psychologically melting at a glacial pace even from the summer prior to his arrival. Recall that the crackerjack prophets from Central Scouting had promised he would go no later than the wee minutes of the third round in the 2007 NHL Draft. Instead, the Chicago Blackhawks made him a late, 5th-round addition to their teeming youth movement.

Lavin subsequently came here bearing the label of “project defenseman” but had gradually honed his entertainment value and productivity, buying into Army’s offensive-compulsive menatality to venture beyond his point perch and charge up eight helpers last year.

But this season, he was just one in a handful of epitomes to the collective Nightmare on Huxley Avenue. He now departs with one point (another assist), a shallow bushel of 15 SOG, and a toe-curling -10 rating in 12 games played on the year.

Lavin’s implicit logic: the ice barns of the Heartland and their flanking farm barns are the perfect refuge and the site of athletic rebirth.

Aneloski, who hardly had time to prove he was a timely plug-in for the void left by Cody Wild, is back where he’s a tad more free to fight. And where non-Ocean State skies –be them in the NCAA or Canadian major junior ranks- are the professed limit.

The limits are more noticeably snug back here. And the Friars’ rest-recuperate-regroup regimen has been bumped back a few strides.

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com

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