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Friday, February 15, 2008

Men's Hockey 1, New Hampshire 1

Friars rerun drawing act
52 failed shots result in tie

Earlier this week, in a league-wide media teleconference, Friars coach Tim Army proclaimed sharp similarities between the forthcoming New Hampshire Wildcats –currently fastened atop the Hockey East standings- and the nationally regal Michigan team PC encountered in December.


In Friday’s on-ice follow-up, Army’s pupils offered Cats’ goaltender Kevin Regan a similar fight to what they had given the Wolverines’ Billy Sauer –and a handful of other netminders since then.


And Regan, who upon his graduation this spring will be vying for membership in the never predictable Bruins Goalies’ Guild, responded similarly. With only one blemish, he compiled a career-high 52 saves, enough to mold out a 1-1 draw before 2,543 at Schneider Arena.


Meanwhile Providence, bolstered by Tyler Sims’ 28 saves and a second period equalizer by John Cavanagh, made a baby-step from their 5-4 OT slip-up to these Wildcats three months ago –one bitter pill that Army has regularly hearkened back to ever since.


Overall, the Friars are now 2-3-4 in bonus round action this season. This was only New Hampshire’s third game going beyond sixty minutes and first since their November visit to the PC campus –extraordinary given the night-to-night anarchy across Hockey East.


Anarchy? That bottle opened the moment Friday’s first puck was dropped. The Friars’ starting forward unit released the bashing beast within, flaunting three hits on its first shift. For the next few minutes, PC sculpted a 4-0 edge on the shot clock before New Hampshire leveled four bids of its own, all while contesting bodies battered without mercy.


At the 6:16 mark, though, Friar captain Jon Rheault was the first checker to go overboard and took a two-minute sit-down for cross-checking. Less than 30 seconds later, the UNH power play, curiously ninth in the league for all its flustering flare, nonetheless struck for an early lead.


Senior forward Matt Radja, withholding the biscuit around the near circle top, forwarded it to left point patroller Brad Flaishans. Flaishans’ low rider got the boot from Sims but met up with freshman Danny Dreis, who raked in the rebound from the backdoor.


After Wildcat Phil DeSimmone was flagged at 9:50 for obstruction hooking, the nightlong shooting imbalance ensued. Starting with one power play stab, the Friars ran ahead 14-4 on that front for the remainder of the period. But Regan, who was required to push away five more shots on another PK just three minutes after DeSimmone’s jailbreak, was impeccable for the moment.


The middle frame followed a somewhat similar pattern to the first, though it was New Hampshire running on the initial sugar rush with four unanswered whacks at Sims. By the eighth minute, the Friars had killed off back-to-back penalties, confining the Cats to two shots in the process, and went on to bust ahead in the shooting gallery, which they lead 39-20 at the horn.


And at 13:39, after the first 30 produced zilch, Providence finally cracked the cage. In a routine grinding session, Ian O’Connor laced a feed from behind the net to linemate John Mori in the far corner. Mori hopped out with it to forward to Cavanagh, who thrust a quick wrister under Regan’s glove.


After each team had already taken three shorthanded shifts, the final five minutes of the second period were marred by two separate incidents that warranted 4-on-4 action. And at the 1:00 mark of the third, the Friars briefly had a wide-open 4-on-3 advantage when Joe Charlebois went off for elbowing Nick Mazzolini in neutral ice.


But about that time, the puck-stabbing and skater-slamming tempest tapered off considerably. PC was restricted to ten tries at Regan, the Wildcats a game-low seven at Sims for the remainder of regulation.


The fun-size fourth period may have been the most end-to-end frame of the evening. Within the final thirty seconds alone, Radja nearly stamped a Wildcat win by collecting a fugitive puck at the Friar blue line and breaking alone down the far alley. He ended up whiffing it well over the crossbar.


On the resultant turnover, Rheault –tied with Matt Taormina with three game-winners for PC this season- saw his team’s last attempt of the night swallowed by Regan’s UNH crest with nine seconds to spare.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Hockey Log

PC Women look to build on turnaround

The PC women entered last Sunday’s home date with Connecticut on the heels of having their canines chipped in two anguishing far-between losses to the Huskies on Saturday and a 3-1 submission to Boston University –their first loss to the Terriers in franchise history- one week previous. They walked out of it with a fresh lease on their bite.

By the third period of their Saturday visit to Storrs, after they had fervently run up a 20-9 shooting edge in the initial forty minutes, their blades went utterly numb. And, as a consequence, the season-long ranked Huskies cracked open a 3-0 lead and exiled starting goaltender Danielle Ciarletta from her crease in a matter of four-and-a-half minutes.

When that 3-0 data turned to stone, the Friars appeared in danger of doing the same –not to mention losing a distressing hunk of ground behind their Southern New England rivals in the Hockey East standings.

Fast forward to this practice week, and Providence is breathing smoothly again, and even nibbling on an honorable mention vote in the USCHO polls, as it sharpens up for the forthcoming home-and-home pair with the other Huskies –Northeastern. The Friars earned that right by converting their energy and turning it right back on UConn in an epic 5-3 home victory on Sunday.

Less than twenty-four hours after the potent Huskies confined them to a single shot in the decisive third period, the Friars simply flipped-flopped the roles to start Part II at Schneider, charging up a 16-1 shooting edge and 2-0 lead. By the time UConn woke up salivating, Providence proved ready for a balanced arm wrestling bout with the team that had outscored them 8-0 in two visits to Freitas Ice Forum this season.

And, for a change, these traditional Hockey East front-runners were kindling a balanced showdown again. The Friars –bolstered heavily by two-point baggers Alyse Ruff, Mari Pehkonen, and Brittany Simpson- held up well enough to stamp UConn –which received multi-point outputs from Brittany Murphy and Samantha Reid- with its first L since December 7 against the newly crowned Beanpot champion Harvard.

More to the point, the third-place Providence (8-5-2) is back within three points of Connecticut and is next turning its attention to the only conference cohabitant that they have yet to reap any riches from –Northeastern. These two have not met since November 6, when the Hub Huskies treated the Friars to an earthquake of a home opener. They staved off a 30-9 shot onslaught through two periods before leading the gallery 16-5 in the third and pinning a 5-4 win.

Northeastern has since rung up a 5-9-1 transcript and is placed sixth in the league –although, only almighty New Hampshire has overrun them by more than three goals at any point this season.

Roster Refills: Senior forward Jenna Keilch –who was kept out of the BU visit by a shoulder injury sustained two nights previous- was quick to return to action for the Connecticut series, though she was confined to only one shot per game.

Classmate Rachel Crissy, hampered by knee trouble for nearly a month now, has at least progressed well beyond use of crutches. It remains blurry as to whether or not she will be available come Saturday’s trek to Boston, but if she were, both she and Keilch would be on pace to play career game #125 in the home half on Sunday.

Quick Feeds: With her goal in last Sunday’s victory, #13 on the year, hot-bladed senior defender Kathleen Smith matched her freshman-through-junior aggregate…Two power play goals on Sunday ended a five-game spell wherein the Friars cultivated zilch on 29 opportunities…The new top line of Pehkonen, Ruff, and Jean O’Neill has now combined for five points as a unit twice in their last four games. O’Neill also picked up her first game-winner Sunday…All Hockey East games this weekend will be highlighted by the league’s second annual observance of “Skating Strides Against Breast Cancer.” Additionally, the Friars plan to give away 500 Skating Friar Potato Heads, just as their male counterparts did January 26, at Sunday’s 2:00 tilt on campus.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Hockey Log

Spoils rained on Rheault Saturday

Let it Rheault, let it Rheault, let it Rheault.

The Friars’ third goal in Saturday’s instant classic bout with Vermont –which augmented their lead to 3-1 at 1:02 of the second period- was not the final doing of Jon Rheault. However, the senior captain was spotted swinging into a quick Ray Bourque kneeling fist pump, suggesting that he was already aware of his 100th career point arriving by way of an assist even before the PA system addressed the milestone to the audience a few stoppages later.

As it happened, Rheault’s special night was still not cemented. Hours after the game was clinched in overtime –and after this publication unleashed its account of the game- he was retroactively credited with the deciding goal, having evidently guided defenseman Matt Taormina’s slapper into the net.

That much noted, the PA announcement, CSTV Gametracker, and Sunday morning’s headline tabbing Taormina as the clutch man of the night –which he nonetheless has been many occasions this season- were only a few rungs shy of “Dewey Defeats Truman” on the look-before-you-leap scale.

Come what may, this does come only a week after Taormina’s third winning strike at Boston College and a month after Rheault had kindled a walk-off goal against Lowell. In that respect, Saturday’s collaboration made for a Skating Friar equivalent of, say, David Ortiz accepting a ninth-inning walk before Manny Ramirez deposits a meteorite on Lansdowne Street.

On a more personal level for Rheault, he exceeded his career high with his 17th lighter of the season, having tied his no-jinx sophomore total of 16 with a shorthanded goal in the first period and amounted all of that to his eighth 3-plus point game in his Friar career.

Cavanagh quick to amend: At 13:14 of the second period in Friday’s 2-1 loss, sophomore John Cavanagh was flagged with a tripping penalty. Within a mere thirteen seconds of his jailbreak, he put Providence at the man-advantage by absorbing a hit-from-behind by Jack Downing behind the Catamount cage.

One might say he paid his dues well enough right there. But on Saturday, Cavanagh effectively drew two more power plays. Late in the opening frame, he took a cross-check from Brayden Irwin and followed up by assisting on Nick Mazzolini’s conversion 52 seconds later.

Cavanagh went on to initiate the OT goal, closing up his revolutionary weekend with three helpers to boost his scoring transcript to 4-12-16.

Ruffian Rookies: For all the hitting-from-behind infractions that were called in the Providence-Vermont series (5 total), four of them were handed to a freshman, be it one in a Friar or Catamount jersey.

And to the temporary dismay of the PC bench, Matt Germain’s infraction midway through Saturday’s game was the only one that warranted a five-minute major. Vermont utilized its resultant all-you-can-score buffet to reduce PC’s lead to 3-2, but was otherwise thwarted by Tyler Sims and Co.

Schneider Samaritans: Prior to Saturday’s face-off, the evening’s select student vocalist had a dollop of trouble booting up her rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

Take 1: “Oh say, can you see? At the twilight…”

Take 2: “O say, can you see? At the twigh-”

Take 3: By this point, the good-natured Schneider Arena crowd joined in from the start and offered up a whistling, pat-on-the-back ovation at the anthem’s conclusion.

Quick Feeds: The Friars have now required overtime in seven of their nineteen Hockey East games and have posted a 2-3-2 transcript in that scenario. Among fellow Hockey East inhabitants, only Boston College has played a bonus round in conference action that frequently. The Eagles and Catamounts each have nine OT games to their credit overall…Rheault registered a whopping dozen shots on net in his dazzling outing on Saturday as well as seven on Friday, including his team’s only goal in the losing effort…PC remains perfect (9-0) when leading after two periods…Monday’s refreshed USCHO poll has the Friars ranked 14th in the nation…Sophomore goaltender Ryan Simpson, with a 1-3-0 record to his credit as a freshman, suited up to back Sims for the first time this season last weekend.


Sunday, February 10, 2008

Women's Hockey 5, Connecticut 3

PC subsists on early stash
Jumpstart offense, pushy PK sets up close shave win

To start Sunday’s contest, the Friars made indebted use of the UConn Huskies startling dormancy, which they had failed to do in Part I of this home-and-home series, sculpting a commanding 4-1 edge before the halfway mark.

But after Connecticut fused its defensive borders –just as it did in the decisive third period of Saturday’s 3-0 Friar falter- and wrinkled the score to 4-3 at intermission, Providence was forced to play a scrappier letters game. That is, the PK brought its A-game for the W, finalized as 5-3 courtesy Alyse Ruff’s empty netter in the final minute.

Including a carry-over cross-checking sentence to Erin Normore, the Friars hampered four Husky power play sessions, reducing their radiant adversaries to a cumulative four shots at goaltender Danielle Ciarletta (14 saves) and no equalizer.

Minus the unremitting whistle activity, Sunday’s third period was the least tempestuous with only a 6-5 shot on net differential in favor of UConn. To start in the opening frame, the seething Friars sprinkled a gradual flurry at goaltender Brittany Wilson and would lead the shooting gallery 16-0 within eighteen minutes of action.

Wilson (25 saves) –fresh off another successful act of Friar Restraint on Saturday, which included an impeccable fourteen-save second period- snapped and surrendered her first goal to PC in all three meetings this season at 12:59. Forward Jean O’Neill, withholding the puck in the near corner for a lengthy stretch, finally thrust it out to Mari Pehkonen on the porch of the crease.

Wilson pushed away Pehkonen’s initial bid, only to see the feisty Finn vacuum the rebound and flick it home from a gritty crouching position.

Less than five minutes later, PC made it 2-0 by converting their second power play of the day. Kathleen Smith absorbed a feed from point partner Brittany Simpson, circumvented a kneeling penalty killer Michelle Binning, and roofed a wrister through a screen from the right circle top.

It would still be another 29 ticks before the Huskies finally registered a stab at Ciarletta, though it was little more than a well-aimed dump-in by Jaclyn Hawkins that the goaltender inched out to play and clear.

But when PC’s Jenna Keilch was flagged with a two-minute sentence that carried over into the middle frame, UConn chipped out of its offensive chrysalis. Catching up to a near-side clearing attempt, point patroller Samantha Reid looped a feed to Amy Hollstein, who batted home the conversion at 0:23.

The Huskies took their own turn in the box just a minute later, however, and the Friars sustained the momentum in attacking territory long enough to broaden their lead at the 3:50 mark. Pamela McDevitt nudged her face-off win back to Cherie Hendrickson at the right circle-top. Hendrickson missed on her first attempt, but shuffled a few steps forward to reunite with the puck and snipe a bar-down rebound.

Within another five minutes, Connecticut’s Cristin Allen earned her third citation of the game for elbowing Simpson. And for the second time, she would helplessly watch the Providence strike force capitalize.

Simpson wasted no time shipping a lateral feed from Smith down to Ruff along the right post. Ruff settled the play for a moment before handing it off in front to O’Neill, who nimbly buried the eventual game-clincher.

By that point, when there was still 11:31 to spare in the period, the Friars were up 22-5 in terms of shots. But as was the case 24 hours previous on the UConn campus, the Huskies reduced their limited time offer at a glacial rate while booting up their efforts on Ciarletta’s property. In doing so, they drew power play after power play and converted twice to close the gap to 4-3.

In the thirteenth minute, top gun Dominique Thibault took charge of a regrouping session, touring the puck from end-to-end on her own and dishing a backhand pass for Reid to tap in on a one-timer.

With 2:12 till intermission, Brittany Murphy dropped a rebound from the slot for Nicole Tritter to slip in.

When those ice chips had settled, Connecticut had outshot the Friars, 10-9, for that tempestuous stanza. But on the fresh and final sheet, even through a favorable 4-on-3 stretch of 1:36 and a total of 6:43 work of power play time, the Huskies were reduced primarily to chasing PC poke checks, pick-offs, and clearances.