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Saturday, March 1, 2008

Men's Hockey 2, Boston College 2

Double knots
PC Men follow women's act through nightcap tie with BC

Report based on CSTV's Gametracker service

Somehow or other, Boston College's clear-cut bane and boon switched hats and jackets over their visit to Schneider Arena on Saturday night.

The Eagles entered the game ninth in the Hockey East penalty kill column at a cringe-worthy 80.2% success rate. Yet the Friars -tops in special teams net and second-best on the man-up offensive- would only convert one of six opportunities, going completely shotless on three of those.

But most importantly, that conversion -courtesy a lately arid Nick Mazzolini a 1:35 of the second period- was the last lamp to speak in an eventual 2-2 tie. In the subsequent 43:25 of play, it was largely PC's PK and goaltender Tyler Sims (game total 29 saves) answering the call to salvage another precious point.

BC happened to be the only power play strike force with a more sparkling 2007-08 resume than the Friars. And after they were allotted two opportunities and one shot in the first forty minutes, PC blood started seeping late in the third. First, Mazzolini endured a boarding sentence at 10:55, though the Eagles were confined to two whacks.

For Sims, that was merely a tuneup. The salvo of the night came along after bouncer Trevor Ludwig was flagged for cross-checking. The Eagles unleashed five shots over the next two minutes, yet Sims swallowed them all, authorized no rebounds, and salted his porch by summoning a whistle for every stab.

Compared to the climax, times were much more spa-like for Sims in the dawning minutes of Saturday's contest. The Friars kept the Eagle power play muted on its first go-around after Joe Lavin went off for hooking at 3:23. Over the first nine minutes, both teams kept one another's shot load to a digestible five apiece.

But at 9:07, PC found their way behind netminder John Muse (34 saves) to draw first blood. First line forwards Greg Collins and Kyle MacKinnon -partnered with playmaking missionary Jon Rheault- set up Mark Fayne to drill in just his second tally of the season from the point.

The Eagles similarly made use of short-and-sweet drop-ins to twice beat Sims in a matter of 2:21. Benn Ferriero kindled the equalizer at 13:27 before Ben Smith snatched the remains of a vain Ian O'Connor stab at Muse and eventually handed it off to hot hand Nathan Gerbe. Gerbe's would grant BC its first and only lead of this season series at 15:48.

Both clubs tuned up their ammo in the second period, with PC ultimately charging up a 15-13 edge, with possession times ranging everywhere between volleyball and football-like intervals.

Only 10 seconds in, though, did BC's Nathan gerbe yield a slashing minor for the first of four Friar power plays on the period. While the Friars met strict borders later on, Mazzolini managed to convert a feed from Rheault for the period's only goal and the later-cemented 2-2 knot.

Moments later, Sims faced the wrath of the Maroon Machine at its finest, dealing with six unaswered lashes, including four from four different twigs in one unwhistled swarm.

The Eagles discipline continued to decay, though, as was verified by another slashing minor against Ferriero at 6:15 and a 10:37 hooking call to Adams. But they authorized only two power play shots over those stretches and threw their own quick rush at Sims during the second one.

On one continuous play following Adams' release, the puck alternated ends thrice, clocking three Friar and two Eagle shots.

Leading up to Ludwig's infraction, the Friars berry-picked most of the third period's microscopic scoring opportunities, though the Eagles -whose final seven shots were spread over two power plays- eventually pulled even at 9-all.

In the bonus round, only Rheault and a fast-acclimating Jordan Kremyr of Providence put on any registered attempts.

Women's Hockey 2, Boston College 2

Friars tied down to playoffs
Requisite single point earned through sweaty toil with Eagles

Report based on CSTV's Gametracker Service

It used to be no harrowing obstacles could come between Providence College and the Women's Hockey East tournament. Any time was right for Friar Fanatics to pre-order their tickets to the select host campus for a potential two-day early March weekend.

It's different now. PC came into their curtaining series with Boston College guaranteed nothing if they did not scrape out at least one of four allotted points. And they still couldn't put down the Sharpie stamp until the last minute -specifically, the 65th minute of the finale at Schneider Arena Saturday afternoon.

Regardless, they got it. Bolstered by two strikes from senior Sarah Feldman and some late toe-standing goalkeeping by Danielle Ciarletta, the Friars drew an epic 2-2 knot to confirm a date with either tournament host Connecticut or almighty New Hampshire in next Saturday's semi-final.

In the name of preserving their perennial string of extra ice, the Friars needed to Heimlich at least a couple more goals out of BC sophomore sensation Molly Schaus. They followed up on Friday's vain salvo of 37 by running up a 41-27 shot discprepancy.

Schaus swallowed up 39 -a single game total surpassed this season only by bouts with national giants UNH, Dartmouth, Minnesota, and St. Lawrence. But with the resultant tie, the Eagles are the last ones praying for a glacial BU downfall as far their playoffs hopes are concerned.

Providence coach Bob Deraney -conductor of all the franchise's achievements over the ECAC/HEA transition period- didn't shy away from making a handful of line chart twists to poke a little more caffeine into his bench.

Among other things, he pulled recently rehabbed forward Rachel Crissy back to the first D-unit with Kathleen Smith and started Jenna Keilch, Cherie Hendrickson, and Kelli Doolin up front.
Uncannily enough, apart from the junior Ciarletta, that corps defines the remnants of the 2004-05 team that stretched their agenda all the way to the national quarter-finals.

And within 34 seconds, Ciarletta pushed away an immediate stab by Eagle blueliner Maggie Taverna and watched a fresh-legged Feldman answer Deraney's message. The ex-Eagle scorched the Friars first shot past Schaus for an early edge.

PC enjoyed a temporary extension to the early momentum snag, sculpting a 7-2 shooting advantage with their last three whacks on their first power play, which ended prematurely at 8:19 with a checking call on Feldman.

Feldman was joined by Smith at 8:56, granting Boston an 83-second 5-on-3 edge. The Eagles wasted no time whittling away at Ciarletta and drew a 1-1 knot one second before Smith's term expired as Johnson -herself two minutes removed from the bin- converted a feed from Erin Blood.

Expectable emotion from both benches began to expose its true carbonation as the opening frame wore on. So much so that by intermission, 18 PIMs had been issued, including two sets of coincidental minors within the final 3:31 of action.

Referee Bill Doiron's whistle gale was allowed to taper off for the better, altogether uneventful, chunk of the second period. But by 12:53, moments after a shotless power play for Providence, Hendrickson -who had mixed up a brief tempest with BC heat gun Kelli Stack late in the first- took another stand, this time taking Lindsay Wright to the box with her.

The immediate benefit of that scuffle didn't tilt the Friars' way, however. With 47 seconds to spare in the period, Stack -the hero of BC's 4-2 home triumph on Friday- clipped home a setup by Maggie Tarvena to help carry a 2-1 lead over to the final sheet.

All PC did in response was rabidly dispense the first 11 shots of the third period, the eighth of which would be Feldman's equalizer at 6:52.

But after Schaus fended off another flurry, the ambitious Eagles spiked to lead the shot clock, 8-3, for the remainder of regulation.

The bite-sized bonus round was the only frame where BC got more time around Ciarletta's cage (2-1 shot difference). After Ciarletta summoned a whistle upon clamping down a bid by Allie Thunstrom with two seconds to spare, the Eagles vainly tried extracting Schaus in favor of a sixth skater for the final draw.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Men's Hockey 3, Boston College 2

Kremyr, Friars thaw
Rookie's two goals set pace for key victory

Report based on CSTV's Gametracker service

Chestnut Hill, Mass.- Given the way the Friars' pleasantly head-turning season had been decaying through the bulk of February, they would most certainly accept a 360-degree role reversal -even if part of that bargain meant a sweatier night for goaltender Tyler Sims and a limited allotment of shots of their own.

The discrepancy in that category was not far off from what their bottomless cannons of rubber had been kindling on a gamely basis. And it was not far off from what they got the last time they visited Boston College at the beginning of the month. On Friday, the Eagles ran up a final count of 37-24 in the shooting gallery, though the prime factor was a first period which saw a 14-5 differential.

Come what may, Sims held BC's radiant graphite silent long enough for the likes of freshman Jordan Kremyr to sculpt a an early 2-0 lead. From there, the Friars stood strong enough to morph that into a 3-2 triumph, their second win in the never-welcoming Conte Forum over a span of 29 days.

With the win -which cut off a Hockey East season-worst four-game winless skid- and Northeastern's 5-4 OT falter to the aforementioned Riverhawks, Providence squeezed into fourth place alongside the Eagles. Barring a tie in the rematch on campus Saturday, that knot will be broken one way or the other.

Besides trying to at least keep a skate mark ahead of the Friars through this series, Boston was similarly itching to compress a flustering meltdown (1-3-0 since clutching the Beanpot trophy February 11). Their immediate translation Friday was a five-shot sugar rush, those first four coming in a single between-whistles onsalught, within the first five minutes of action.

The Eagles' bounciness, for the moment, was quick to die at 5:04 when heavy loader Brian Gibbons was whistled for holding, though PC's Nick Mazzolini snapped that power play with an interference citation 47 seconds later.

By the time everyone was at full strength, the Friars went on their first convincing offensive and nipped dynamic freshman stopper John Muse at 8:41. Kremyr, who with but one goal and two points in 26 games had recently been rotating with sophomore Chris Eppich on the fourth line, this time shared the wealth along with classmate Matt Germain.

Germain and Eppich set up Kremyr for the team's second stab of the game and he scooped his own rebound to deposit the 1-0 edge.

Over the next 10:05 of action, the Eagles authorized one attempt at Muse as opposed to the seven they sprinkled on Sims. But with 1:14 till intermission, Kremyr staged another presto-red-lighto, this time nailing home a shipment from point partners Cody Wild and Matt Taormina.

A few more settled stays on Muse's property helped amount to an even 12-12 shot clock throughout the middle frame. But both of the pad boys kept PC's 2-0 lead unaltered -even with four BC power plays- until 16:20.

Only two seconds after John Mori -who at 5:57 had been tripped by Nick Petrecki and whiffed on a resultant penalty shot- was released from a sentence for the same offense, striker Andrew Orpik sawed the difference to 2-1.

But in another 69 seconds, the Friars rushed Eagle Dan Bertram's wide attempt the other way and John Cavanagh fed another blooming rookie -Ian O'Connor- for the eventual decider.

Up through the 6:15 mark of the third period, BC had spilled a luscious five power plays on a cumulative 10 shots. They also had not heard from their heated trinity of Nathan Gerbe, Joe Whitney, and Ben Smith. All that changed on their sixth man-advantage at 15:18 as Smith converted a setup from his linemates for a 3-2 Providence lead.

But with the aid of an interference call against BC blueliner Mike Brennan at 16:50, PC weaned the Eagles to three farther between shots. Two of them were within the final 38 ticks with a six-pack attack working for Boston, but Sims swallowed both to summon a whistle.

Boston College 4, Women's Hockey 2

One offer left
With loss, Friars control own fate for one more day
Note: Report based on CSTV's Gametracker service

Chestnut Hill, Mass.- The sheets before the stat-scarfers foretold exactly what the sheet before the Conte Forum audience would present Friday: downright desperate hockey.

That said, with two teams -Providence and Boston College- both as bruised as a well-traveled batch of bananas and still not guaranteed any purpose for practice come Monday, the rinkwide wonders were clear cut. Who would crack first and allow the opponents' telling heroism to surface? Who might come through for their bench once that happened?

Nothing should be any different when these teams convene once more at Schneider Arena on Saturday. Backed by a dolphin show on the part of goaltender Molly Schaus (35 saves) and propped up by two timely third period goals by none other than master puckslinger Kelli Stack, the host Eagles extracted a 4-2 win.

BC had been subsisting on a 2-1 lead since 3:58 remained in the opening frame while the Friars ran up a shooting imbalance of 21-4 before Stack inserted her 20th tally of the season with only 5:05 to spare in regulation. Friar Cherie Hendrickson reduced the deficit to 3-2 during a molecular 6-on-4 sequence with 1:03 remaining only to see Stack rake away the renewed hope with an empty netter 59 seconds later.

And so, the Friars' choice is now simpler than shaved ice: pull out a point in Saturday's regular season finale or bank on Northeastern practicing some respectable restraint on the stalking BU Terriers. The Terriers are still three points behind PC in the playoff race, and now one behind the alive-and-well Eagles, as they kindle their home-and-home with the Huskies Saturday afternoon.

The youngest stages of Friday's contest projected a prompt pair of defensive spillages and a tatterting matinee for goaltenders Schaus and Danielle Ciarletta (15 saves) of PC. The Eagles broke the ice at 5:38 on their fifth of seven unanswered shots as defenders Gabrielle Beaudry and Cristin Stuart warmed up a hot cake on the points for Colleen Harris to ultimately jam home.

Precisely three minutes later, Rachel Crissy -returning to the Friar lineup after missing twelve games with a knee ailment- took a hooking penalty. By power play's end, the Eagles boasted a commanding 10-5 shooting edge.

But for a team in non-negotiable need of a point to preserve their season, BC was plenty blunderstruck for the rest of the ride. Between 12:02 and 13:33 of the opening frame, both of Stack's linemates -Meghan Fardelmann and Deborah Spillane- were flagged for hooking and checking respectively. Within nineteen seconds of Spillane's sentence, Mari Pehkonen struck the equalizer on her team's fourth PP stab.

By the time the Eagles' Erin Blood renewed the lead at 16:02, the shooting gallery was in a 12-12 deadlock. From there on out, though, it was Schaus' time to shine.

A chain of three Boston penalties in the middle of the second period offered the Friars a nonstop 4:33 window of power play time, including a glistening 80-second 5-on-3 sequence. Over the whole marathon, Providence dispensed six registered shots plus a last-minute flicker by Kathleen Smith that merely dinged off the iron.

By the time BC's Tracy Johnson got her jailbreak at 11:05 of the middle frame, the Friars had amassed 14 shots over six power plays, but still had only the Pehkonen conversion to speak of. Schaus did not budge even as her loyal guards authorized 10 stabs for a forty-minute total of 25 while they only sprinkled three occasional attempts at Ciarletta.

Even as PC took a few more tickets to the box -a hooking minor to Crissy at 2:04 and tripping infraction against Erin Normore (2 assists) at 6:54- they sculpted a 12-4 edge on the third period shooting gallery. But the way Schaus was flaunting her established big-game approach, an interference minor against Stephanie Olchowski and a timeout at 17:25 only bought so the Friars much.

At best, Hendrickson's goal warranted a certificate of moral momentum. But it will only be good for one more day.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Hockey Log

Men's matchup a battle of resiliency

This season, Boston College head coach Jerry York has at times needed to employ an Aeneas sort of optimism to prop up the spirits within Conte Forum. And, to their credit, the Eagles have C-cut around the various speedbumps well enough to charge up a 16-9-7 overall record, a Beanpot title, and steady membership in the national leaderboard.

Not unlike the Friars, though, they will enter this weekend's home-and-home series trying to compress a few fresh wounds. They were just singed by the breakaway New Hampshire Wildcats 2-0 and 5-1 and consequently dipped from second to fourth in the standings. Providence (10-9-4) need only conjure a duplicate of their epic 3-2 triumph on Chestnut Hill four weeks ago to forge a tie with the Eagles (10-7-6).

For York's guys, coming in with the nominal honor of being back-to-back national runners-up was plenty enough to boil a seething pot of determination this season. But the Eagles have since dealt with the loss of one integral veteran to injury in Brock Bradford, another to mid-season pro signing in defenseman Brett Motherwell, and -as if any Hockey East inhabitant needed a reminder to expect the unexpected- another bolt by rookie Ryan Hayes.

Bradford reaggravated a broken arm sustained in the season opener after four games in January, though he cultivated three goals and five points over that stretch. But not long after he pitched in a precious helper for a 2-2 draw with Boston University January 19, he was pronounced disabled for the remainder of the season.

Bradford's fellow junior Motherwell -44 point-produced career assists and all- similarly lasted through the titanic tussle with Michigan on October 12 before he was caught in syrupy off-ice troubles, as was senior blueliner Brian O'Hanley. Motherwell has long since relinquished the remainder of his collegiate eligibility and is now scraping out minimum wage between AHL Syracuse and ECHL Elmira -both Columbus Blue Jacket farm clubs.

Two months after the jossling Motherwell development, and less than ten days before the Bradford sweet-tart cycle was completed, Hayes hooked on with the OHL's Plymouth Whalers. After being allotted a mere six appearances with the Eagles and sprinkling three points, Hayes has charged up a point-per-game transcript through 18 outings in Plymouth.

But as for those who have hung about, BC has received skate-kiss-worthy compensation from a rookie trinity in Joe Whitney, John Muse, and Brian Gibbons. Of Whitney's 39 points, best among Hockey East freshmen, a Motherwell-like 32 have been assists. And it hasn't been uncommon -particularly on the power play- for Whitney to collaborate with sophomore Ben Smith (17 goals 35 points) and junior Nathan Gerbe (team best 22 goals and 44 points).

The goaltender Muse is about three sheets beyond the no-questions-asked point, having digested every minute of the 32 games played so far. The question now may be "Who, again, is Cory Schneider?"

Gibbons has just turned up his twig -18 points between Thanksgiving and Valentine's Day for a season total of 22- though he and all his mates are now in midst of a post-Beanpot muddle. Since repressing Harvard for that long-craved crown, Gibbons is dry on the scoresheet and the Eagles are 1-3-0.

That's nothing the Friars can't relate to. PC's swaying enterprise, recent national recognition aside, is currently in one of its sour stretches. The Friars are on a three-game slide and have only two Ws to speak of in the dying month of February.

And the only opponent they have managed to polish off in regulation this month happens to be these Eagles. Since that get-together on February 1, Providence is a cringing 1-4-2 and fresh off a double-dose of Merrimack vinegar.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

On Hockey

Electric PC/BC bonanza this weekend

Of all the gadgety features a laptop keyboard offers these days, a lightning strike punch is not one of them. Perhaps just as well since, if it did, the Young brothers could have filed a plagiarism claim out of Glasgow if they stumbled upon the headline for this feature.

Come what may, there is all cause for charged-up, saluteable rockin' across the four corners, four teams, and four games of Providence College-Boston College hockey this weekend. Residents of New England's heralded Dominican and Jesuit campuses have the privilege to shake their ice barns all night (and day) long.

Between 2 p.m. Friday and likely no later than 10 p.m. Saturday both the men's and women's teams for the two schools will have both conducted a pivotal home-and-home series. And for them, there won't be a whole lot of room for done-dirt-cheap, power play-granting deeds.

For the two Skating Sororities in question, it's a race to answer the last call for a playoff spot before next weekend's semi-final action on the UConn campus. Of the two spots still unclaimed, the Friars, Eagles, and Boston University are still eligible. Ironically, the third-place Friars would have had their berth squared away last weekend if not for BU's 4-1 knockout of the cross-town rivals last Saturday.

As it stands now, though, Providence (10-7-2) sits three points up on the Terriers and four on the Eagles. Do the math: these two games are must wins for BC. Should the Friars ply out at least a point Friday up at Conte Forum and BU gets any further ahead, they will return Saturday for their home finale with third place cemented and a visitor merely playing for pride before they crack open their off-season training guides.

If the Terriers slip up in Part I of their series against Northeastern, the Friars will get their passports to Storrs regardless and then it's a long-distance fight for fourth place between the Commonwealth Avenue rivals.

When the women are through with their first bout at Chestnut Hill, the He-Friars and He-gles convene on the same surface at 7, though not before PC coach Tim Army takes the spotlight at BC's Walsh Hall for an alumni reception.

All of the thank-you-for-your-support sentiment is not likely to last. At puck-drop, both Army and opponent Jerry York will each have a roster scrapping for recovery from recent slides and a way out of the Hockey East gridlock.

York's students (10-7-6), though #8 in the country this week, are 1-3-0 in their last four games and clenching fourth place with their canines. The Friars are winless in their last four (0-3-1) and losers of their last three, yet are only two points behind BC at 10-9-4.

Unlike the women, the men will have an additional two games to snatch and chew after their follow-up at Schneider Arena on Saturday. But if it can be helped, they would prefer to clear some air now. After all, only a week ago were the Eagles and Friars still second and third respectively in the league. For the moment, BU and Vermont have wizardly usurped those positions. Then again, all teams still have eight points up for grabs and 7th-place UMass-Lowell is a mere seven behind the Terriers.

PC proven: The matchups for this weekend will double the number of get-togethers between Friars and Eagles teams this academic year. Aleady, a PC team has tangled with BC somewhere in Greater Boston on four occasions, pulling through every time.

Men's soccer stamped a head-turning 1-0 triumph at Chestnut Hill on October 16. Precisely two weeks later, women's hockey dropped in and splashed an early season drought by way of a 3-2 win.

Men's hoops hung up one of its few precious highlights December 1 when it topped the Eagles at the Garden-based Hall of Fame Challenge, 98-89, in overtime. And most recently, men's hockey nipped the Eagles at Conte Forum, 3-2, four weeks ago.

Barring any spontaneous tournament encounters, the only other Friar-Eagle clash will be on the PC softball diamond May 1.

Picture nearly set: The three-way hustle between the PC women and the two Hub clubs is all that's left as far as playoff implications go. Maine and Vermont -seventh and eighth respectively- have a pair of dates in Orono this weekend while New Hampshire and Connecticut could harmlessly treat their home-and-home set like a few games of mansion backyard tennis. Data has the Wildcats guaranteed to finish first while the Huskies are uncatchable in second place.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Hockey Log

Power outage docks Friars

In Part I of the recent home-and-home with Merrimack, Providence College had a magnificent seven opportunities to flaunt their long league-leading power play. One of them was a fab five minute window granted when Warrior Chris Kane took a hitting-from-behind major at 5:54 of the third period.

By that point, the Friars were in a zilch-all deadlock despite having nearly doubled the Warriors in shots (27-14 by the second intermission). And Kane's blunder -the first major infraction by a PC opponent all season right after the Friars had committed two of their own in consecutive weekends- was only 34 ticks after Francois Ouimet absorbed a charging minor. Providence thus had -at most- a 1:26 5-on-3 sequence before a 3:34 all-you-can-score buffet.

But the one element that had lately called for the most rehydration -as head coach Tim Army implied prior to the series- sprouted squat out of a slim two stabs at chin-standing goaltender Andrew Braithwaite.

By night's end in the Valley, PC was 0-for-7 on the man advantage -on which they spent a grand total time of 15:34- with nine cumulative whacks at the cage. Twenty-four hours later, they soundly outdisciplined the Warriors once more, but spilled five power plays on five shots in an eventual 3-2 drawback.

Meanwhile, another implicit fear of Army's came to pass at 3:16 of the first period when Merrimack heat gun Rob Ricci finished a carry-over natural hat trick (he was the lone goal-getter in Friday's 2-0 final) by spotting the icebreaker on a PC PK.

Only for an altogether unsubstantial two minutes and twenty seconds -early in the third period- did the Friars' tellingly tireless strike force kick off the phenomenal Braithwaite blanket. Between the 6:17 and 8:37 marks, they forged a quick 2-2 knot with the maximum goal/assist credit going around.

Among other things, Kyle Laughlin -with an assist on the Pierce Norton icebreaker- splashed on an egregious seven game pointless streak while co-captain Jon Rheault helped Greg Collins to the equalizer to end his uncharacteristic three-game spell.

Other than that, and perhaps Tyler Sims' milestone of appearing in a Friar keepers' record 111 career games, the visibility of blocks to build on is fogged in Friartown. PC, now plagued by a three-game pointless hex in the standings and a 1-4-2 tailspin, skidded from #14 to #19 in this week's USCHO leaderboard.

They have slipped back to .500 (13-13-4) overall and 10-9-4 in conference play, stuffing them into a technical tie for fifth with Northeastern while the resurgent likes of Vermont and Boston University (newly ranked #16 this week) have leap-frogged into the home half of the playoff picture.

PC has already squared away its eligibility for quarterfinal action in mid-March. But there is a millimeter-thick chance they could land in eighth place when the ice chips settle. If that were to occur, it would mean visiting the newly clinched regular season champion New Hampshire -the reapers for both the 2005-06 and 2006-07 seasons.

Still, only three knobs seperate the Friars from the Catamounts and Terriers -and the forthcoming Boston College is somewhere in the middle of that as well. As Army told USCHO's Bill Koch on the scene of Saturday's debacle, the Friars need to recognize that most anything can still go in this inimitable banner race.

"I think maybe our confidence is a little bit lower, and we’ve just got to keep getting better and go play the best hockey we can play," he said. "If we play well we’re going to have an opportunity to win."

Uncanny selection: In a span of three weeks, the sophomore Braithwaite worked up the three most worthwhile sweats of his career -all against Providence. With 50 saves back on February 2 followed by 42 last Friday and 47 Saturday, he did his share to stamp a 2-0-1 final on the season series.

The five points spooned off of PC are the most the Warriors have extracted from anybody so far (they also took four from UMass-Amherst). All those have helped amount their season total to 14, only three below the league poverty line.

Quick Feeds: Freshman forward Ben Farrer was out of action for the first time since October this past weekend... A handful of tweaks were made in the line charts between Friday and Saturday. For instance, noted bouncer Trevor Ludwig played left wing on Friday's fourth line -opposite Laughlin and John Mori...The nomadic Rheault took the right side with Ian O'Connor and John Cavanagh Friday, then Collins and Matt Germain Saturday...The Friars have now outshot the opposition in twenty consecutive games.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Bruins Commentary

If it works, it works

I'll admit right away, I don't have every finger off this puck. But with a few exceptions, I say the Bruins are at a point where fans can let anything go on the condition that they meet the NHL's standards for Elite Eight membership in the Eastern Conference come playoff time.

On Saturday, the Bs sealed a substantial cumulative prize pack of lucky bounces to finish a five-game road trip at 4-0-1, tipping over the Tampa Bay Lightning 5-3.

All nine of the ten allotted points that they vacuumed from their enterprise were earned in a fashion that couldn't be more blunt as far as the forthcoming fourth quarter of the season is concerned. Save for a 4-3 overtime falter in Toronto a week before the Tampa game, they got the final grip on soap-based leads, including a two-pack of shootout triumphs of Carolina and Florida.

The trip finale was a nice reminder that hockey games generally last 60 minutes -no more, no less. Even so, it involved pole-vaulting over an early 1-0 Lightning edge in the first, then barring the host from doing the same when they drew a 2-2 knot in the second and then trimmed the Boston lead to 4-3 with 2:17 to spare in regulation.

That lead was sculpted on the large part of gritty veteran Glen Murray, who in braving the remnants of a hip ailment that had sidelined him for two months potted two Phil Esposito-style goals. And only seventy-three seconds after Tampa's Vaclav Prospal pumped some respiration back into his bench, PJ Axelsson leveled a counter shot on a delayed penalty that NESN announcer Jack Edwards was sure would have otherwise summoned a penalty shot for Glen Metropolit.

One other thing about Saturday: the W went to Alex Auld. Apparently, his effective firefighting duty in Thursday's 5-4 ambush of the Panthers -wherein the Bruins zapped a 4-2 deficit in the third after Auld replaced established starter Tim Thomas- warranted a full night for him.
Discounting the way the Panthers had shriveled Thomas, there was every reason to believe that he could have resurfaced his psyche and taken equally effective -if not better- charge of the Lightning than Auld.

But the Bruins are in a congesting middleweight derby not unlike that which the bulk of Hockey East is partaking in. As of Sunday, Boston has partial claim to 6th place opposite the rival Rangers with 70 points, yet the tied-for-9th Flyers and Islanders are subsisting on 67. (And how about this: they are only five points with two games in hand on the Montreal menace, against whom they have spilled 12 of 12 possible points this season).

When you're that congested, contemplation time is microscopic for the likes of coach Claude Julien. And speaking of quick thinking, between now and Tuesday's return to the Garden for a bout with Ottawa, GM Peter Chiarelli has a trade deadline to think about. All NHL import and export stations close four hours before puckdrop that evening.

And, again, given the complete lack of gravity in this drive for springtime skating rights, an eat-and-run deal of most any sort would be acceptable provided it cultivates a playoff berth. Exhibit A: The aforementioned Auld's position in the crease firm was technically supposed to be for Manny Fernandez, whose own offseason acquisition was puzzling in that it meant exiling Hannu Toivonen and prolonging Tuuka Rask's big break. (And we thought Chiarelli was hired because he was different from Mike O'Connell. Grin, grin, wink, wink).

But, Auld is here as he has been since December, and has just improvised to give Thomas a nice break and his team four precious points. If Chiarelli can pinpoint another wrinkle or two, then get Julien and his pupils to press it, that should be fine.

As far as the expenses go, though, it would be nice to see him copy Theo Epstein of July 2006 and preserve the youth movement. In other words, regardless of immediate effect, Chiarelli should stay true to his word and keep Phil Kessel here, as he recently declared to the Boston Globe's Fluto Shinzawa.

The same goes for the likes of Rask, David Krejci, and Milan Lucic -one of many who has dispensed another debatable, but currently record-friendly element: fighting. The bouncy rookie held claim to two of five scuffles that spanned over the rocky-enough roads (nonetheless victorious roads) against the Panthers and Hurricanes.

Maybe that's evidence that this roster needs no reform at all. Maybe they just need to keep fusing as they are, dig their blades an inch deep into the ice, and just pull at every unopened point package left.