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Saturday, May 31, 2008

Hockey Log: Sunday Edition

Super eight (maybe more) in store
All established WHEA starters to return in 08-09

Scan the presumed rosters across the Hockey East women's conference, focusing specifically on the collective goalies' guild, and perhaps it's time commissioner Joe Bertagna contemplated emergency use of the NHL's brilliant trapezoid idea.

The way it's looking, all eight starting goaltenders in the league should be returning to their respective programs, some of them after upgrading their game at international summer camps.

Logically, therefore, overall goal-scoring could be in danger of a bit of a slash in 2008-09.

Well, that can't be automatically presumed. After all, this is a world where mental visions of perfect circles are impossible to translate through handdrawing, where the weather temperature always sneaks three or four degrees above the promise high, and where "perfect" football teams are flawed enough to drop the Super Bowl.

Still, it's an intriguing occurrence. Barring any jolting roster shifts -which do happen now and then- everybody on the coast will be able to approach September training camp with a fairly smooth pick-up-where-we-left-off attitude mindset with their cornerstone position exactly as it was in March, if not better.

Of all the eighteen Hockey East crease custodians to taste any action in 2007-08, only Northeastern's Sarah Sarah Belliveau has snagged a degree and moved on this past spring. Belliveau took altogether three losses and one period of a no decision in her senior campaign, having surrendered her precarious #1 position to newcomer Leah Sulyma.

If the long-suffering Hub Huskies have any sort of foundation to spring off of, Sulyma has something to do with it. The Northwest Territories native took credit for all seven of Northeastern's victories and received the team's MVP award. But even that will be challenged with the arrival of Florence Schelling, a Swiss pioneer and Olympic veteran who has made international ripples for more than five years.

It's a bit of a different story up in Orono. Last season, the Maine tandem of Genevieve Turgeon and Sarah Bishop scarfed down more opposing shots than South Park's Eric Cartman does Cheesy Poofs. (Bishop, by the way, is of no relation to the towering stopper who recently signed out of Tim Whitehead's program.) The established starter Turgeon pushed away 907 out of 1003 stabs faced while Bishop amassed an even 300 saves last season. But the A-plus in goaltender's stamina is really accredited to a scruffy set of skaters in front. Unless that changes, the Black Bears' dynamic goaltending will continue to reap bum rewards.

In other cases, like just across the border, the league's wealthy are taking an opportunity to get just a pinch stronger. New Hampshire phenom Kayley Herman spent this weekend in Calgary at Team Canada's U22 camp, opposite seven other tenders including Harvard's Christina Kessler and Dartmouth's Carli Clemis.

For a rising sophomore who led most every goaltending category in the conference en route to the Wildcats' third consecutive Hockey East banner, what else could add another coat of steel than a training session with the almighty Eh Team?

There are a couple of more campers to come in the States, both proudly representing the complementary ends of Commonwealth Avenue. Generally speaking, Molly Schaus was one of the few consistent positives in Boston College's disappointing dip. In only four out of 34 total go-arounds -she only took the bench for slivers of a February series against Vermont- did she authorize more than three goals and she finished in a knot with forward Meghan Fardelmann for the Eagles' third-best rating at +16.

In late June, Schaus is going camping with the American U22 Select candidates, opposite rival Allyse Wilcox. The rising BU senior, if nothing else, has served as an appreciable anchor in reviving the Walter Brown Arena sorority from 2005 onward.

But can much less be expected from a stopper? Just to round out this unique gang, the less-heeded likes of Wilcox, PC's own Danielle Ciarletta, UConn's Brittany Wilson, and Vermont's Kristen Olychuck all surfaced as the top -if not lone- asset for their respective teams at one time or another last season.

If nothing else, all of the league's established starters can be asked by their respective programs not to slant the paper-based balance by way of transfer, the women's hockey alternative to early pro signing.

After all, Ciarletta is a Friar convert from Minnesota-Duluth while Olychuck signed on with Vermont last summer after one year at Sacred Heart. And at Northeastern, ex-Friar Stacey Scott appears primed to resume her backup assignment behind the banked-on likes of Sulyma and Schelling.

None of that's looking likely at this time, though. And so, the only other way to crash this eight-ball would be a positional overhaul by some new girl on campus: Schelling's the first suspect in line. If that happens, then it may be time to consider turning up the stick racks.

Deraney decade, first Army generation ready to round out
In a nod to a recent Hockey News (press date: May 27) feature where "team reports profile each squad's coach...situation," here is how PC stands on that front:

He has now gone three years with neither a conference tournament championship banner nor a passport to the NCAA bracket. Come training camp, for the first time in recent memory, none of his pupils will have any tastes of Hockey East title glory to speak of.

But the way it looks, that will only fuel Bob Deraney's fervor to rekindle the magic touch that brought four straight league titles (2002-05) to the women's side of Schneider Arena and has made him the second-longest tenured (going on 10 years of service) and most successful PC skipper behind only John Marchetti. Ultimately, it's little more than a matter of formulating a way to penetrate the new wave citadel built by New Hampshire architect Brian McCloskey, and maybe taking down a few ECAC bigwigs in the process.

Down the hall, Tim Army continues to patiently accept and answer the delayed growing pains that have come in his second and third years at the helm of his alma mater. The most recent season was, on the whole, a scruffy balancing act between the stimulating shot from a cannon that was his inaugural year and the following crash from 2006-07.

The Friars' two worst stretches in 2007-08 were a pair of four-game losing streaks at the very beginning and very end of the campaign. But there were also a handful of smoother roads, including membership in the national Top 20 polls, and they came within near teethmarks of bringing the conference quarter-final back to Schneider for the first time since 2003.

One consisent element throughout Army's first three seasons has been a respectable penalty kill rate (in the 85% range each year), which, combined with a progressive power play, helped PC finish first in special teams net this past season.

Within another year, Paul Pooley's last recruitment class will have taken off, giving Friar Fanatics their first look at a full-blooded Tim Army Corps.

Ex-Cats keep fueling Chicago hope
The Chicago Wolves, the closest today's minor leagues will likely get to flaunting a perennial powerhouse, have stepped back into the AHL's Calder Cup Final, temporarily cleansing the vinegar of last year's Western Conference final loss to the Hamilton Bulldogs.

And yet again, as of three rounds, New Hampshire alumni Jason Krog and Darren Haydar are hovering around the top of the playoff scoring charts. Haydar, who finished at the top last season despite a lack of participation in the final round, was in a four-way tie for second heading into Thursday's Game 1 with 20 points. Krog, who tied for #4 amongst all playoff scorers in 2007, is a runaway leader now with 9-19-28 totals.

Incidentally, Haydar and Krog are also in a smooth run for the Calder Cup's unrecognized cleanest nose distinction, having been slapped with a measly eight combined penalty minutes through 18 games.

Both of the Wildcats-turned-Wolves were teammates in Durham for one season, 1998-99, which ended with a 3-2 NCAA overtime zapping by border rival Maine. Krog is also a scarred Stanley Cup Finals veteran dating back to the 2003 Anaheim Mighty Ducks.

The opposing Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins' roster bears the likes of former P-Bruins Dave Gove and Dennis Bonvie, not-too-distant BU graduate John Curry, BC product Ned Havern, and brief Eagle Ben Lovejoy (eventally a Dartmouth graduate).

The Oddest of Odd Couples
According to his first person contribution to the New England Hockey Journal's website, NHL draft prospect and Boston College recruit Jimmy Hayes roomed at the Toronto-based combine with, of all people, rising BU sophomore Colin Wilson.

Well, depending on who claims Wilson -who has already charged up 35 points in 37 games for the Terriers and is the top collegian available in Central Scouting's eyes- and how pressing their need for an imposing power forward, the two might never clash in the Green Line rivalry. Otherwise, the 2009 Beanpot may serve as the breeding ground for a whole new kind of play-stealing scandal. (Joke.)

Quick Feeds: Lance Herrington, confirmed as one of four incoming Vermont freshmen this week, hails from PC goaltender Ryan Simpson's hometown of Bow, N.H. and spent the past two season's with the powerhouse New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs, who have seven alumni on the Friars' roster...Former Bruins and BU forward Shawn McEachern was introduced as a new assistant coach with UMass-Lowell, having just left the same occupation at Northeastern...Merrimack-bound Joe Cannatta is #13 on the Central Scouting Service's North American goaltenders' leaderboard. The Warriors' roster of this past season was completely void of NHL draftees...BU will host this autumn's 12th annual Icebreaker Invitational, bringing in Massachusetts, Michigan State, and North Dakota over the weekend of October 10-11...This past winter, two Friar athletic teams competed on the current sites of some significant spring hockey. The men's hockey team was in the Great Lakes Invitational at Detroit's Joe Louis Arena, where the Stanley Cup might be handed out as early as Monday. Men's hoops, meanwhile, paid a routine visit to Big East rival DePaul at Allstate Arena, home of the Calder Cup finalist Chicago Wolves.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Hockey Log

Visits from old skippers highlight 08-09 schedules
A few new customs ahead as well

Both the Providence men's and women's hockey 2008-09 regular season schedule have been pinned on each program's respective official webpage, listing a friendly twig-lock with the Brampton Junior Thunder as the women's traditional pre-season exhibition on Sunday, September 28.

The following weekend, Bob Deraney's pupils welcome old Friar friend Jackie Barto and her Ohio State Buckeyes for a two-game set at Schneider Arena, part of PC's four-game homestand to break in the season.

Barto, a 1984 alumna, will pay just her second formal business visit to the Divine Campus since she broke off from the program as head coach in the middle of the 1998-99 season, ultimately opening the door for Deraney the subsequent autumn. The Buckeyes' only other drop-in was on November 18, 2001, a 4-3 OSU triumph.

It will only be another month before Paul Pooley -Tim Army's predecessor at the men's helm- brings his defending national finalist Notre Dame Fighting Irish for a November 8 non-conference bout. Pooley, now Jeff Jackson's sidekick in South Bend, will get his second -and, barring any spontaneous tournament encounters, final- look at the recruiting class he never coached in PC's seniors. The Friars previously hosted the Irish on October 21, 2006, submitting to them decisively by a 6-1 count.

Both sides of the program are slated to break in the Hockey East sect of their schedules on the weekend of October 17-18 against Northeastern. The men host the Huskies on Friday in their altogether season opener while the women will visit Matthews Arena on Saturday.

That won't, however, be before the Skating Sorority has gone through the aforementioned OSU series and its unofficial custom of battling St. Lawrence and Colgate. In both cases, the Friars will break with the strict norm of Saturday-Sunday matinees, instead going for an old-fashioned 7:00 Friday face-off followed by a 4:00 Saturday draw.

In total, the PC women will skate under bright lights on campus for seven after-dark affairs, six of those on Fridays. They also have two 7:35 starts in a venture to Robert Morris November 7-8, a post-Thanksgiving Saturday outing at Brown for the Mayor's Cup, a Friday-Saturday commitment with Maine the following weekend, and a mid-week night trip to Dartmouth January 13.

With the WHEA's new six-team playoff bracket primed for use this coming year, the regular season will end February 22 against Boston College with preliminary round action (seed #3 vs. #6, #4 vs. #5) set for February 28 on campus sites. The championship host has not yet been declared.

The men's schedule cites a smooth string of 33 consecutive 7:00 starts (with no mid-season tournaments to be found, a first occurrence since 2002-03). The season finale, a March 8 journey to Boston University, will be a rare 2:00 Sunday bout, a routine that the female counterparts are well-familiar with.

Rounding out the remainder of the non-conference schedules, the PC men will host Bowling Green (October 18) for the second time in three years; return the favor to Holy Cross with a Worcester outing (October 25) after the Crusaders entertained last year's home opener; bring in Dartmouth and then take off after Union (November 28-29); visit Quinnipiac (December 6); and renew the ol' Divine City Dance over at Brown December 9.

The women are slated to meet every interleague adversary that they did last season, save for Harvard. They will also ring in 2009 with a two-night stay at Cornell, whom they last faced two seasons ago, January 4-5.

Miscellany: The Robert Morris and Cornell excursions will be the women's team's only two journeys beyond New England borders...The women will have played a total of six home games come the end of October versus none last season. Conversely, Schneider Arena will see no home action for either team in the never-so-busy month of December...Saturday, January 10 and January 31 will see virtual doubleheaders. In the former case, the women's team hosts rival New Hampshire at 1:00 before the men mark up against UMass-Lowell at 7:00. Three weeks later, it will be a women's matinee versus Connecticut and a men's bout with Merrimack, same times and place...For the second straight season, neither Friar Puck team will cross beyond the Eastern/Central time boundaries.