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

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Hockey Log: Sunday Edition

Prospectus particulars
Tackling Friar Puck’s odds and ends

With the annual golf tournament conducted on Monday and the release of the 2008-09 prospectus Tuesday, the PC men’s hockey program made a regular boom-boom launch to sports’ pre-advent season; the equivalent of running jingly, snow-and-pine-tree commercials before it’s even Halloween.

Sure, the Friars still have a couple of weeks before their practice pond is flooded once more. And it’s even more outlandish of the program to think so far ahead when their opening game is slated for Friday, October 17, still another eight weeks from now. By then, all of their conference cohabitants will have chewed at least one date off their schedule and their female counterparts will have already hosted five games at Schneider Arena.

But what’s out is out, so there seems to be no sense in letting the earliest pre-season appetizers exhaust their flavor for a fan base now five months removed from a statistical crash-and-burn playoff run. With that in consideration, here is a puckbag of Friar facts and factoids:

Scanning the 31-man roster, which ties Providence with Northeastern for Hockey East’s most populous dressing room, there is again a three-way tie for the tallest member of the team between defensemen Mark Fayne, Joe Lavin, and Ben Farrer, all logged in at 6-foot-3. Conversely, senior goaltender Chris Mannix stands in solitude as the shortest Friar at 5-foot-8.

Fayne, PC’s now two-time top blueliner, will again lead the team in the weight category with 220 lbs. to work with. Meanwhile, flashy centerman John Cavanagh weighs in at 170.

As a whole, the average 2008-09 Friar skater amounts to a profile of about 6-foot-even, 190-pound.

PC’s eldest skating statesman for the coming year will be Nick Mazzolini, whose 24th birthday falls on September 7. (Mazzolini will also return as PC’s most sizeable forward at 6-for-2, 210 lbs, though fans would hope last year’s season-ending biff from Boston College fireball Benn Ferriero doesn’t presage an Eric Lindros-like spell in his senior year.)

The youngest player, freshman forward Matt Bergland, only turned 18 three months ago, followed immediately by fellow “90s” Bryce Aneloski and Chad Johnson, all among the first of their age group to break into the collegiate ranks. But, of course, it can’t be a freshman class without a couple of guys who took their sweet time to foster in the junior ranks, and Shawn Tingley, a 1987 birth with two EJHL seasons in his rearview, beats five sophomores in the way of age.

The left-side versus right-side shot ratio amongst the 28 rostered skaters: 16-12, advantage left. That seems to draw a rough parallel to the distribution of a whopping 20 forwards, nine of whom are listed as left wingers, seven centers, and just enough righties to fill four lines.

After a season lacking in alumni of the United States Hockey League, Aneloski comes to the Friars on the heels of a year with the Cedar Rapids Roughriders, the same program that produced a trinity of 2007 graduates –Jamie Carroll, Bryan Horan, and Chase Watson.

Tim Army’s coaching/recruiting staff welcomes its first three products of the rather alien powerhouse that is the Minnesota State High School Hockey League: forwards Matt Bergland and Rob Maloney and defenseman David Brown, though Brown still cites Centennial, Co. as his hometown. This first-time admittance of State of Hockey citizens underscores Army’s most geographically diverse roster to date, with 13 states and two provinces represented.

Speaking of new territory, Army’s track record as the Friars foreman bears experience with all but two opponents on the 2008-09 schedule, omitting Dartmouth, which drops in on campus the night after Thanksgiving, and Quinnipiac, whom the Friars will visit December 5.

The Reds are coming
An updated PC men’s schedule on the Hockey East website has the Russian U20 team –presumably the squad that will represent that country in the World Junior Championships- lined up for an exhibition with the Friars on Wednesday, February 4, 7 PM face-off. Curiously, no other matchups of this nature have been reported, but this will presumably mark the Friars’ first extra-collegiate game since the New Brunswick-based St. Thomas University came over in October 2006.

Rocky wishing in Colorado
Colorado State University graduate Brett Tatman, a former participant in CSU’s club hockey program, has slightly slackened his fervent endeavor to bring a Division I program to his alma mater after a one-on-one with that school’s athletic director convinced him such programs cannot be planted anywhere at will. But, naturally, the ambitious online petitioner won’t drop this puck all the way. “I am not very easily dissuaded from the task at hand and I will be working on a strategy moving forward,” Tatman wrote in his latest statement on the petition’s official website (http://ramhockeypetition.weebly.com/). “We also will be determined to keep our momentum and our cause in front of the Athletic Department,” he adds, “so that when the time is right for adding a (varsity) sport, ice hockey will be at the forefront.”

Momentum? To be fair, scanning the list of signatures proves it was no joke when Denver Pioneers coach George Gwozdecky signed the petition himself –assuming that signature has more legitimacy than the recent Southern Sasquatch discovery. But if there is any fertile ice in this movement, Rams fans should be tutored on the WCHA’s fastidious competitive standards. After all, Minnesota-based Bemidji State, now approaching its tenth anniversary as a D-I program in College Hockey America, has a pending intangible partnership with the bigwig conference that would promise nothing beyond twelve nonconference contests beginning two seasons from now.

The Rams best bet, if anything, is to come down as the potential knights in shining CCMs for the brittle CHA conference –if there’s still time when and if this program becomes convincingly feasible. Either that or CSU may have a shot at translating the rigid gridiron rivalry with nearby Air Force to the rink, thereby giving Atlantic Hockey its own Battle of the Rocky Mountains.

Roy aims to strike out paralysis
Famed former Boston University forward Travis Roy stopped in with Tom Caron at the NESN studios prior to last Monday’s Red Sox broadcast primarily to announce a series of raffle drawings for his spinal cord research foundation to be held on Monday. The tangiest items offered: tickets to last Red Sox visit to Yankee Stadium, which will be a 1:05 matinee this Thursday, and dinner with catcher Jason Varitek the preceding night.

The exceptionally good-natured Roy’s analysis of the historic event: “The Yankees have kind of fallen off, but I don’t think we ever count them out, so the game will still have meaning no matter what happens.”

At the conclusion of the segment, Caron –the network’s Hockey East broadcaster by winter- hurried in a query on the current Terriers’ outlook for this season. Roy replied keenly and fairly accurately, “We’re good. Colin Wilson’s back, and if we get a (reliable) goaltender we can go a long ways.”

Quick Feeds: Fresh New Hampshire graduate Mike Radja, who snuck in two games and three assists as an AHL walk-on in Syracuse last spring, has signed a more concrete deal with the Rockford Icehogs…BU graduate Elizabeth Paige Fierman, who devoted her extracurricular energy to working as the Terriers’ communications intern and team manager, has been tabbed for an internship in the Hockey East offices…Maine alumnus and 12-year NHL veteran Bob Corkum accepted his first collegiate coaching job Friday, returning to Orono as Tim Whitehead’s new associate…A recent feature article in the New Richmond (Wisc.) News briefly mentions former PC women’s two-way connoisseur Carrie Holldorf (later a transfer to St. Cloud State) and how she had “played NCAA Division I hockey at the University of Providence…” What the puck?

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Hockey Log Extra

Camera Ready?
ESPNU coming to campus in February; one of three schedule adjustments

PC hockey’s own television partner, Cox Sports, is expected as usual not to unfurl its annual broadcast slate until October, but according to the men’s hockey prospectus, released online Tuesday, the 2008-09 men’s team has already been forced to shuffle a pair of game dates for the privilege of regional and national exposure.

The updated calendar has the Friars locked in for a rare nonconference NESN telecast when they visit Quinnipiac on Friday, December 5. That outing, by the way, was originally slated for Saturday, December 6.

Later, on Sunday, February 22, cameras and commentators from ESPNU will put in their first appearance at Schneider Arena when the Friars lock twigs with Merrimack at 4:00. The Friars were last trasmitted on the three-year-old college-specific network when they visited Boston College in January 2007.

In order to accommodate thi telecast, the game has been transplanted from its original Friday (Feb. 20) slot. The Merrimack half of the home-and-home series will stick to the Saturday of that weekend as planned. PC’s end of the series will be the program’s first Sunday home game since January 15, 2006, a 4-3 OT falter against UMass-Lowell.

One other scheduling tweak: a visit to Lowell on Friday, October 24, has had its face-off time bumped from 7:00 to 7:30.

Further informational facelifts to the team schedule confirm that eleven of the Friars’ 17 home games and eight away games will be carried on AM-1240 WOON, listed here:
Friday October 17 vs. Northeastern
Saturday October 18 vs. Bowling Green
Saturday November 1 vs. Massachusetts
Friday November 7 vs. Vermont
Saturday November 8 vs. Notre Dame
Friday November 14 vs. Maine
Saturday November 15 vs. Maine
Saturday November 22 @ New Hampshire
Friday November 28 vs. Dartmouth
Tuesday December 9 @ Brown
Tuesday January 13 @ Boston University
Sunday January 18 @ Maine
Friday January 23 vs. Northeastern
Friday January 30 vs. Boston College
Friday February 6 @ Vermont
Friday February 13 @ New Hampshire
Friday February 27 @ Boston College
Friday March 6 vs. Boston University
Sunday March 8 @ Boston University

Beyond their own outlets, last year's Friars were exposed on FSN Detroit (two games in the Great Lakes Invitational), CN8 (during one of two visits from Vermont), and NESN (at Boston University as part of NESN's Hockey East package).

General Fall Sports Preview

Field Hockey
Six consecutive PC field hockey seasons have been curtained with a dose of Connecticut Husky vinegar. The first four cases (2002-2005) all pre-arranged season finales where the more potent half of the Battle for Southern New England sent the hapless Friars packing with a decisive shutout. Under a more recent trend, an upgraded PC program –owing largely to rising junior goalkeeper Rachel Chamberlain- has struck up a habit of finishing above .500 and venturing into the Big East playoffs, only to submit to UConn in the conference title game and delete any fantasies of an NCAA tournament excursion.

The 2008 Friars will warm up with seven uninterrupted nonconference games –beginning next weekend with a two-night stay at the Virginia Cavaliers’ invitational- before one change of pace has them beginning their five-game Big East schedule with a stop at Storrs, where they had been scoreless in four preceding visits before last October’s 3-1 falter.

Forecasted to finish in the fourth and final playoff slot this year –behind the regal Huskies, Syracuse, and Louisville - according to last week’s coaches’ poll, PC will need a third Goalkeeper of the Year performance out of Chamberlain and a simple round of offensive upgrades to prove they are indeed the ones to overthrow the four-time defending Big East champions. Much more tormenting than the 1-0 upshot of last year’s conference championship was the disproportionate second-half shooting gallery (attempts: 12-0 UConn).

The Friars will be returning four of their six reigning double-digit point-snatchers (Nellie Poulin, Meghan Holden, Julie Ruggieri, Jessica Lane), but the polls are suddenly putting a little more trust into the Orange and the Redbirds. That said, PC’s new wave rep as a contender is still theirs to set in cement.

Cross Country
All but three of PC’s 14 NCAA-seasoned runners are back for more and many of the dual citizens of Ray Treacy’s cross country and track and field domain are coming into the 2008 autumn season with hopes of building on their latest track milestones.

Four bold-faced names: Danette Doetzel, the reigning Northeast Regional cross-country queen who also made respectable ripples at the 2008 NCAA indoor and outdoor track championships.

Hayden McLaren, who with the since-graduated Max Smith packed a 1-2 PC finish at the Northeast Regional and later earned a passport to the indoor track championships when he ran charged up a sub-4:00 mile in January by a literal split second (final time 3:59.50).

Kate DiCamillo, who accompanied Doetzel to the outdoor track finals earlier this summer and finished second behind the top Friar finisher in five cross-country meets in 2007.

David McCarthy: a track redshirt and the returning Friar with the best showing at nationals (68th place among all individual runners), behind only the proficient graduate Ahmed Haji.

Ideally, the Friars could stand for little else than to avoid another brusque snuff-out on the national platform. Leading up to the NCAAs last season, the PC men never finished worse than eighth in any meets, the women never lower than ninth. Once at the final frontier, though, the Friars succumbed to the bog of thicker national talent. The men finished 27th in a field of 30 institutions, the women 26th out of 31.

So, now ninth-year head coach Margot Royer has may patience worth the while by guiding her spikers to their first winning record (19-12) since her first year on the Divine Campus in 2000. This coming after the 2006 installment of PC volleyball snapped out of a protracted bog of futility through a 14-18 transcript, much better compared to the preceding five seasons of single digit W columns and no fewer than 20 losses per year.

Royer’s expressed next step is reviving the Friars’ Big East membership, which has been lacking since 2002 (coincidentally the most forgettable season in Royer’s reign). The Providence-headquartered conference will again conduct its season with 15 of its established tenants under the volleyball heading, leaving out the still-independent Friars. More patience will be required in the immediate future as Royer and Co. continue with that sidebar priority. In the meantime, it wouldn’t hurt for the exponential improvement on the floor to persist.

Women’s Tennis
Combined record in team events between the fall and spring sects of last season: 9-10, with a three-game winning streak rounding out their campaign only after a profuse seven-match losing skid. For the fall half of the 2008-09 venture, which is all that has been disclosed for the moment, Providence is slated to double its sparse frequency of one-on-one matches, visiting URI October 1 and bringing in Hartford (September 16), Monmouth (October 4) and Holy Cross (October 8). Other than that, it’s predominantly the same old invitational-saturated agenda –West Point, Fairfield, ITA, New England Championships- plus a day trip to Newport for this year’s ECAC Invitational (September 13).