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Saturday, September 13, 2008

Soccer Log

PC looking at Ritter, Rust-away
Opposing Hoyas seamless so far

Timothy Ritter, barely the single most prosperous Friar in the wee stages of the 2008 season, has an enhanced historical calling this afternoon as the Georgetown Hoyas drop in on Glay Field to break in the Big East schedule.

The matchup lowdown for this particular forward: as a freshman in 2005, Ritter kneaded four shots on net out of five attempts, including the gamebreaking goal within the fifth minute, and charged up a helper on Eoin Lynch’s clinching goal towards a 3-2 Providence triumph in Washington.

The following year saw him scoop up another four SOG on a rabid six attempts, and yet another goal-assist value pack, this time charging up the game winner in a 4-0 decision here.

Was it mere coincidence, then, that PC absorbed a fairly critical 2-0 drawback at the hands of the Hoyas last autumn, during which Ritter was confined to the sideline? Well, on a literal and logical front, it was. Nonetheless, there’s every cause for Ritter –currently leading the 2-0-1 Friars across the board with four points, nine attempts, and four tangible shots- to rekindle his curious Hoya Destroyah fetish.

Start with the inevitable statistical implications, no matter how trivial and misleading they may prove come the November stretch drive. On Tuesday, both PC and Georgetown (5-0 so far) broke into Soccer America’s Top 25 national leaderboard, assigned to the #25 and #23 slots respectively. The following afternoon, the Hoyas only thickened their early impression through a 1-0 tip-over of Stony Brook.

Georgetown’s baby-faced goalkeeping guild, evenly splitting its workload between sophomore Matthew Brutto and redshirt freshman Mark Wilber, has yet to allow a single goal on a cumulative 22 SOG in its first five outings. The game-by-game rotating pattern implicitly has Wilber starting Saturday’s tussle at Glay Field, although –for what it’s worth- Brutto already has something of a comfortable history against Providence.

Last season, Brutto had to push away a mere three Friar kicks en route to the aforementioned 2-0 shutout, one of three eggs for him in his rookie year. He has already doubled that mark in three 2008 ventures.

Regardless, Ritter and his mates have been a tad slower to thaw out with their game schedule, albeit owing in part to a sprinkling of unmanageable schedule changes. In a perfect world, they would have scooped up two game experiences within the last week, namely Saturday at Holy Cross and Tuesday here with URI, as opposed to an earlier-than-expected venture to Worcester and a potentially rusting off day this week.

Add to those seeming conditioning concerns the fact that, in their 1-1 draw late last week, the Friars mustered only one shot at the Crusaders in the first overtime frame while authorizing three in the second, which amounted to a final tally of 15-5, Holy Cross. But like most every other aspect to the Friars’ –and the Hoyas’- game, today should unveil little beyond a first Big East measure-up morsel.

Free Kicks: Leading up to their arrival here, Georgetown’s only other road trip thus far has been a two-game, three-night (August 29-31) stay in Los Angeles, where they bumped Cal State Northridge and Cal State Fullerton for the Northridge invitational crown…Corey Zeller, the sole goal-getter in last year’s Friar-Hoya get-together, is tied for fourth with four teammates on the Georgetown scoring charts with a 1-1-3 transcript. Fourteen out twenty-one Georgetown positional players have at least one point to their credit, and the team boasts an aggregate log of 13-12-38…Barring a successful make-up for Tuesday’s no-show with the Rams, PC will have but three further interleague engagements, two of them in the Hub –a Monday evening trip to Northeastern and a visit to Harvard October 28- plus an October 15 hosting to Bryant University.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Soccer Log

A tough, long Walk

There was no happy median for Caitlin Walker at any time during her first start-to-finish whirl-around as a collegiate goalkeeper Sunday. Nothing close to the sort. She either had protracted hiatuses from urgent action that would have allowed her to order in a few refreshing rounds of Del’s if she so chose, or she was caught in an ultimately make-or-break showdown with the unrelenting Manhattan Jaspers’ strike force.

It only took one registered shot attempts at a time for Manhattan’s Courtney McMahon and Megan LaVecchia –in the 54th and 116th minute respectively- to scorch home the equalizing and clinching goals in a 2-1 Jaspers triumph, callously denying the booming Friars (3-1) a fab four home stand to start their season.

In packing the decider early in the second overtime frame, LaVecchia redeemed her personal failure on her team’s previous hack at Walker. More tellingly, that shot –which safely cleared the upper goalpost- had come at the 67:01 mark of regulation. Manhattan slogged through exactly 48:35 worth of playing time without so much as a kick within Walker’s radius. All the while, the Friars leveled a luckless thirteen shots at the Jaspers cage –three of them handled by stopper Caitlin Trupiano.

At day’s end, the Friars had outshot Manhattan, 24-10 in terms of attempts and 9-5 in terms of summoning the goalie to action. Carrying over from her quick slurp of action against Holy Cross last Thursday, Walker’s workload remained dry for exactly 31:37, finally getting a splash when a Manhattan corner kick offered defender Brittany Duhamel a shot at 25:48.

But from that point forward, minus one considerable swarm between the 41st and 44th minutes, the Jaspers could never muster multiple shots within a ten minute time frame.

It is now open to speculation as to whether Walker will remain the full-time deputy to Jill Schott –who scooped up three quick wins after coming to training camp with a mere three-and-a-half minutes to her collegiate credit- or if Jim McGirr has a balanced rotation in mind.

But at the unbalanced rate of Sunday’s action, Walker’s best developmental benefit had to come from watching the chin-standing clinic Trupiano dynamically performed. Trailing 1-0 at the half on the strength of Courtney Collins’ tally in the 33rd minute, Trupiano proceeded to push away four consecutive Friar stabs for the rest of regulation and another two in the first 20-minute bonus round.

Short-lived perfection: It was nice while it lasted for the aforementioned Collins, whose game-breaking goal was her second on as many shot attempts in her two-week-old career with the Friars. She would preserve her perfect SOG percentage through a shot in the 59th minute foiled by Trupiano, but finally felt her cleats brushing the soil once more in the 74th minute, when her attempt was blocked by a Manhattan defender, making for her first non-SOG in four tries.

Free Kicks: Six Friars have started all four games so far: Nicole Benko, Jill Camburn, Christie Gent, Tara Ricciardi, Lindsey Trubia, and Mara Whaley…Glay Field has erected backstop nets being each goal cage in an implicit attempt to minimize the frequency of misdirected shots scuttling away from the facility…The Friars and Jaspers drew an even 14 fouls apiece Sunday…Eight of PC’s 24 shots on Sunday were the doing of Jill Camburn, who now leads the team with a whopping 15 on the year…The Hartford Hawks, lined up to be PC’s first road adversary this Thursday, are currently 2-2-2 and coming off a scoreless wash with Big East tenant Georgetown in the third-place game of the George Mason Tournament this past weekend.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Hockey Log: Sunday Edition

Shooting and dragging it out

Overtime is looming for those college hockey conferences who have not yet openly cemented a decision to exercise the new option to use a shootout this season. They’ll have to speak soon, or hold their peace until at least next spring.

Hockey East is right in that mix, and surely opinionated fans want to know: are they trying something new or not?

Recently contacted by e-mail, Dan Parkhurst –the league’s web site coordinator- filtered a response equally brief and blunt to the question on behalf of Commissioner Joe Bertagna.

“No decision has been made at this time,” he wrote to this author Thursday. “I would point out that only the WCHA women are using the shootout. Their men’s teams voted down the shootout.”

Parkhurst forgivably neglected to mention that the men-exclusive CCHA has also made the adventurous change. But back here, one of two feasible conclusions can be immediately excavated from Parkhurst’s offerings.

As aptly noted, there was an intriguing twist of self-rule in the dual-gendered WCHA late last week when only the women’s sect elected to, in the event of a 65-minute deadlock, summon three skaters per side to decide a winner, the exact same format that the post-lockout NHL has practiced. From that angle, there is a chance that the likes of Hockey East, the ECAC, and College Hockey America, could all offer the same loosey-goosey ballot to their individual tenants.

Either that, or the HEA would prefer uphold the status quo altogether. After all, if Bertagna and his citizens are still contemplating, they sure are letting fans hang by the moment until the eleventh hour. Only 41 days remain until the league schedule breaks in.

Between the 1994-95 and 1995-96 seasons, Hockey East was the first collegiate conference to fiddle with a shootout, albeit bounded with a metric-system-messy format that folded within two years. The rubric for those seasons -5 points for a regulation win, three for finishing the job in the shootout, and two for falling short- forever set the record books askew, with the 95-96 BU Terriers gobbling an unsurpassable 90 points.

Incidentally, the HEA commissioner at that time, Robert M. DeGregorio, also has yet to make any news ripples on this issue with his current firm –Atlantic Hockey. But if he or anybody else decides to give in to their adventurous side, the points system is bound to be more orderly.

The WCHA women, for one, have established that they will assure one point to all teams stretching the game to a shootout with simply an extra notch at stake. They thus echo the CCHA’s plot, and at that rate, at least somebody is a stride closer to realizing the NHL’s logic of a “regulation tie.” Those leagues who embrace the status quo, conversely, will likely continue to send their OT casualties to the dressing room with no benefits whatsoever –as the two shootout leagues will as well.

But back to matter of benefits. Shootout advocates in the collegiate game have offered little beyond the notion of enhanced entertainment value as the root of their cause, though that might be all they need to argue.

In an August 28 press release, the WCHA’s associate commissioner Sara Martin underlined the unanimous thumbs-up sentiment amongst women’s coaches. “Collectively we think the adoption of the shootout,” she wrote, “will add an extra element of drama to our games for student-athletes, coaches, fans, and media.”

The subtle gender factor is worth excavating here. On the NCAA landscape, the publicity ratio between women’s and men’s hockey flashes a disproportion similar to the NBA’s general winter regality over the NHL. If east coast philosophy is not completely alien from that of the Midwest, there’s still a chance the WHEA could strike out on its own.

The reiterate Parkhurst’s reasoning, “I would point out that only the WCHA women are using the shootout.” Emphasis on only, perhaps?

Differences in gender and levels of publicity hunger aside, why not give it a whirl? After all, this is the region where Phil Kessel has taken two short years to sculpt a Big Papi-like clutch reputation, reminding everyone that the Bruins exist.

Regardless, an official verdict from Bertagna would be ideal in the very near future.

Lightning strike not so pleasant
No repeat trip to Florida for the UMass-Lowell Riverhawks, champions of last year’s Everblades College Classic, it suddenly turns out. The Notre Dame-hosted Lightning College Classic –scheduled to include Lowell, Union and Minnesota-Duluth this holiday season- was zapped by Tampa Bay management, reportedly behind the backs of the Irish.

Ken Schott, the tireless blogger and reporter for the Schenectady (N.Y.) Daily Gazette, and Adam Wodon, the supervising scribe of collegehockeynews.com, have led a prompt rain of rebuke against the franchise that still appears primed to host the 2012 Frozen Four and, on its website, proclaims itself as “Hockey Bay, USA.”

Schott: “The NCAA should hand out the ultimate punishment to Tampa. It doesn’t deserve to host the 2012 Frozen Four anymore. The city can thank the Lightning’s new owners for that.”

Wodon: “I’m not sure I’ll go as far as Ken here. But I share his puzzlement, and the decision was just as perplexing to everyone we spoke to.”

To be fair, it’s also perplexing that a program in Indiana would opt to set up hosting grounds nearly a thousand miles south of home or that an Alaska-based program would set up shop in southern California –as was the case in 1999 when Hockey East famously constituted three-quarters of the Frozen Four participants in Anaheim.

Come what may, the Irish, who didn’t stamp their schedule for the public eye to see until this past Monday, will instead entertain their nonconference guests shortly after New Year’s at something called the “Shillelagh Tournament” in Hoffman Estates, Ill. The presumed venue will be the 11,000-seat Sears Center, which has been thirsting for ice activity since the short-lived Chicago Hounds (UHL) fizzled in 2007.

Taormina works overtime with Lavin
In a nod to the current edition of The Hockey News (press date: September 16), wherein you “See what one player from each club did during the summer in our Team Reports,” the Free Press offers the same angle at PC:

Reigning men’s hockey team MVP Matt Taormina was one of 17 undrafted walk-ons admitted to the Chicago Blackhawks prospect camp this past July, opposite familiar foes Bryan Ewing (BU), Pete MacArthur (BU), Tyler McNeely (Northeastern), and Mike Radja (UNH). It is worth noting –if only for cute speculative purposes- that Taormina partnered with fellow Chicago camper Joe Lavin –a 2007 draftee by the Original 6 franchise- on the PC blue line twice last season and is in obvious need of a replacement associate what with the early departure of Cody Wild. Then again, if head coach Tim Army decides that the top pairing of Lavin and Mark Fayne that graced the latter half of last year has run dry, he may take early comfort in the bonus familiarity between Taormina and Lavin. One other trivial tidbit: Lavin’s Team Red claimed three of four scrimmages against Taormina and Team White.

Juggling balls and pucks
The PC men’s basketball schedule, released this past week, has the Late Night Madness fiesta lined up for Friday, October 17, primed to commence at 9:30, which ought to be a few precious minutes after the final whistle of Friar Puck’s home opener against Northeastern. And later on, granting that most of the Keno Kagers’ games have yet to cement a tipoff time, crossover Friar Fanatics could have up to five dilemmas over the college’s two regal programs this season:

Saturday, November 1: Hockey vs. Massachusetts and Basketball vs. Ottawa
Saturday, November 8: Hockey vs. Notre Dame and Basketball vs. Slippery Rock
Saturday, November 15: Hockey vs. Maine and Basketball vs. Northeastern
Saturday, January 31: Hockey vs. Merrimack and Basketball @ Connecticut (there’s bound to be a student party bus in store for that one)
Saturday, February 14: Hockey vs. New Hampshire and Basketball vs. Rutgers

Quick Feeds: Former PC women’s captain Kerstin Matthews –a 2000 graduate- relinquished her position as an assistant coach at Boston University to assume the head skipper role at St. Anselm, thus filling the gap left there by new Northeastern foreman Dave Flint earlier this summer…Merrimack coach Mark Dennehy bestowed his 2008-09 Cs to his reigning top scorer Rob Ricci –who rang up a level point-per-game mean last season- and Joe Loprieno –fresh with seasoning from the Bruins prospect camp in July…RIP Ted Daniel, Sr., my great uncle and a noted hockey fan who could recall days when he saw the legendary likes of Maurice Richard play in person. My last chance to catch up with Ted was last December in his hometown of Detroit while I was covering the Friars in the Great Lakes Invitational. Something tells me he is now watching his old friend –Hall of Famer Sid Abel- gear up a friendly Heaven’s League game.

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com