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

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Hockey Log

Yet another welcome Matt
In a nod to the current edition of The Hockey News (press date: October 28), wherein “Team Reports introduces some of the fresh faces expected to make an impact for each of the 30 NHL teams this season,” the Free Press offers the same report for PC:

Matt Bergland, men’s forward- One of only three freshmen to dress for both of last weekend’s icebreaking games, Bergland rabidly whipped up a 1-2-3 transcript in the Friars’ 4-3 tipover of Bowling Green last Saturday, spotting him sole initial lead on the team scoring charts. Charging up two of those points on the power play –an assist on full-time linemate John Cavanagh’s second period go-ahead and his own goal for the eventual clincher- Bergland has earned consideration to be churned into the PK posse down the road as well.

“He’s a very intelligent player, he’s very instinctive, (and) he’s very, very quick,” said head coach Tim Army. “He has a good feel for the game. He can play at a fast-pace, and he’s got a good stick and a good nose for the net. I think showed that on both Friday and Saturday.”

And then, of course, fans who love to snack on trivial empty calories are waiting for the day sophomore Matt Tommasiello returns from his injury (likely not until January) and links up with Bergland, Matt Germain, and Matt Taormina in a PK quartet.

David Brown, men’s defenseman- Brown’s bar was tinkering near the top to start the season, as evidenced by his assignment to complement proficient puckslinger Matt Taormina on the power play points. Though he has yet to post a shot on net in the small hours of the season, Brown bagged a helper on Bergland’s game winner versus Bowling Green.

Ashley Cottrell, women’s forward- Coach Bob Deraney, being the seasoned Division I skipper that he is, will not favor single constituents of the new class he tirelessly acclaims. And, so far, the stats won’t do that either. But Cottrell gets a few extra ogling points for the international experience she brings and Deraney’s call for her to step up to the top line in the middle of last weekend.

Genevieve Lacasse, women’s goaltender- Initially pronounced blocked by the incumbent crease trinity of Danielle Ciarletta, Jen Smith, and Christina England, Lacasse has made early good of her now conspicuously timely arrival, handling the entirety of four games and backstopping PC’s first two wins. She has confronted an individual game average of 33.5 shots and let a slim nine through –many of Deraney has attributed to meltdowns on the part of Lacasse’s praetorian guards. So long as any veterans are unavailable, Lacasse promises to act as a functional landing mat.

Shawn Tingley, men’s forward- The 20-year-old North Kingstown native and his EJHL-enriched resume are both in the cooler for the time being as he nurses a pre-season ankle sprain. By Army’s eager estimate, though, Tingley should join in on practice starting next week and will be phased in to a prominent sect of the depth chart.

Laura Veharanta, women’s forward- Going into this weekend, the season-long first-liner leads the Friars in the way of scoring (5 points) and shooting (22 registered stabs). And on the tactical front, Veharanta knows a thing or two about trying to help a program penetrate the national landscape: she is on the heels of piloting a first-year California Wave U19 program to last year’s USA Hockey national tournament –opposite classmate and PC blueliner Jennifer Friedman.

Women’s Hockey vs. Boston College quick hits
· The WHEA’s Catholic Clash rekindles for the first time since the closure of the 2007-08 regular season, when the Friars claimed the short half of a home-and-home wishbone (1 out of 4 allotted points), yet scraped out enough to claim a playoff berth at the Eagles expense.

· Assuming she is fit to return to action today, PC freshman Kate Bacon shall stare down former high school teammate Tracy Johnson, a junior blueliner for the Eagles. The two played together at Minnesota-based Benilde-St. Margaret’s from 2004-2006.

· Both PC senior Stephanie Morris and BC freshman Mary Restuccia are North American Hockey Academy alumnae.

· BC’s top scorers: Kelli Stack (5-3-8); Allie Thunstrom (2-3-5); Danielle Welch (2-3-5)

· Site: Schneider Arena; 2:00 face-off

· Media: Gametracker; US College Hockey Online’s Game of the Week

Men’s Hockey at Holy Cross quick hits
· Both late bloomers in terms of thawing out their respective schedules, a task they both carried out last week, the Friars and Crusaders tangle for the fourth time in recent memory, though PC will pay the program’s first visit to the Worcester since February 7, 1956. The Crusaders, who twelve months ago wrested their first triumph over the Friars in seven all-time tries through a 6-4 earthquake at Schneider Arena, are 1-0-1 after last weekend’s two-game set with conference cohabitant Canisius.

· HC’s top scorers: Dewey Thomson (1-2-3); Brodie Sheahan (2-0-2); Everett Sheen (1-1-2)

· Projected goaltending matchup: Justin Gates (PC) vs. Adam Roy (HC)

· Site: Hart Recreation Center (Worcester, Mass.); 7:00 face-off

· Media: Online audio streaming

Quick Feeds: The PC men’s 4-1 letdown in Lowell last night had precisely one jutting scrap of consolation in senior captain Kyle Laughlin’s first goal in 24 outings. Laughlin’s twig went infamously stiff in the latter half of last season, good for merely five sparse helpers after he had last struck the mesh personally against Union on December 7, 2007…Army reinserted Kyle MacKinnon into the lineup last night, letting him fill the centerpiece on the fourth line, bumping Andy Balysky to the wing, and letting Rob Maloney take a scratch night. All other attacking units were left unruffled from last week’s home win over Bowling Green…On the blue line last night, veteran Mark Fayne –assigned to the upper bowl last Saturday for his unsatisfactory output on opening night- was invited back into action, rotating David Cavanagh out…The USCHO broadcast crew, dropping in at the Schneider Arena booth for the second time this young season, will open its cyber doors to interested viewers at 1:45 today…Author’s note: due to PC’s academic midterm tempest, the Free Press will not publish any Sunday notes this weekend.

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Hockey Log

PC women change on the fly

Providence head coach Bob Deraney fired a tricky, twirling wrist shot at the puck prophets by reinstating senior goaltender Danielle Ciarletta at Northeastern last Saturday.

When the Friars were previously seen in game time attire, freshman Genevieve Lacasse appeared to be to sole masked lady of momentum, having made three consecutive starts and backstopped the team’s first win over Colgate two Saturdays ago.

But, this being a game of constant resurfacing, Deraney’s appraisal changed before the team bus even flipped on the ignition. “I felt that they both deserved to play this weekend based on their performances in practice,” he said. “Both young ladies have been doing a good job battling for playing time.”

As fate would have it, Deraney’s move in the cage was merely the taster before a tempest of tweaks in his depth chart between Saturday’s bitter 1-0 falter to the Huskies and the subsequent excursion to Vermont on Sunday.

A few jutting highlights of those revisions: season-long first line forward Alyse Ruff partnered with fellow sophomore Jean O’Neill and junior Jackie Duncan –who were, incidentally, her offensive associates for the better part of the first half of last season. Freshman Ashley Cottrell plugged Ruff’s old spot opposite Mari Pehkonen and Laura Veharanta on the starting line. Two-way connoisseur Erin Normore inched up to center the third line with Abby Gauthier and Arianna Rigano for her first offensive assignment since last November.

Well, those tweaks worked well enough for an immediate dose of redemption –a 4-2 triumph with all of the day’s scoring compacted into the second period and a total of 10 Friars putting their names to the scoresheet.

In her stride along Memory Lane with O’Neill and Duncan, Ruff inserted the eventual game-clinching strike at 9:33 of the decisive middle frame, at that point nudging PC ahead, 3-1, and only 14 seconds after Chelsea Furlani put Vermont on the board with her first of two power play conversions on the day –both of which were assisted by ex-Friar Brittany Nelson.

Duncan, returning from an injury that had sidelined her throughout the previous weekend, collected a helper (as did O’Neill) to go with her goal (PC’s second of the day) at the 8:30 mark.

Only 90 seconds after she stepped out of the box early thanks to Furlani’s second power play tally at 18:19, Normore left a rebound for Rigano to bury, renewing the two-goal lead and ultimately solidifying the 4-2 upshot.

And in her prompt return to the cage, Lacasse handled the bulk of the Catamounts’ 27 stabs, including the last five unanswered in the stretch drive of the third period. It was a somewhat bookish reversal from the Friars’ venture to Northeastern the prior afternoon.

Providence, which besides the game lost senior A-captain Katy Beach to an upper body injury –Deraney’s proclaimed premise for the lineup changes- ran up a 31-20 edge in Saturday’s shooting gallery, sprinting rabidly ahead in the final fifteen minutes after Husky Ali Bielawski beat Ciarletta for the game’s only goal. Under the upgrade in urgency, the Friars authorized but one more shot at Ciarletta while heaving nine at Northeastern’s Florence Schelling, seven of them spaced over three power plays.

But the Huskies’ freshman phenom –who together with sophomore Leah Sulyma has now laid four goose eggs in six outings, including Sunday’s 3-0 knockout of Connecticut- held her ground for the day.

“That’s what happens with good goalies,” Deraney granted. “She got a couple of good breaks.”

And so, the Friars spilled their appetite over to Sunday in Burlington and bussed back to campus propitiated after shattering their scoring chrysalis and pulling even to a 1-1 record in their young Hockey East slate (2-4 overall).

“It’s really important that the girls get rewarded for their efforts,” Deraney offered. “When you only give up three goals on a weekend and score four, you usually expect to get more than just two points (in the standings).

“But we’re getting better every day,” he concluded. “We’re growing.”

Quick Feeds: For a portion of Saturday’s game, the Northeastern online stat tracker erroneously reported that defender Amber Yung had replaced Ciarletta in the crease…Veharanta potted PC’s first goal on Sunday, nudging her into a singular team lead with five points. All four of her goals have come on the power play…Reached via phone late Sunday night, Deraney made a point of crediting defender Leigh Riley’s productive output (1 shot and a +1 rating) at Vermont after she had been sidelined the previous two outings…Rookie forward Kate Bacon, injured all weekend, is “progressing” by Deraney’s account, as is the aforementioned Beach. No conclusive statuses were disclosed.

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Hockey Log: Sunday Edition

Regional revisions? Please do

Only this year are we a full collegiate generation removed from the indulgent peak of the WCHA’s Men’s Frozen Four hegemony. In 2005, the Colorado College, the University of Denver, Minnesota, and North Dakota all prevailed in their respective regionals to converge on Columbus, Ohio’s Value City Arena.

The conference-by-conference distribution of those falling short: four Hockey East inhabitants (Boston College, Boston University, Maine, New Hampshire); three ECAC satellites (Colgate, Cornell, Harvard); two CCHA tenants (Michigan, Ohio State); the borderline free rides that were Mercyhurst (Atlantic Hockey champion) and Bemidji State (CHA); and even the WCHA’s Wisconsin Badgers.

All spring fevered, league-centric loyalties aside, all have to admit that sort of twist is not what cooks in a college hockey fan’s dreamful noggin. Even eastern zealots have to admit that the 1999 championship, wherein Maine overthrew BC and UNH en route to triumph in Anaheim, wasn’t the way to score a sweeping TV audience.

Come on now. This is hockey. Not Major League Baseball, where any number of cross-town or cross-state grudge matches is possible in October, and not the NFL, where New England and New York can convene with a stake in the Lombardi Trophy.

In this sport, civic clashes like BC-BU, intrastate enmities like Michigan-Michigan State, and “Border Battles” like Minnesota-Wisconsin have no place in April action. It should be the fittest of the east, central, and west standing alone in their leagues/regions, then promptly converging on the final frontier.

By now, every high-profile program has broken in its new skates (apologies to the folks at Brown, who still have to wait another four days for so much as an exhibition). And with the traditional mixed autumn bag of conference and nonconference interaction, fan bases are sharpening their appetite for yet another postseason installment of the lock-n-load BC-UND matchup. Or a refurbish of the old BU-Minnesota animosities historically touched on in Miracle.

Cutting to the net now, it’s fitting that an NCAA memo specific to the implicit intent to regionalize its tournament bracket should have been leaked this past Tuesday. Inside College Hockey (INCH) pasted the gist of the Division I Championship Cabinet’s step-by-step process, explaining that it may culminate in a stay-within-your-league’s-vicinity policy effective in time for the 2009 selection.

No later than tomorrow, coaches must submit their two cents to the cabinet. Over the next three months, the report indicates, the NCAA will mull over everyone’s collective opinion.

As of right now, though, the expressed principal incentive is to reduce travel costs for regional-bound programs. And, naturally, that cause all but speaks for itself what with one airline after another divulging its intent to charge for baggage that once got a free pass.

As INCH reports, the ideal upshot would have all tournament entries “travel by ground transportation within a 400-mile radius from the site of competition instead of 350 miles. Also, participating teams would be flown to the most cost-reasonable airport within 150 miles of the site, as opposed to within a 120-mile radius.”

Understood. But as a byproduct, this should also whitewash and salt the chances of repeating the general embarrassment from 1999 or 2005.

If their paths are to cross sometime after TD Banknorth Garden cleans up after the HEA championship party, let the Hub Hunks keep their hostilities within New England boundaries. It’s not as though the intensity still wouldn’t spike. After all, only one would ultimately prove fitter for the Frozen Four and neither side would want to relinquish that claim, let alone to their loathed neighbor.

Another diamond cutter on HEA ice
Jon Quick makes like his name for the pros after but two seasons (2005-07). His first presumptive successor, current junior Dan Meyers, is ambushed in his endeavor for the distinction of #1 crease custodian by Paul Dainton, who logged a respectable 12-14-6 transcript with the shoddy UMass program as a freshman last year. And then, to the understandable winces of coach Don Cahoon, Dainton is injured before last weekend’s Icebreaker tournament, leaving it to Meyers to state his belated case. But, for the moment, Meyers has produced roughly the same results: a .914 save percentage and a 1-1 record courtesy a 3-2 falter to Michigan State and 3-2 third-place triumph over North Dakota.

But here’s where it gets quirky: the reported emergency backup is Matthew Gedmen –the Minutemen baseball catcher and son of former Red Sox backstopper Rich Gedman. And this coming only one year after human interest ripples ran through Maine’s Alfond Arena, where southpaw hurler Nolan Boike walked on to pick up 19 games and two points worth of experience playing under Tim Whitehead.

Motherwell comes home to Baby Bs
BC dropout Brett Motherwell –who last season consumed 16 points and 59 penalty minutes in 50 bus league games upon departing his syrupy saga at The Heights early in his junior year- was latched on to the P-Bruins roster through a strictly minor league Professional Tryout Agreement. Motherwell had yet to see any game action with either the AHL’s Syracuse Crunch or ECHL’s Elmira Jackals in the small hours of his first pro season. His debut, whenever that may come, will be his first bright-light skate in the Divine City since he packed an equalizer en route to a 2-1 Eagle triumph of the Friars on February 9, 2007. Since converting to the bus-and-bar lifestyle, though, Motherwell seems to have refurbished the knuckles he once brandished in the USHL while toning down his twig a tad. Think Jeremy Reich should prepare to split the Spoked-Ps fan favorite pie?

Going grey in the head
It seems the PC men’s program has to do something or other to tweak its overall uniform scheme every year. The latest innovation: standout, fashionable grey helmets. Hey, the rationale behind schools like Michigan and Notre Dame, who adopt the same lid look as their football peers, is self-explanatory. But why this move for the Friars? Perhaps it’s an attempt to model their look after the accomplished lacrosse program, a perennial contender for the MAAC championship with a promotion to the newfangled Big East lax league on the horizon? In any case, the gold-helmeted Irish have an engagement with PC here on November 8. Can you take all the eccentricity on everyone’s head?

Spot-lighting it up
Branching off that previous note, the Schneider Arena game night crew seems to have enacted its own upgrade element with a full-time spotlight custom in place this season. About midway through the Zamboni’s post-warmup/pre-game shift, the inner lights watching over the ice surface dim and within moments, you have the crescendo of the intro song of the year -Metallica’s “Enter Sandman”- brewing and the solo spotlight drawing attention to PC’s bench threshold. Well, it may not be nearly as stimulating as the past-to-present montages you see at Friar hoops or Bruins games, but the petite rink should get credit for doing all it can to bring its atmosphere as up to modern par as it can.

Michigan Chillers
A vaguely publicized crossover confrontation on Michigan’s Ann Arbor campus left Wolverines’ junior defenseman Steve Kampfer unconscious and hospitalized. The assailant: a Maize and Blue wrestler-turned-football-running-back by the name of Mike Milano. Though expected to recover and ultimately resume action before the season is up, Kampfer –who charged up two quick assists in as many regular season games before the misfortune- joins his captain and fellow Anaheim Ducks draftee Mark Mitera on the IR.

Quick Feeds: A little known fact about a fast-becoming-known PC women’s forward: Laura Veharanta carries a dual citizenship between the United States and Finland…Was there a recent spike in New England Hockey Journal readership amongst Friartownies? The Journal’s recent online poll asking which Hockey East player is most “worth watching” saw PC senior blueliner Matt Taormina pole-vault from fifth (and last) place to a runaway lead –ahead of BU’s Colin Wilson, UNH’s James vanRiemsdyk, BC’s John Muse, and Northeastern’s Brad Thiessen, in order of finish…Going into this weekend’s action, the WHEA hit a notable 2-for-2 rate as far as pushing its games to the newly sanctioned shootout. Monique Weber tipped the scale in the fifth round to boost host Connecticut over New Hampshire, victors in the bonus one week prior at the expense of BC…The PC men’s royal rooters from the student section are calling for all of their fellow Friar Fanatics to get in the habit of wearing white to all home games as a supplement to the men’s basketball fan base’s “Black Out The Dunk” tradition…Speaking of fanfare, members of the PC men’s team made respectable use of their extended down time over the past two weekends by attending and lending substantial vocal support during the women’s four-game homestand. This author can tell you he never saw that kind of player-to-player respect while at Shattuck-St. Mary’s. Guess some folks do grow up once in college…This author’s pick for the out-of-market game of the week: The Minnesota men rekindle the Border Battle with a two-game overnight stay at Wisconsin. And at no extra charge (figuratively speaking, for all Badger teams charge admission) the women’s sects of those programs also clash at the Kohl Center on Friday afternoon, effectively slating a double-header.

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com

Men's Hockey 4, Bowling Green 3

Friars thaw in time to tame Falcons

With a 2-2 draw at hand, and Bowling Green’s top center David Solway boxed for hitting from behind, in the final minute of the second period, the Friars could have taken the standard, patient option. They could have ground it out and then accepted a fresh sheet, refreshed five-set of legs, and still another 86 seconds worth of power play time to work with the begin the indubitably vital closing frame.

Instead, they exercised the Mark Johnson Magic option, potting a go-ahead conversion with a mere 0.2 seconds on the clock. Near point patroller Matt Taormina –who had planted PC’s game and season icebreaker earlier in the period- thrust a low rider to Matt Bergland behind the net. Bergland handed it a few inches upward to John Cavanagh, who tucked it through goaltender Jimmy Spratt for the 3-2 advantage.

From there, the rookie Bergland scooped up his own goal –yet another man-up connection- less than two minutes into the third period, ultimately pacing the Friars to a 4-3 triumph before 1,392 at Schneider Arena.

The anguishing offensive coma from Friday’s 4-0 submission to Northeastern carried over and lingered for one more period last night, in which time the Falcons claimed an initial 1-0 lead. But by night’s end, Bergland had his first three collegiate points –his first a helper on Taormina’s strike in the third minute of the middle frame- and was flanked in the multi-point night club by elder likes of Cavanagh, Taormina, and Pierce Norton –all of whom picked up a goal-assist value pack.

While everyone waited for the exponential wake-up, though, the first period saw some generally air hockey-paced action with a fairly sized, sparsely distributed offering of shots for both Spratt and PC counterpart Chris Mannix. The standout exception to that trend served to spawn the early Bowling Green lead less than five minutes into the night.

Rolling along with their power play cycle even after Friar Ben Farrer’s jailbreak, the Falcons’ Todd McIlrath eventually put himself within breathing distance of a stickless Mannix and furiously forked at the puck until the goaltender let himself fall on it at the 3:02 mark. Subsequent calls to the video judge verified that the disc had kept out of the net, but for exactly 62 seconds of the next draw, Bowling Green maintained a fluid swarm that culminated with pointman Kyle Page –who had delayed the draw a tad more to replace a broken twig- letting a low shot blip off Mannix’s skate and into the clutch of Solway, who nimbly buried it at 4:04.

The Friars, who were 0-for-8 on the man advantage in their first four periods of the season, finally clicked and pulled a 1-1 knot at 2:55 of the second. The very second Kai Kantola’s two-minute sentence for tripping expired, Taormina discharged a blistering ice-kisser to the right of Spratt.

Seven minutes later, Nick Mazzolini churned with linemate Ben Farrer’s feed out of the far corner and into the slot. Mazzolini turned to find Norton cutting to the left post and shipped him a backhand feed for him to lob home top shelf.

The resultant lead, though, was but 26 seconds young when Kantola poked in James MacIntosh’s rebound to forge a 2-2 draw at 10:13. And one protracted play later, PC rookie blueliner Danny New was flagged for holding, granting the rabid Falcons their seventh power play of the night.

But the Friars held their ground for the moment, repeatedly clearing the zone, inducing the Bowling Green strike force to an icing, and chalking up a shorthanded shot via Austin Mayer. And another five minutes later, Cavanagh renewed the lead to take into the final stanza.

After Bergland augmented that lead by raking in a one-timer off Norton’s feed from the near circle top, the persistent Falcons spiked their attempted output and outshot Providence, 14-7, the rest of the way.

But Mannix (29 total saves) retained his rigidity through a six-shot Falcon power play –allotted courtesy Ian O’Connor’s interference infraction at 13:50- and merely bent within the final four seconds while the Friars killed a late 5-minute major to O’Connor, drawn with 2:53 to spare.

With a mere 3.5 ticks on the clock, Solway’s straightaway blast from the point found its way through the aid of McIlrath’s twig, at least cutting the deficit to 4-3.

But the resolute, every-last-second push that sparked the Friars the previous period simply didn’t have the means to turn the tables back this time.

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com