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Saturday, November 1, 2008

Hockey Log

PC women at Boston University Quick Hits

Now toddler-aged in the area of longevity, the BU program’s exponential acceleration has perched it on the national landscape at #8 in this week’s USCHO poll.

Standing at 3-0-0 in conference play, 5-2-2 overall, and 4-0-2 in their last six ventures, the Terriers only continue to make statements in their fourth season of existence. Already, they have convincingly measured up with perennial NCAA bracket constituents Mercyhurst (split series) and St. Lawrence (2-2 tie), and twice tamed the ambiguous, quality-over-quantity New Hampshire program.

Only two nights ago, senior stopper Allyse Wilcox neutralized the bulk of a 36-shot salvo, which her skating mates countered with a shallow bushel of 18 bids, to ultimately let the Terriers puncture the Wildcats in a shootout up in Lake Whittemore. A week prior, Boston squeaked past the Cats, 3-2, at Walter Brown Arena, where they have prevailed in each of PC’s two most recent drop-ins.

BU top scorers: senior Gina Kearns and freshman Jenelle Kohanchuk (4-5-9 each); junior Melissa Anderson (2-6-8)
Projected goaltending matchup: Genevieve Lacasse vs. Allyse Wilcox
Site: Walter Brown Arena, 3:00 face-off
Media coverage: Gametracker, online audiocast

PC men vs. UMass-Amherst Quick Hits
Projected goaltending matchup: Chris Mannix vs. Paul Dainton
Site: Schneider Arena, 7:00 face-off
Media coverage: Cox Sports TV, WOON AM 1240, Gametracker

Hockey East men’s scoreboard
BC 4
Merrimack 3 (OT)

Northeastern 4

Niagara 2
Maine 4

Hockey East women’s scoreboard
BC 4

Friday, October 31, 2008

Hockey Log

Welterweight arm wrestling
Friars, Minutemen vie for respective HEA breakthroughs

The PC men have mastered the bitter beginning/appeasing finish stage act, as evidenced by their first two weekends of intercollegiate activity. They have fastened two can’t-hurt victories in as many tries over their schedule’s petite nonconference sector.

They have thawed out each of ideal starting stopper Ryan Simpson’s indefinite stand-ins for a win apiece and they have all but solidified at least one offensive trinity in Ian O’Connor, John Cavanagh, and Matt Bergland. And, save for a few long-term inhabitants of the IR ward, they have allowed all members of Hockey East’s most populous dressing room to break in their game attire and seen at least one point credited to 17 out of 25 rostered skaters.

Now for the task of hatching the goose-egg in their Hockey East win column, an order of business which should come into more prominent focus with this weekend’s home-and-home series versus Massachusetts –commencing tonight up in Amherst.

The Friars, 2-2 overall, have yet to articulate a credibly congenial Friday night fight, having handed a shaky 4-0 decision to Northeastern in their home opener two weeks ago and grudgingly gnawing the butt end of a 4-1 decision at UMass-Lowell, easily the most lopsided upshot with the Riverhawks in recent memory.

For what it’s worth, it still being the small hours of everyone’s season, the Minutemen are in a similarly scrappy state, brandishing a 2-1-1 transcript and nothing but a 1-1 knot at New Hampshire to speak of on their conference log. To their credit, they have left the crease in the hands of a primordially consistent Dan Meyers, who has succeeded an ailing Paul Dainton with a slim six goals against, one shutout, and a 40-save gem against North Dakota in the Icebreaker tournament.

Meyers’ shielding strike force, though, has yet to hit its full throttle knob, packaging but 11 goals worth of support.

Déjà vu and a second chance?
When the Friars and Minutemen engaged in a back-to-back weekend series about this time last year, it was ultimately the personal peak for the likes of then-juniors Kyle Laughlin and Chris Mannix.

On October 26, 2007, Laughlin charged up a goal-assist value pack –including a rather snoopily executed game winner- en route to a 3-1 triumph, compressing the lesions of PC’s infamous 0-4 overall start. He duplicated that output the following evening at the Mullins Center as part of a 3-3 draw. The co-captain in effect enhanced his early 2007-08 scoring totals to 5-3-8 in a mere six games.

Meanwhile Mannix, standing in for a scorched Tyler Sims at the time, claimed all three points on that weekend through a 20-save and 37-save performance.

Afterwards, though, Laughlin’s radiant twig gave out and allotted him only nine more points in the 28 games that followed. And Mannix, upon authorizing a few strikes too many in a 5-2 nose-dive before Boston University, immediately handed the crease back to the senior Sims.

Quick Feeds: The Friars’ two most recent visits to Amherst have been 3-3 draws. Back on February 10, 2007, a night that saw bouncer Mark Fayne submit a rare two-point performance, PC let the lead slip with a mere 40 seconds to spare in regulation, authorizing an equalizer by the Minutemen’s Mark Matheson…Since Tim Army assumed the whistle here, the Friars and Minutemen have never shared victories in a single season series. PC swept the whole three-date deal in 2005-06, bowed before UMass 0-2-1 two years ago, and reversed that equation last season…Minutemen senior co-captain Cory Quirk, who has four goals and two helpers to his credit in nine games against Providence, has played in all 115 possible games over his collegiate career…UMass boosters will be conducting a Best Halloween Costume contest for all of tonight’s attendees.

Friday Quick Hits
PC’s top scorers: Matt Bergland (1-4-5); John Cavanagh (2-2-4); Matt Taormina (1-2-3)
UMass top scorers: James Marcou (2-1-3); Chase Langeraap and Topher Bevis (1-2-3); Cory Quirk and Alex Berry (0-3-3)
Projected goaltending matchup: Chris Mannix vs. Dan Meyers
Site: Mullins Center; 7:00 face-off
Media: Gametracker; online audiocast

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com

Thursday, October 30, 2008

On Hockey

They just need to win
Pollsters clearly scout for victors

By the time the PC women’s hockey team ships up to Boston for a matinee bout with the BU Terriers this Saturday, the calendar Zamboni will have just razed October in favor of November. And, already through eight games, the Friars have consumed nearly a quarter of their 34-game regular season schedule.

Etching that in his players’ collective minds, head coach Bob Deraney has drained the last of his flexibility for incomplete game-to-game output, which explains why he winced over both last Saturday’s fall-from-ahead, 3-1 setback to Boston College and Sunday’s redressing 4-2 knockoff of Maine that could have been a second dish of vinegar-based defeat.

Given Deraney’s perpetually expressed ambitions, he has no other choice in his approach. Looking at a 3-5 overall record, including a toe-curling 1-3 transcript and nine dates yet to come in interleague play, all of the tiresome trends are again thawing out like clockwork for these Friars.

As it has been seasonal week in and seasonal week out since the Day the Dynasty Died circa March 2006, Providence was looking up at all the certified national bigwigs and their team-lift-required bushels of poll points and glanced back at the marbles of recognition in its palm.

Key word: was. Key tense: past. The Friars indubitably spilled the slim sampling of points that they had over the weekend when they dropped before the Eagles, who in effect ascended from the #7 slot to the #4 perch of the USCHO leaderboard, pole-vaulting them over New Hampshire as Hockey East’s most acclaimed program this week.

Imagine, though, if that fateful third period –wherein BC speared Providence for three unanswered strikes, abolishing a 1-0 deficit- could be deleted and/or succeeded by a duplicate of the opening frame, when Kate Bacon swept in a visually exhilarating shorthanded, 2-on-1 conversion. It’s no secret: PC could have cracked the Top 10 surface. That glowing puck was square on their collective blades.

But since those blades had more motor oil than frictional athletic tape in the critical climax of last Saturday’s outing, the Friars are completely out of the poll picture for the first time this season.

Deraney, his coaching colleagues, his pupils, and their fan base could seethe at the panel for not taking all the finer points into account. They could try underscoring the fact that they have yet to submit a defeat of two-plus goal margins.

But based on Deraney’s recent accounts, the folks in control at ice level are not filing those complaints. They are making reluctant concessions and pressing on like professionals.

Those who would like to fault the Great Ranking Masters’ superficial approach have only a limited validity to their argument. The fact is the poll personnel cannot come close to witnessing everything they evaluate. There is no fraternal twin to NHL Center Ice servicing NCAA puck junkies/pundits.

Owing to that inconvenience, teams are, generally speaking, ranked based on their own scoreboard success rate and that of the programs they tangle with every week. The greater your opponents’ profile of late, the more you ought to drool over the prospect of a spotlight feast should you catch this piece of big game.

The piercing truth is that the Friars have yet to do that. They charged up a pair of one-goal skid marks versus a similarly aspirant Ohio State team. They numbed and softened the almighty St. Lawrence, but couldn’t deal the lethal hack. And they let the other skate drop on them when all was good against BC.

But PC isn’t exactly a Ron Paul in its pool of fellow competitors. The few analysts who do take in a constant, firsthand observation of the Friars know they are missing nothing in the achievement kit.

Over Phase II of their five-month quest, the Friars have another three poll regulars slated over a month’s total of seven contests. BU, thriving on the backs of what will be the young program’s first graduating class, is currently #8 in USCHO’s eyes with 46 points. The implicit explanation: they stand at 5-2-1 overall and made superficial waves a week ago tonight by slapping New Hampshire with its first Hockey East loss since November 2, 2006.

And on the other end of a two-night getaway to Robert Morris, PC shall return home to face two current honorable mentions in Connecticut (November 16) and Mercyhurst (November 21).

Complex a game as this may be, generous as it can be in passing out moral Ws, Deraney and Co. have expressly vowed to refuse those sentimental, empty calorie treats from here on out. They know, after all, that nothing woos a selection committee quite like an assertively polished victory over a fellow heavyweight.

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com

Monday, October 27, 2008

Hockey Log

Normore normalcy
Two-way specialist making good of ongoing forward assignment

Trying to cement a singular, concise, permanent definition of senior Erin Normore’s position with the Friars is about as bamboozling an endeavor as trying to put an effective, restraining hook on the two-way connoisseur.

Those who have followed the Friars long enough should be apt to remark that just the goal-assist value pack the senior picked up in yesterday’s 4-2 win over Maine was hardly sufficient evidence that she has had a weeklong stint amongst the team’s offensive dozen. Even as a defender, Normore has been characteristically inclined to venture with the puck deep to the corners of the attacking zone. A PC women’s hockey experience is hardly such without seeing her singlehandedly tour the biscuit from end to end at least once.

So, when Normore –who was implanted between Kate Bacon and Alyse Ruff on the starting line yesterday- hurdled over the boards for a line change, absorbed the fugitive puck in neutral ice, and strolled right in to thrust home PC’s fourth goal at 0:44 of the third period, it meant nothing beyond getting the day’s task done.

“When you have players that can play two positions, it gives you a lot of versatility based on what you need,” acknowledged head coach Bob Deraney. “And right now, she’s doing a wonderful job. So in the foreseeable future, she will continue to play up, but don’t be surprised to see her back at D or (at least) taking shifts at D.”

Technically, she did do a little of that yesterday, assuming the backline position for both power plays and penalty kills. She would be credited with a helper on the Friars’ second goal upon shipping a feed to Brittany Simpson, who proceeded to set up Laura Veharanta at 13:17 of the opening frame.

And based on the bench-wide round of shuffles that occurred in the middle of last weekend, Deraney’s configurations as a whole probably have a light coat of Zamboni-born water still yet to freeze.

But as the skipper says, Normore is a runaway leader in terms of flexibility.

Normore, who up to this point has suited up for all 115 possible games in her collegiate career, was strictly a blueliner for the duration of her freshman campaign. As her venturous tendencies broke the surface in the form of a breakthrough 6-16-22 scoring transcript, though, she played precisely two-thirds of the 36-game slate up front in 2006-07, charging up a 7-14-21 log.

The general rotation carried over the dawn of last season, when Normore started as a centerpiece in all but one of the Friars’ first ten outings. Deraney, however, ultimately regressed her back to the defense stable, where she remained for the rest of the campaign, though not without umpteen of her end-to-end rushes, another 22 points, and a team-best +19 rating.

And until a week ago, she was contentedly still a nominal defender with two assists over the first five games of her senior year. As of yesterday’s buzzer, she had bulked it up to 1-4-5 on the year and 70 points all-time.

Quick Feeds: Senior goaltender Danielle Ciarletta –playing in her 50th career game at PC- collected 20 saves yesterday to pick up her first win in three attempts this season…Sophomores Jean O’Neill and Leigh Riley are the lone two skating Friars who have yet to receive a penalty this season. Riley, though, momentarily thought she was busted at 13:08 of the first period after she had become entangled with Maine’s Ashley Norum, taking one another down within the far circle of the zone. Instead, Norum went off alone on a diving citation…As was announced over the PA system yesterday, the domestic violence awareness fundraiser conducted during Saturday’s game raised an estimate of over $500.

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com

Women's Hockey 4, Maine 2

Friars shake off a Bear scare

Over the only timeout utilized on the day, with precisely 25.6 seconds to spare in regulation, the trailing, short-stocked Maine Black Bears’ bench was by a full rink’s length the more fervent sector of Schneider Arena.

The Friars’ visitors had resurrected for the whole closing frame to more than double their shooting output (14 for a day’s total of 22) and, starting with less than eight minutes to work with, had drawn nearly back-to-back 5-on-3 segments and cashed in to halve a 4-0 PC lead to 4-2.

Albeit not to the same degree as the previous afternoon against Boston College, Providence was again fiddling with hot, stick-fusing heat guns, risking another dramatic letdown.

But upon the subsequent draw in far half of the Black Bear end, the Friars clamped down to bar anymore rallying rushes and cemented the 4-2 win. Still not a complete game, in head coach Bob Deraney’s book, but an indubitable tilt to the upswing.

Deraney started with the obvious, gratified statement of acknowledging his team’s immediate redress. “Again, though,” he continued, “things are going along great then we take an unintelligent penalty, and then another one, and we breathe life into them. So, we have to find a way to play a full sixty minutes instead of fifty, or as it was yesterday, forty.”

But unlike Saturday’s partially self-inflicted, fall-from-ahead setback, Providence proudly made a case for majority rule through yesterday’s fifty minutes of command. After initially attending to the task of clogging Maine’s jumpstart onslaught over two early penalty kills, confining the Bears to merely one whole shot and constantly clearing the zone over those two sequences, they invaded goaltender Genevieve Turgeon’s vicinity and snowballed their own offensive, racking up a 16-3 shot count in the opening frame alone.

By the 10:58 mark, the Friars had already used their first power play to charge up three shots and center Jackie Duncan, churning like an aimless fly in the slot, drew a hooking infraction on Maine counterpart Vanessa Vani.

In the resultant 5-on-4 segment, Duncan carried right along with her non-mathematic input, offering a diagonal feed out of the near corner to point patroller Amber Yung. Yung dished a tape-to-tape lateral to associate Colleen Martin, who in turn whooshed it to Alyse Ruff, patiently parked before the far post. Ruff just as nimbly raked home the icebreaker with 11:42 gone.

Ninety-five seconds, one power play, and one recorded shot on net later, radiant rookie Laura Veharanta enhanced the edge to 2-0, accepting Brittany Simpson’s parallel feed and lobbing in her team-leading fifth strike of the season.

Although that would be a wrap for the man-up production, the Friars ultimately finished the day with a respectable 2-for-6 power play proficiency rate. And they had a slightly more rigid foundation to fly over compared to the majority of their outings in the young season.

“If you score power play goals, you’re probably going to be successful,” said Deraney. “And we have good personnel on our power play, and I think they’re all starting to adapt pretty nicely.”

Veharanta, who has now booked half of the team’s 10 total power play conversions, struck once more with 7:55 remaining in the second, finally renewing her feel for even strength scoring. Neither whistles nor zone clears on the Black Bears’ part could disrupt a chronic swirl in the depths of the attacking zone by the line of Kate Bacon, Erin Normore, and Ruff. The buzz carried right along as Veharanta, Ashley Cottrell, and Mari Pehkonen leapt on in a short-distance change and climaxed with Turgeon vainly attempting to clamp down a rebound around the near post. A fursiouly forking Cottrell ultimately tapped it up front for Veharanta to poke into the gaping goal.

Normore, who had earned the initial assist on Veharanta’s first connection, made it 4-0 less than a minute into the third, assuming control of the disc in neutral ice and strolling right in to snap her first tally of the season over Turgeon’s trapper.

Only then did the scrappy Black Bears –who dressed but 17 skaters to start the day and lost defender Elyce Thomas to a freak injury late in the first- perk up. They hatched their goose-egg with 6:45 remaining in the waning ticks of their first 5-on-3 edge courtesy of Ashley Norum’s homeward bound ice-kisser from the straightaway point.

In another two-and-a-half minutes, with Jennifer Friedman locked away for cross-checking, Jessica Bond nailed a one-time slapper off a behind-the-net feed from Jordan Colliton.

But the whistle scale balanced back out with 2:37 remaining as Pehkonen drew a tripping minor against Colliton while driving to Turgeon’s porch. The Friars proceeded to lash out another three power play shots while waiting out their redeeming, breathe-easy buzzer.

“We wanted to come out and play a better brand of hockey today, and we did,” Deraney granted.

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Boston College 3, Women's Hockey 1

Friars fold in third

Melancholy tediousness in his team’s habits reminiscent of the pre-2004 Red Sox aroused season-high terseness in Friars’ head coach Bob Deraney’s post-game address yesterday.

Gripping a brittle 1-0 lead for the better part of the first period and the full scope of the second, Providence went into roly-poly mode in the climax, allowing the Boston College Eagles to whip home three unanswered strikes and cement a stodgy 3-1 decision at Schneider Arena.

“We played forty good minutes, and then in the third period, BC wanted it more than we did,” said Deraney flatly. “They were down by a goal, and they just came out, they won more one-on-one battles, and they made the big plays when they had to, and we didn’t.”

Period by period, the output from the Friars stick rack either lessened or failed to escalate. They ran up a substantial bushel of 26 registered shots over the first two periods -13 apiece for each frame- and drew first blood at the 12:07 mark of the opening period through a jumpy shorthanded rush.

With Mari Pehkonen newly jailed for interference at 11:56, penalty killer Katy Beach chased down Eagle Kelli Stack’s fugitive face-off win and throttled with it down the near alley to set up a face-to-face confrontation with netminder Molly Schaus (34 saves). Seducing the distinguished veteran stopper to embrace the far post, Beach left a rebound square in the crease for associate forward Kate Bacon to swoop in and tuck home.

From there, though, an expectable goalies’ dual between Schaus and Genevieve Lacasse (27 saves) crossed the surface. The Eagles whiffed on their first 20 stabs at Lacasse and egregiously spilled a savory four power plays over their two periods of silence.

But on the flip side, the itching host club blew five extra-body invitations, four of them full length and most of them with no more than two shots to speak of. When BC’s Meghan Fardelmann took her second citation of the day in the second minute of the closing frame, the Friars’ strike force took a slug of Rockstar and leveled four shots at Schaus before Fardelmann’s release.

Nothing doing, though.

“I don’t’ think we tested her enough to really have her make a difference,” mused Deraney in reference to Schaus’ routine dolphin show. “We had some opportunities to add on (to our lead) and we missed the net. We had some good, clear cut chances and we just gotta add on. We didn’t. We allowed them to stick around, and when you do that to a good team, you’re living dangerously.”

Rolling along in the depths of the Boston zone at the conclusion of Fardelmann’s two-minute sentence, PC eventually turned the puck over and braced itself for a breakout. None other than the fresh-out-the-box Fardelmann absorbed Mary Restuccia’s moving feed, snaked it through the three zones, and snuck in her long-awaited first goal of the season –and the Eagles’ long-awaited equalizer, which may have been at 16:44 of the second if not for a washout- through a backhander homeward bound within the near post.

Barely three minutes later, one of the first protracted patches of time that saw no tests on Schaus whatsoever, Andrea Green slugged the eventual winner from the far circle top to the right of Lacasse and enticed a pile-on from her colleagues in her kneeling, fist-pumping celebration.

Suddenly, the momentum had turned a 180, slapping the Friars into an all-too-familiar pothole. For the fifth time in seven outings –the two exceptions being definitive triumphs- Providence found itself anarchically cramming for an equalizer.

Within the less-than-thirteen-minute stretch drive, the Friars drew yet another power play a quick 47 after Green’s tally, but cultivated nothing in the way of shots. They bounced one attempt off Schaus with under five minutes to spare and another PP in hand, only to cut it off via Arianna Rigano’s interference infraction at the 15:48 mark. Their collective skates dulled by another degree when Chrisie Jensen was flagged at 16:19, ultimately granting the Eagles a 27-second 5-on-3 edge.

And in the final minute, with a 5-on-4 set-up dictated by PC’s vacant cage and coincidental roughing minors to Beach and Stephanie Olchowski, BC’s Tracy Johnson, who had scooped up a helper on Green’s decider, whipped home the insurance point.

Scrap that gravy goal from the equation, and the Friars more or less have a full package of single-goal falters to their credit. Expectably, the “falter” half of that stat is the prevailing term in a dream-big locker room weary of slights and clips to the chin.

“It’s not good enough,” said Deraney, unable to pick out or cook up any more solace in these repetitive results. “It’s a hollow statement to (accept moral victories). We can’t rest our hat on that. We’re past that point now. We have to get the job done.”

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com

Hockey Log

Partisans band together
Surprise visit from pep band spices atmosphere

Unoccupied for the weekend, what with the grand downtown exhibition opening of the Keno Kagers still a week away and the Tim Army Corps taking a pair of night trips to Massachusetts, the Providence College pep band put in a rare appearance at yesterday’s women’s hockey clash with Boston College.

Theoretically, part of the band’s timing and planning may have been swayed by the opposition at hand, this matchup being generally accepted as a healthy rivalry for both sects of the Friar Puck program. The band did, after all, go out of its way last spring to hop aboard a Friar Fanatic party bus to the men’s quarterfinal series at The Heights, inevitably engaging themselves in a top category verbal tussle with the Superfans.

Regardless, if only for one whirl this winter, this meant giving the Skating Sorority and their packet of royal rooters a chance to hear a fresh-from-the-brass version of the PC fight song after goals and buzzers –versus the slower-paced, canned version one usually hears at a women’s game. It meant intermingling the players’ customary stick salute to the visitor’s introduction with the Fanatics’ less hospitable “Sucks!” jeer.

And, at a stoppage of play with 7:58 left in the middle frame, it meant breaking out the renowned cowbell dance number. Naturally, the only missing element there was the loyal men’s season ticket holder/cowbell dancer, “Eric the Ram.”

Additionally, the band’s presence made for a timely counterpoint to a substantial and vocal posse of Eagle fans. In all, the reported attendance read a season-high 351 spectators.

Different faces, similar parity
Freshman Genevieve Lacasse, who unveiled a new blank white helmet in place of her Team Canada mask yesterday, is now the fifth PC crease custodian to have confronted BC’s established nucleus, junior Molly Schaus.

Schaus, putting in her eighth appearance in as many possibilities against the Friars –seven in the regular season and one in the 2007 Hockey East semifinals- withstood a 30-plus shot count for the fourth time and improved her transcript to 4-3-1. She previously etched a W on Providence ice on February 17, 2007 when she pushed away 34 of 36 stabs while Danielle Ciarletta and Jana Bugden authorized three goals apiece in a 6-2 letdown.

In countering Schaus, the current senior Ciarletta holds claim to a 0-2-1 log. The since-graduated Bugden was 2-1 in four overall outings while classmate Lauren Florio had a no decision. Current sophomore Jen Smith kilned her first –and still only- collegiate win last October at Conte Forum, submitting a 23-save performance en route to a wound-stuffing 3-2 triumph.

Quick Feeds: As evidenced in their productive, shorthanded collaboration in the first period, forwards Katy Beach and Kate Bacon were the most energized Friars on the bench yesterday after they had each sat out Sunday’s trip to Vermont with minor ailments. Beach would lead the team with six shots on net, right ahead of five apiece by Bacon and rookie blueliner Jennifer Friedman…BC’s top gun, junior Kelli Stack, struck the 100-career point plateau two weeks ago with a goal-assist value pack against RPI. She tacked on point #101 yesterday through an assist on Tracy Johnson’s empty netter…Yet another trivial testament to the overall parity between PC and BC: the contesting clubs evenly split the game’s 60 face-offs…Head coach Bob Deraney’s rather urgent, self-focused assessment of Maine, today’s adversary in a 2:00 twig-lock: “They’re a good team, just like all the teams in Hockey East. With them, you gotta come out and you gotta put them away. If you put them away, you have a good chance of winning. If you don’t, the same result (as the BC game) could happen.”

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com