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Thursday, December 18, 2008

Hockey Log

PC Men’s First Half Player Reports

Bryce Aneloski, D- Minimal spurts of promise could surface for this sizeable freshman bruiser, who has now elected to regress to the Cedar Rapids Roughriders of the USHL.

Eric Baier, D- Both recurrent minor injuries and an overcrowded dressing room have confined the sophomore to only eight games played this season –half of what the team has consumed from its schedule- after he had missed but three ventures as a freshman. When he has been available, though, Baier has put up a not-so-shabby productivity rate of three assists, including two against nationally ranked Dartmouth three weeks ago.

Andy Balysky, LW- By all counts, this rookie has concocted a so-so breakout with a goal and assist over his first 10 games.

Matt Bergland, LW- The Ned Braden of these pre-Hanson Chiefs, Bergland has confirmed unmistakable innonence with a perfect point-per-game (5-11-16) average, good enough to top the charts amongst Hockey East rookie strikers.

David Brown, D- Has snuck two power play helpers into his otherwise own-zone-centric approach.

David Cavanagh, D- The stay-at-home bouncer is implicitly in the regular rotation for the first time in his three years here, and just as well given the newfound constraints in the defensive brigade.

John Cavanagh, C- The junior captain and first-line centerpiece leads all of his regular forwards in the way of shooting accuracy, tuning the opposing mesh five times out of 35 stabs for a .143 rate (toss in five helpers to his scoring credentials, too). The other skate naturally drops in that he could employ that promising proficiency a little more frequently. And like so many of his Friar Puck associates, Cavanagh could stand to thaw out a subzero plus/minus rate (-7).

Greg Collins, LW- One of the more noticeably fettered Friars, having come in with 28 points split between his full-length freshman and sophomore campaigns only to follow through with a single point in eight games played. He has watched the other eight from afar.

Chris Eppich, RW- Sent a nice “Please Stand By” trailer when he finally sprinkled a few points in the lone two games on the December schedule.

Ben Farrer, LW- Hoping to cement a spot on the active depth chart, especially after having missed four of the last six games. And like so many of his associates, hoping to thaw out his scoring resume.

Mark Fayne, D- One of the few pleasant surprises to spotlight so far: PC’s heftiest bruiser has already compiled five points over 15 games played. He missed the Bowling Green game Oct. 18 as penance for three penalties on opening night against Northeastern, but has established cleaner, productive play since.

Justin Gates, G- Has assumed the bulk of the workload ahead of senior Chris Mannix in the continued absence of Ryan Simpson. A young track record of mostly iffy goal-save differentials is chiefly attributable to bouts of psychological numbness that comes with the opposition breaking the ice.

Matt Germain, LW- See Eppich.

Paul Golden, RW- Got his first slurp of action in October after red-shirting last year, but yet to appear since the 9-4 UMass muddle on Halloween.

Jordan Kremyr, RW- See Eppich and Germain; toss in his forlorn state as the lone PC skater with a positive plus/minus rating at this time.

Kyle Laughlin, C- For a senior captain, Laughlin’s snakebitten example signifies the Friars’ general struggles. Little has changed since his struggles began around this time last year.

Joe Lavin, D- Omitted from the game night roster four times out of 16 chances after he had scraped out a pleasurable eight assists over the full length of last season, this one-time prized recruit has bolted for the USHL’s Omaha Lancers.

Kyle MacKinnon, C- Eclipsed on the team’s hardly saturated scoring chart after he had come along encouragingly under the tutelage of graduated linemate Jon Rheault last season.

Rob Maloney, C- Granted, Maloney has absorbed coach Tim Army’s never-tiresome homilies on discipline, taking but one minor penalty in his first 13 games played. But hints of a little excess tameness have resulted in the rookie forward’s charging up one solitary goal while tying three fellow skaters for a team-third-worst rating of -7.

Chris Mannix, G- Like his crease colleague, Mannix has been suffocated by off-putting circumstances. In six ventures, he has yet to authorize fewer than three goals and his best save count (29) was his first game and lone victory of the season against Bowling Green on opening weekend.

Austin Mayer, LW- Army temporarily shuffled the full breadth of his depth chart, assigning Mayer to Bergland’s normal perch. Such further emboldens the sprouting of Mayer’s wings. The sophomore has missed but one game this season after playing less than half of last year’s schedule.

Nick Mazzolini, C- Self-spoken size and seasoning have been missed profusely since Mazzolini doubled over during a Nov. 7 tangle with Vermont. Concomitant with a passable three points in his first six games, the senior pivot was PC’s most efficient face-off man, winning 60 out of 94 draws for a .638 percentage. Only Balysky, Collins, and Matt Taormina have surpassed that –all a perfect 1.00 rate- but none of them have taken more than five stabs at the dot. Mazzolini’s return to old form come January will be just one other welcome item in the Friars’ anything-we-can-get situation.

John Mori, C- Near the bottom of the dense, populous forward hierarchy, with only four games played to speak of.

Danny New, D- Working with the proficient senior Matt Taormina, New kicked off his collegiate career with a promising sugar rush of a goal and two assists in his first four appearances. He has since gone empty in his last five games while sitting out another five.

Pierce Norton, RW- An invaluable colleague of Bergland’s on the primal power play unit, having charged up three goals and three helpers on the man advantage this year alone. And even with his longtime linemate Mazzolini out, Norton has flexibly acclimated to keep his productivity around his general standards. Much like John Cavanagh, Norton has kilned a pleasurably shooting percentage (.129) but could therefore stand to upgrade his puckslinging regularity.

Ian O’Connor, LW- Supplementing the top line with Bergland and Cavanagh, O’Connor has followed through with the most consistent productivity in his sophomore class, sprinkling three goals and four assists to go with his class-best 5-6-11 log of last year. He has also earned high-ranking membership in the penalty kill department.

Ryan Simpson, G- Still banking on establishing long overdue regularity in the crease after four outings apiece in his freshman and sophomore years, Simpson is at a point where his health may be losing all trust with his followers. And even if he is pronounced fit to toil without risk of bodily damage, he might not be fit to play without the risk of statistical damage. Best case scenario has him rerunning last year’s cycle of getting a few late slurps of gametime java, then looking to evenly split the shifts with his fellow Jr. Monarch alumnus Gates next year.

Matt Taormina, D- The point-based puckslinger equates his classmate Norton’s power play point total with six points (all of them helpers). His current transcript of 3-8-11 isn’t quite on pace to replicate or surpass his eye-catching junior data of 9-18-27, but is all the more satisfactory when one remembers the egregious collective scoring scurvy on the Friars’ depth chart.

Shawn Tingley, LW- Recuperating from a preseason ankle sprain for most of the fall term, Tingley at least got to whet his collegiate blades by dressing for the Mayor’s Cup. If all goes according to plan, the arithmetically mature freshman will have his chance to translate his saturated scoring resume from the EJHL in the thick of a taxing Hockey East playoff push.

Matt Tommasiello, LW- Still slated to break in his game jersey at the other end of the break after underoing preseason sports hernia surgery.

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com

On Hockey

D Fenced
Abrupt departures shrivel PC backline to bare minimum

The Tim Army Corps has been slashed two-handedly, and two-bodily, with a true Scrooge-like Christmastime ideal. The surplus population in Army’s dressing room has decreased, as has now been confirmed by their revised roster on the program’s website.

Defensemen Bryce Aneloski and Joe Lavin have both withdrawn their membership with the Friars in favor of a second tour at the junior level, the freshman Aneloski destined for his old USHL club in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and sophomore Lavin –a US NTDP product- latching on to the Omaha Lancers.

The Cedar Rapids Roughriders had rejoiced in the second coming of Aneloski last Saturday, though more local sources did not affirm the notion until Tuesday, one day after PC had wrapped up its first of two academic semesters. Regardless, Aneloski should be raring to rekindle his tenure of toughness in the Tier I ranks tonight when the Riders host the Indiana Ice. Lavin, meanwhile, could make his debut as early as tomorrow night in a home tussle with the Lincoln Stars

Meanwhile, the still fairly stuffy dressing room on the men’s half of the House That Lou Built will still house a colossal collection of 19 forwards (the twentieth man, rookie Chad Johnson, had yet to play a game before he sifted out the door himself to an undisclosed alternative). And, pending Ryan Simpson’s overdue recovery, they’ll have the just-right trinity of goaltenders (but then, there’s also walk-on David Spagnoli in case of an emergency).

But just by their puck luck, the loss of Aneloski and Lavin snips the Friars’ allotment of designated defenders from eight to six. Seven spare strikers, one-to-two remaining stoppers, no room for error along the blue line.

This means, most ideally, no lengthy, immobilizing injuries and no sleepskating acts that would force Army to assign a backliner to the upper bowl, as he did with Lavin for four games this autumn. Should either dreaded circumstance arise, the natural second resort is to convert a member of the copious offensive brigade.

But who? With an otherwise appreciable gunsmith/bruiser like Matt Taormina –one of only two defenders, besides Aneloski, to have appeared in all 16 games to date- Providence hasn’t so much as offered a full-time forward the chance to patrol the point on a power play. At this time, the odds of cultivating defensive value from a forward are ambiguous to any viewer’s eye.

One would, and should, just as soon knock on Sherwood and hope this is the last of the roster ruffling for the remainder of this inexplicably dysfunctional 2008-09 campaign, which is on a timely hiatus and doesn’t even pose another intercollegiate engagement for the next 23 days.

The timing of these two deletions is all the more ominous given that this prolonged deceleration ought to have served as a divinely bestowed opportunity for the Friars, 0-8-1 in the Hockey East standings, to restore their individual and group senses before they pursued a saving second wind in the 18-game stretch drive. Instead, lingering angst pulled through in its internal grudge match with the impatient likes of Aneloski and Lavin.

Simple educated logic rules that Lavin, in particular, was psychologically melting at a glacial pace even from the summer prior to his arrival. Recall that the crackerjack prophets from Central Scouting had promised he would go no later than the wee minutes of the third round in the 2007 NHL Draft. Instead, the Chicago Blackhawks made him a late, 5th-round addition to their teeming youth movement.

Lavin subsequently came here bearing the label of “project defenseman” but had gradually honed his entertainment value and productivity, buying into Army’s offensive-compulsive menatality to venture beyond his point perch and charge up eight helpers last year.

But this season, he was just one in a handful of epitomes to the collective Nightmare on Huxley Avenue. He now departs with one point (another assist), a shallow bushel of 15 SOG, and a toe-curling -10 rating in 12 games played on the year.

Lavin’s implicit logic: the ice barns of the Heartland and their flanking farm barns are the perfect refuge and the site of athletic rebirth.

Aneloski, who hardly had time to prove he was a timely plug-in for the void left by Cody Wild, is back where he’s a tad more free to fight. And where non-Ocean State skies –be them in the NCAA or Canadian major junior ranks- are the professed limit.

The limits are more noticeably snug back here. And the Friars’ rest-recuperate-regroup regimen has been bumped back a few strides.

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Hockey Log

PC Women’s First Half Player Reports

Kate Bacon, forward- Her productivity (4-2-6 in 15 games) has been just a few rungs less flashy than some of her fellow freshmen, but Bacon has flaunted her turbine power in stirring some exhilarating rushes, a few of them shorthanded. That was exactly how she nailed her first collegiate goal, thrashing two-on-none with Katy Beach in an Oct. 25 tangle with Boston College.

Katy Beach, forward- Voted one of two A-captains for the year, Beach is on pace to squeeze out a career year with eight points at the halfway mark of the regular season. All four of her goals and two assists have come on the power play.

Danielle Ciarletta, goal- Surprisingly dislodged from her #1 spot by a thriving Genevieve Lacasse, the senior stopper’s services are still plenty good when her partner needs a breather. With five start-to-finish outings to her credit, Ciarletta is posting career best numbers with a 1.96 GAA and .919 save percentage.

Ashley Cottrell, forward- The forgotten piece of a radiant rookie trinity –opposite Lacasse and Laura Veharanta- Cottrell has emerged as an invaluable playmaking centerpiece on the top line. Nine of her first 11 career points have been helpers, including seven recorded collaborations with Veharanta. Cottrell also stands out as the plus/minus leader among Friar skaters (+9).

Lauren Covell, forward- One of four PC skaters yet to etch a single point on the year.

Jackie Duncan, forward- Duncan, one of only four juniors, appears to have restored her regularity in the lineup. She has already charged up five points in 14 games (missing three with a brief injury), made a series of silent special teams contributions, and has not taken a penalty in her last 10 ventures.

Christina England, goal- Has yet to see action, owing chiefly to the consistency of Ciarletta and Lacasse, but should be ready and able in case of an emergency.

Jennifer Friedman, defense- Inseparably linked with fellow rookie Christie Jensen since the end of October, Friedman’s aptitude in every zone, but especially her own, is currently reflected in a not-so-shabby +4 rating.

Abby Gauthier, forward- The rookie’s blatantly publicized twig of endless ammo hasn’t exactly carried over to the Divine Campus. She has kindled but six shots on net for a 1-2-3 scoring transcript in 14 games played.

Christie Jensen, defense- The stay-at-home freshman has been a regular on the penalty kill –although her own PIM total of 22 ranks second on the Friars chart- and has demonstrated efficiency in setting up the breakout from her behind her cage.

Genevieve Lacasse, goal- With all of the offensive speed bumps that have plagued the Friars early on, Lacasse’s surprise stability in the crease makes her the runway leading candidate for team MVP. From her October debut on, she has authorized three goals on but two occasions and consumed a hefty bushel of 360 saves in 12 appearances –a spot-on median of 30 per night. With the December deceleration in effect, she is on pace for the Hockey East Triple Crown, leading her peers in GAA, save percentage, and winning percentage in league action.

Colleen Martin, defense- The junior defender has already equated her freshman and sophomore totals with four points.

Pam McDevitt, forward- On call for 16 of 17 games this season, McDevitt splashed a personal drought with her first point (an assist) in the latest 4-1 triumph of Maine.

Stephanie Morris, forward- On November 22, Morris joined her fellow fourth-year Friars in the 100-career-game club, but has yet to hatch any goose eggs in her 2008-09 scoring chart.

Erin Normore, forward/def.- Normore has responsibly kept at it with her venturesome, board-to-board habits and flexibly accepted her variable assignments between the front and back lines. Come the resumption of PC’s game schedule –a Dec. 30 day trip to Yale, she will become the 32nd Friar on record to dress for at least 125 career games.

Jean O’Neill, forward- O’Neill has yet to return to her freshman form after a preseason injury, but splashed a personal drought just before the team went on respite by raking home the game winner –her first goal since February and the source of McDevitt’s aforementioned helper- in Part II of a sweeping excursion to Maine.

Mari Pehkonen, forward- What would have ideally been an explosive senior season has been docked by international obligations, illness, and general team-wide trouble concocting offensive outbursts. Assuming she has enough time to restore full strength, expect the Finnish Flare to resurge for the next two-plus months of her final Hockey East pennant race.

Arianna Rigano, forward- Still acclimating to a upgrade in tempo at the Division I level, the junior transfer out of Saint Anselm has been on call every night and scraped out three points.

Leigh Riley, defense- Lately assigned to a unit with Martin, Riley stands out as an all but unbreakably sportsmanlike player, having taken a slim two minor penalties in 15 appearances.

Alyse Ruff, forward- The established first-line winger has had a few cold spurts on the scoresheet, but nothing close to a sophomore slide –a decent six goals and eight points through 17 games. Add the fact that Ruff has inserted four deciding goals (three clinchers, one equalizer) and that the Friars tend to win when she scores (5-0-1).

Breanna Schwarz, defense- Has yet to see game action in her three-month-old collegiate career.

Brittany Simpson, defense- Simpson has followed through on her appointment to the captaincy, anchoring the top power play unit for seven of her nine points (all but one of them assists) and leading her fellow full-time blueliners with a +6 rating.

Jen Smith, goal- Ditto England.

Laura Veharanta, forward- The database and highlight reels speak for themselves. Veharanta is on a seamless streak, all the more impressive given that she arrived to a somewhat offensively fettered, defense-minded squad. Like her fellow winger Ruff, Veharanta is filling up on firsthand strikes (12 of her 18 points are goals) and has slugged seven of those on the power play.

Amber Yung, defense- Yung has somewhat mellowed the take-after-Normore approach of her freshman year but still has four assists to go with her less credited defensive responsibilities.

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Hockey Log: Sunday Edition

Wholesome hibernation
Both sides of Friar Puck can make good of break

PC men’s hockey fans, like Jim Mora, have spent the last month-plus feeling they could be assuaged by just one ultimately immeasurable victory. Either that, or they sat and rotted through a 45-day time slot that spanned three calendar months, one five-game homestand, and 0-9-1 showing altogether, the same way a starving, salivating tourist waits out an unexplained waiting line at Marchetti’s. The unsolved hunger pangs eventually run their course and utter indifference takes over.

Come what may, the Friars finally hooked their way out of the pothole of futility via a 4-3 scraping of Brown last Tuesday, sending them off on a month-long respite with the Mayor’s Cup, a 3-12-1 overall transcript, and another two-thirds of their 2008-09 Hockey East slate left to consider.

Subsisting on but a single point -extracted out of the since sizzling Vermont in a 2-2 home knot Nov. 7- in the conference standings, Providence can use this December deceleration to compress most any physical and psychological wound it has absorbed in eight consecutive weekends of intercollegiate activity.

Even before their questionably late start to locking twigs with other programs –season opener: a 4-0 suffocation via Northeastern on October 17- they were losing bodies. Junior stopper Ryan Simpson, already coming off two injury-crinkled campaigns, felt another flare-up in practice and has been slow to recuperate. Meanwhile classmate Matt Tommasiello underwent hernia surgery while the others delved into the schedule.

And then, as the frosted Friars crammed to thaw out and catch up with their adversaries, senior pivot Nick Mazzolini made like Simpson and invoked old visions of pain. Eight months removed from Boston College’s Benn Ferriero decking him like a rabid puppy does your living room lamp in the playoffs, Mazzolini went down at the hands of a scorching shot in the aforementioned Vermont game. He hasn’t been available since.

But if all goes according to plan, all three will pace themselves to a satisfactory shift-ready state in time for a January 10 tussle with UMass-Lowell. And even if they cannot factor themselves in so readily or sufficiently (Simpson’s state, historically speaking, is the most dubious), the other constituents of Hockey East’s most populous dressing room have no reason not to restore order in their collective backbone.

The likes of freshman goaltender Justin Gates, in particular, should feel free to take comfort in their accumulation of experience, but dust away the statistical barnacles on top of it. With the torrential leak that amounted to a cumulative 67 goals against in 16 games (a toe-curling median of 4.1875) having circumstantially subsided, the Friars simply must accept the offering for a breather and consider 2009 their chance to reverse the momentum.

Their nine superiors –ranging from ninth-place Merrimack and their six points to regal Northeastern and their 17 points- will hardly be inclined to let up. All the more reason for PC to plop all of the last three months’ worth of Zamboni snow onto the immediate past and meticulously balance its month-long recuperate, retool, and refocus regimen.

Down the hall and on a sharp right turn, the women’s program needs to somehow deploy a momentum trapper between now and their matinee excursion to Yale two weeks from Tuesday. Ever since they comfortably neutralized a shaky course of action in October –starting 2-5 overall, competitive upshots to every game aside- Bob Deraney’s dogged pupils have squeezed out a 7-1-2 run for a 9-6-2 transcript with exactly half of the regular season consumed.

They already proved in one spurt that they can take unusually lengthy leave from game action without losing their touch, waiting out a full seven-day interval between an authoritative sweep of Robert Morris and a heady 2-0 tip-over of rival Connecticut mid-November. They’ll have to stretch their patience and persistence a tad longer before they attempt to build on yet another road sweep in Maine last weekend.

If the PC women are to use any aspect of their holiday to their direct benefit as opposed to strictly fidgeting for fear of momentum loss, they ought to rationally chew over the implications of the second half, then sharpen their skates and canines for the thundering throttle their fans have long missed.

Four of the Friars’ next five games constitute the remainder of their nonconference schedule, where they are currently an iffy 4-4-1. A January 13 excursion to Dartmouth spells their best chance of restoring membership in the national leaderboard.

Otherwise, they need to keep their so far Great Wall of Defense (31 GA in 17 games) from letting up and inject a pinch of consistency into their offensive brigade in order to ascend through the Hockey East standings. Of the 13 remaining intraleague games, seven are against their statistical superiors from New Hampshire (3), Boston University (2), and Boston College (2).

They’ve already fizzled and spilled a gift-wrapped win before the Eagles and tripped in a shootout versus the Terriers. The Friars’ New Year’s Resolution, therefore, should revolve around refining their statements to the Hub Clubs and asserting themselves as a still-certified contender.

Cup of jeer
An unidentified webmaster from Inside College Hockey offered 10 tongue-in-cheek promotional schemes that may have augmented the Meehan Auditorium masses at last Tuesday’s Mayor’s Cup contest. Two standout examples: “It’s Buddy Cianci Bobblehead Night” and a suggestion that Rhode Island’s primetime pop culture representative, Peter Griffin, reenact his prison yard “Milkshake” dance at intermission.

The INCH author also made an intriguing flashback in the faux proclamation “Proceeds from tonight's 50-50 raffle go toward Save the Skating Friar, because the cause should never be forgotten,” referring to the penultimate year of Paul Pooley when the program temporarily purged its iconic jersey logo in favor of the PC basketball emblem. Incidentally, a new Uniform Reform movement this year is probably focused on trying to reverse the seemingly unpopular silver helmets.

Strange statistical structures
With the standings virtually frozen in both sets of Hockey East till after New Year’s, a light sprinkling of peculiarities shall remain unruffled for the time being:

1. Though they are the runaway leaders in the way of points, the Boston College women rate #4 in the way of winning percentage at .682. In that unrecorded column, they trail the fourth-place Friars (.6875), third-place New Hampshire (.722), and runners-up BU (.750). Then again, all of the Eagles’ conference cohabitants have at least two games in hand on them.

2. The Vermont men, comfortably solitary in second place, bear a negative GF-GA differential of 28-29. Blame it on a 7-2 home lashing by BU back on November 1.

3. Same problem for the New Hampshire men, who are knotted for third with BC, but have authorized two more goals (34) than they’ve scored when clashing with conference cohabitants. That can be attributed to Brian Foster’s brief mid-November injury, during which rookie Matt Di Girolamo was started in haste and let 16 through over a span of two nights.

4. Sticking with the theme of offense-defense proficiency, UMass-Lowell brandishes the second-best scoring differential of 33-24, yet they still in seventh place at 5-5-0 –albeit three points shy of lassoing the second-place Catamounts.

5. The BU women have already rounded out and swept their season series with the formerly almighty New Hampshire. But to the shorthanded Wildcats’ credit, they pushed two of those three falters into a shootout, affording them two valuable points.

Quick Feeds: Here’s a toe-curling twist of news for those puckheads who dispense all their passion on college rinks and detest the prospect of “professionalizing” the collegiate game: UMass-Lowell goaltender T.J. Massie, summoned to emergency active backup duties during Carter Hutton’s recovery period was (albeit voluntarily) “sent down” to Tier I juniors and will likely spend the rest of the year with the USHL’s Tri-City Storm. There’s no convincing indication his days as a Riverhawk are done with, though…After a minor sophomore recession (together with the rest of her team) last year, BC women’s scoring beacon Kelli Stack is on pace for a relatively facile career year with 14 strikes and 31 points to top the league scoring charts. PC’s Laura Veharanta, though, currently splits the top slot in terms of power play goals with seven apiece…A year ago about this time, with a sizeable packet of teammates away at World Juniors, Michigan forward Aaron Palushaj had his breakout game (goal, two assists) at the expense of the Friars in the Great Lakes Invitational. He has since evolved to the top of the Wolverine scoring charts and will don a USA uni himself next week in Ottawa…UConn sizzler Dominique Thibault leads the WHEA in both plus/minus (+21) and shots on net (103). Her third registered stab against BC last week made her the first, and so far only, puckslinger with at least 100 shots on the year…This author’s picks for the out-of-market game of the week: the Dartmouth women, sizzling up till a two-game sweep at the hands of Minnesota-Duluth, snap a 17-day hiatus from game action to play host to Harvard.

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com