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Sunday, January 11, 2009

On Hockey

Ice still drying, but they step in on right skate
PC men backstopped by surprise new face

So, it’s true. The “Mystery Men,” as they are billed by one of their online followings of laptop loiterers, have lived up to their label by enlisting a new masked man at midseason.

Meet Alex Beaudry, who with next to no notice from any reliable sources met all of the fundamental, paper-based prerequisites and has promptly joined the Friars’ goaltending guild.

He was never so much as listed on a log of potential pick-ups for the fall of 2009 or 2010, at which point Chris Mannix and Ryan Simpson were due to have graduated respectively. Around the big flip of the calendar last week, Beaudry was almost spontaneously plucked from the Gloucester Rangers of the Ontario Junior A League –which, incidentally, is classified as Tier II. And he was only formally bestowed with a roster spot two days ago.

No question, the public eye had to see this to believe it. But if the presidential candidate representing one of America’s highest profile parties can enlist a first-term governor from the Last Frontier as his sidekick, perhaps no acquisitions of any type, anytime, anywhere, can bowl one over anymore.

And one day after he was openly confirmed by Friar Puck, Beaudry accepted his collegiate baptism in starting last night’s home bout with UMass-Lowell, turning away 19 out of 21 shots faced as part of a 4-2 victory, PC’s first win of the intraleague breed in 10 tries all season.

With the ailing Simpson’s increasingly evident Ray Hall level of luck, the hole in the Providence net was becoming a slightly more niggling and less dispensible matter. And somebody with a little more honing than a David Spagnoli –a student/living Shooter Tutor with no recorded experience beyond La Salle Academy– was in order.

The crease crisis makes a fair case with the recent defensive constraints –i.e. Bryce Aneloski and Joe Lavin’s self-deletion from the roster over break- as to which has called louder for emergency responses. At least for last night, Army simply left the gaping, drafty door open for all six of his remaining rostered blueliners to dress.

And to the collective credit of all 18 skaters, they handled their end of the newbie’s acclimation with respectfully soft hands. Fourteen out of Lowell’s 35 total shot attempts didn’t reach touching distance of Beaudry. Eight were magnetically guided to the side, four blocked. Another two early in the third period –one by Kory Falite, the other Scott Campbell- brushed the red iron.

Beaudry’s delicate young slate kept clean through his first 29 minutes of clock time and Lowell’s first 13 registered whacks. Defender Maury Edwards finally solved him for a Riverhawk power play conversion at 9:02 of the middle frame, pulling the guests even less than five minutes after junior captain John Cavanagh had persistently collected two of his own blocked rebounds to break the ice for the Friars –his team-best sixth overall strike on the season.

The Friar front-liners would keep Beaudry unpestered for the next seven-plus minutes, during which time they drew themselves a quick five-on-three, Nick Schaus and Edwards going off for separate tripping infractions at 9:26 and 9:54, respectively. Well before a fresh-out-the-box Schaus could join the remainder of his penalty kill, senior Pierce Norton renewed the PC lead to 2-1 at 11:28. Norton would tie classmate Nick Mazzolini, back in formal game attire for the first time in two months, with four SOG on the night.

The mutual coiling of the contesting defenses only tightened in a third period that saw the Friars outshoot the Riverhawks, 7-6 (the final shooting gallery would read 27-21, PC). Mike Pottacco drew a 2-2 knot for his club at 1:20, raking home Edwards’ rebound, but Beaudry perked back up on the subsequent draw to deny back-to-back stabs from Mark Roebothan.

Cavanagh, whose first line partnership with Ian O’Connor and Matt Bergland has stayed constant after all the hibernation, inserted the eventual clincher with 5:14 to spare. And sophomore second line centerpiece Kyle MacKinnon, one of umpteen coldies in the cheerless first half of the season, sprinkled on an empty netter with less than a full tick on the clock to go with his assist on linemate Norton’s goal.

And upon the ensuing, throwaway face-off, Beaudry’s triumphant introduction to the Divine Campus was over around that specific time of the week made famous by Billy Joel.

To the most melancholy degree, Simpson may never get his time to shine. But already, Beaudry and his new associates –the Friars- have something digestible to build upon.

The new kid on campus is 1-0 in his career. And Providence, for a start to its statistical recovery project, is 1-0 in 2009.

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com

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