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Friday, January 23, 2009

On Hockey

PC men present a whole NU sight

Tim Army, his active spoken philosophy about as expectable as seeing Billy Mays in an infomercial, merely didn’t have any less banal options in approaching the other side of a 31-day calendar Zamboni shift. From his perspective down to that of his pupils –seasoned, new, and in one special case, very new- all nagging numerals were as good as regressed to zero.

After all, even with a 0-8-1 start, they still had two more periods of a 27-game Hockey East pennant race, and they’re merely bent on winning them both. Best two out of three.

As it happens, that philosophy ought to work just fine for the followers, but especially the undergraduate royal rooters who tonight will take in their first look at their puckcentric peers in action since mid-November.

The better part of the PC student body has not been allotted a reasonable chance to witness a men’s hockey game since a toe-curling sweep at the hands of Maine slammed shut a five-game homestand at 0-4-1. The Friars had since spilled a 4-2 decision before Dartmouth the night after Thanksgiving and took off on their sorely needed respite 10 days and three road games later.

Most of them still barred from campus till this past Monday, the Friar Fanatics missed an ostensibly sharp U-turn on the team’s part. Providence busted a seven-week fast from the brightly lit edition of Schneider Arena and splashed their Hockey East victory drought through a grittily executed 4-2 knockoff of UMass-Lowell 13 nights ago.

And on a rationally paced, door-to-door circuit, they have proceeded to avert wholesale sweeps out of their three-game season series with the Riverhawks, Boston University, UMass-Amherst, and Maine in a matter of nine days. Freshly plucked goaltender Alex Beaudry has anchored the whole outburst and was boasting a 3-0-1 collegiate career record before he had even rounded out his transfer student orientation proceedings.

And suddenly, the Friars are seven points better heeled and a few strides ahead of their successors –the Merrimack Warriors- to the cellar’s linoleum of the Hockey East standings.

Now is the time for the crux of the program’s fan base to break its own 69-day fast from live action in the House That Lou Built. As luck would have it, the card is complemented by Northeastern, the same adversary who visited on opening night October 17, ending a five-month recess for the full Schneider congregation at the time.

See the difference? Or, better yet, feel the difference?

It has been naturally settled that the men in control pined for a super-size serving of retreat and recuperation followed by a virtual do-over to the slushy foundation they struggled with for two months. But all PC buffs would be just in buying into the same approach.

In immediate and distant hindsight, there is now less cause for reservation and reflection on past presumptuousness. The team that bowed down for a 4-0 beating by the Huskies in October was behind the rest of the nation in terms of preparedness –having only conducted the Black/White intrasquad scrimmage the week prior while most everyone else was engaged in intercollegiate horn-lock.

The former Friar-Husky lowdown had a home team crammed in an overpopulated dressing room -31 total bodies, ten of them brand new- that in turn set a breeding ground for excess internal competition and dysfunction. And only a night later, five upperclassmen were reassigned to the sideline as penance for disinterested, less-than-wholehearted play –even by the standards of a program late to delve into its intercollegiate itinerary.

Additionally, the two goalies in action that weekend –Justin Gates and Chris Mannix- have since posted supra-4.00 goals-against medians and sub-.900 save percentages.

Conversely, tonight’s Friars are bound to again start Beaudry, who but three weeks ago was parting from a Tier II junior program and now boasts a 2.45 GAA and has swallowed 140 saves for an average of about 35 per game. Toss in his superior plus/minus posture of +8, ahead of runners-up Andy Balysky and Jordan Kremyr –tied for second at +2 apiece.

Balysky, Kremyr, and the rest of Beaudry’s praetorian guards have pampered the still-acclimating stopper with an average of 3.75 goals per game, a near-double hop from the preceding mean of 2.19.

Four individual skaters –Matt Bergland, Pierce Norton, Ian O’Connor, and Matt Taormina- have nabbed at least three points apiece in this active four-game tear. And fifteen of the eighteen Friars who have consistently dressed in all four games –always with the same two linemates or one defensive supplement- have brushed at least one of those scoresheets.

Do note that Northeastern is comfortably perched in first place at 11-3-1 (15-5-2). But PC seems to prefer ogling not at their 2008-09 record, but their pristine 2009 record.

Normalcy, together with black lids rather than silver, appears restored for the return of the Providence pep section. Guess next week’s white-out for the cameras of NESN is not off after all.

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com

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