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Saturday, February 7, 2009

Women's Hockey 3, Northeastern 2 (OT)

Dramatic defiance
Friars disregard early unpleasantness in win

On the night designated for observance of the Skating Strides Against Breast Cancer charity, the Friars and Northeastern Huskies mischievously collaborated to spontaneously prompt a need to raise cardiac health awareness.

But ultimately, the game earned the festive, spur-of-the-moment distinction of International Night at Schneider Arena.

Contesting goaltenders Genevieve Lacasse and Florence Schelling, the respective collegiate descendents of Olympic heroes Sara Decosta and Chanda Gunn, upheld a 2-2 knot that was scraped out before regulation was even half over long enough to roll things into overtime. Though Schelling worked up more than twice the sweat (56 shots faced versus 24 against Lacasse), NU’s Swiss phenom and PC’s celestial Canadian may have offered a preview of things to come both on the Hockey East and IIHF platforms.

And when there was precisely a minute to spare in the bonus round, Finnish Flare Mari Pehkonen –already a seasoned Olympian herself- tipped the scale for the Friars, cementing a 3-2 victory before a euphoric home mass of 417.

All that coming after the Huskies had initially wrested a 2-0 lead, then virtually turned everything over to Schelling, who withstood 30 consecutive shots between Jean O’Neill’s equalizer at 9:43 of the second period and Pehkonen’s walk-off strike.

“It was a pretty gutsy performance by our girls, there’s no doubt about that,” said head coach Bob Deraney. “Sometimes you beat the gods, and I think tonight we really beat the hockey gods.

“It was an unbelievable turnover created by (Abby) Gauthier. She gets the puck and made one savvy pass right over to Pehkonen, and she put it under the crossbar. Great teams find a way to win games like that.”

Before the Friars asserted their capstone clutch capabilities, though, Northeastern usurped the spotlight by playing just like the scrappy, salivating underdog that they are, gratefully pouncing on any bounce they can get towards sealing the last vacant playoff passport in Hockey East.

Throughout the opening frame, and spilling into the wee moments of the second period, PC was openly flustered by a handful of quirky roadblocks that amounted to an early deficit plus 90 seconds worth of 5-on-3 penalty killing.

Meantime, the Huskies, boasting the nose of a bloodhound, struck at 7:01 of the first when Ali Bielawski’s up close, fluttering bid circumvented Lacasse’s trapper mitt and plopped vulnerably into the crease, where Annie Hogan approached to rake home an easy rebound.

Over the next eight-and-a-half minutes, Northeastern authoritatively killed their first penalty, granting the Friars one power play shot while clearing the zone three times, and proceeded to draw tripping and checking penalties to defenders Leigh Riley and Jennifer Friedman, respectively at the 14:59 and 15:29 mark.

Friedman’s infraction, in particular, triggered Deraney’s vocal volcano –as did a uncompromising no-goal signal at 3:15 of the second when Alyse Ruff insisted she had buried the remnants of Kate Bacon’s wrap-around stab.

Another 95 seconds after that, NU’s top gun Kristi Kehoe strolled a neutral zone shipment from Lindsey Berman down the near alley and leveled a wrister that again beat Lacasse’s catching glove for the 2-0 lead.

“There were a lot of things going against us,” Deraney acknowledged. “We kept our composure, even though I didn’t do it at times. I think the team calmed me down and just stayed the course, found a way to finish, and they didn’t let the bad breaks get to them. They just kept having conviction and belief and kept chipping away and chipping away and then made a couple of great plays to win the hockey game.”

The U-turn made its first twist only about two minutes after Kehoe’s connection. Upon ambushing an ineptly executed Husky breakout, O’Neill cut square to the net and drew a slashing penalty against Lori Antflick in the process.

Three power play shots didn’t cut it just yet. But 20 seconds after Anflick’s jailbreak, Hogan was flagged for holding and the Friars, having now explicitly transplanted their vengeful energy from their mouths to their twigs, pulled even with stimulating swiftness.

One draw and a dozen ticks after Hogan was called, Brittany Simpson set up point partner Erin Normore, who scorched a high-flying slapper over Schelling at 9:21.

The details on that goal were hardly ready for PA distribution when O’Neill blindly tilted Gauthier’s shot from deep within the near circle to send it sliding home to the left of Schelling, who still made quick to restore her standard form.

That was, until Gauthier (2 assists) clamped down the nightlong Whack-A-Mole puck in the slot and lateralled it left to Pehkonen (8 shots) for the fatal tip-in.

“We saw her at her place earlier in the year and she put on the same kind of performance,” Deraney recalled. “The great thing is, we beat her tonight. We won’t forget that, she won’t forget that. We’ll always know that we can come back against her. It had a lot of psychological benefit to us.”

As did the timing of this Homeric performance, seeing as the Friars had spent the whole week trying to rinse out the vinegar of a 2-1 OT falter at Connecticut last Sunday.

“The fact that this team can find a way to win after learning from last week, that’s the most important thing,” said Deraney. “You learn from your mistakes and you become better, so this is an example of that in the win tonight.”

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com

Hockey Log

Advanced courses in the creases

The constituents of this weekend’s matchup between the PC and Northeastern women are each certifying their reps as the Massachusetts Institute of Goaltending and the Rhode Island School of Warding through dense, deep membership as well as selectiveness.

Both the Friars and Huskies –each coached by former netminders in Bob Deraney and Dave Flint and with at least one other ex-goaltender behind their bench- roster a quartet of keepers but have only allotted regular action to two this season.

Behind the radiant tandem of Florence Schelling and Leah Sulyma at Northeastern, ex-Friar Stacey Scott –who transferred after posting a 2-1-0 freshman year here in 2005-06, effectively opening the door to Danielle Ciarletta- has dressed for 21 contests this season. Junior Syd Arbelbide has warmed up and assumed a bench door assignment on nine occasions.

Their cumulative ice time so far this year: nada. Scott last saw action for two periods of an 8-2 drubbing via New Hampshire on January 26, 2008 and has not concocted a win since she answered to Deraney. Arbelbide was last seen laboring two seasons ago, when she composed a 2-7-1 transcript over 12 ventures.

Similarly, the Friars appear on a trek towards building harmless red shirt collateral, especially for the likes of sophomore Christina England, who has yet to be integrated into regulation game action since her arrival last autumn. Her classmate, Jen Smith, did take in all or part of six ventures last season and relieved freshman phenom Genevieve Lacasse versus Dartmouth on January 13, though she would be dealt no shots over a slim seven minutes of play.

Last night, Scott and England were the odd women out for their respective teams –who can dress a maximum of three stoppers- while the fast-anointed go-to girls each recovered from uncharacteristic hiccups early on to push things into overtime.

Lacasse’s penultimate save out of 22 total was likely the most telling. With the bite-sized, five-minute bonus round just half over, NU’s Annie Hogan absorbed a fugitive puck on the PC blue line and swooped uncontested down the far lane. A sprawling Lacasse, however, fortified the ground post-to-post whilst zapping Hogan’s attempt to lob home a would-be winner.

Only about 85 more seconds hopped off the playing clock before Mari Pehkonen inserted the clincher and incidentally –but rather symbolically- collided with the shagged out Schelling.

And while the Swiss starter (53 saves) pulled back up to join the handshake line, Sulyma was spotted giving personal, to-the-side props to the victorious Lacasse.

A lesser burden
By seizing the full two-point package, and exactly a minute before each side could at least claim one before a shootout, the Friars have permanently distanced themselves from Northeastern in the 2008-09 Hockey East standings.

Each with five regular season games left, PC (11-4-1) is temporarily tied for first with UNH, brandishing 23 points apiece. NU, meantime, still holds a mere 11 for a now incurable 12-point deficit.

Only one more chaser needs to be immobilized before Providence is assured of home ice in the playoffs. But, Deraney reminds, they have to play their part, beginning with tonight’s back-end of this home-and-home up at Matthews Arena, where they lost, 1-0, in mid-October.

“All I know is that we want to win every (season) series,” Deraney said. “And so, with the win tonight, it gives us a chance tomorrow to win another series. We’re not looking that far ahead. We’re just looking to make sure we’re on the right side of every series. If you do that, good thing will happen to you in the standings.”

Melodious Martin
After the annual Skating Strides ceremonies –featuring the likes of Hockey East associate commissioner Kathy Wynters and Joe Gemma, a dean at PC and co-founder of the Gloria Gemma foundation- a chiefly what-the-heck arrangement had junior defender Colleen Martin assuming the mike to perform the Star-Spangled Banner.

She proceeded to pitch in one of the Friars’ 56 shots on net whilst indirectly helping to bar uncalculated would-be Husky shots as part of the win.

Quick Feeds: The PC pep band put in its second appearance at a women’s hockey game this season, helping in part to compose a season-high audience of 417 and churning all of the standard Friar Fanatic disturbances typically seen at men’s events. “No doubt we fed off of that,” Deraney granted…All but two individuals Friars recorded a shot in their season-high bushel of 56…Sophomore defender Leigh Riley claimed an assist on Jean O’Neill’s second period equalizer for her first point of the season…An injury-plagued Northeastern –which has consistently had a short bench since the end of October- fielded only 10 forwards last night, though they did get left defender Breanna Frost back in action after a five-week, 11-game absence which had left the depth chart with as many as four cavities at a time…An online audiocast will be available for tonight’s contest (7:00 p.m. face-off) per NU’s athletic website and shared with friars.com.

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com

Friday, February 6, 2009

Hockey Log

Jensen, Duncan recovering in stride
Line chart unruffled from the start of the week

As late as yesterday afternoon, a recuperating twosome of Jackie Duncan and Christie Jensen were eyeing the PC women’s practice from the solitary confines of the goal judges’ lair behind the home cage.

Implicit translation: neither of them is in a position to break their game time attire back out for this weekend’s series with Northeastern.

Head coach Bob Deraney had initially banked on Jensen swiftly restoring her standard form well in advance of tonight’s contest. Instead, ever since she was carelessly thrust into the boards by Connecticut’s Brittany Murphy last Saturday, her outlook has continuously swayed.

Less than six minutes after the hit, Jensen plunged right back into action to help commence a penalty kill, “…but that was it. She was concussed,” Deraney explained.

Promptly ruled out for last Sunday’s excursion across the western border, Jensen was replaced by two-way connoisseur Erin Normore on the second D-unit, complementing Amber Yung. Arianna Rigano, in turn, stepped up to plug the resultant void on the second forward line with Kate Bacon and Mari Pehkonen.

Judging by the jersey color distribution in yesterday’s tune-up, the same layout will be in place for at least this weekend.

Meantime, Deraney continues to safeguard the specifics to Duncan, who is going on three weeks away from action due to a spun out lower body ailment. The “day-to-day” tag has not changed since she was initially sidelined.

“We don’t want to rush her back too fast,” Deraney reasoned. “We want to make sure it heals.”

Barring any spontaneous symptomatic resurgences, Jensen, at the very least, ought to resume her standard regimen in the not-too-distant future.

“Everyone else is healthy, thank goodness,” Deraney added. “And, hey, we’re going to need everybody throughout our lineup because these games will continue to have this type of (playoff) intensity. And I feel very good that there are no weak links in our lineup. We just have some areas that are stronger than others.”

Arrow lands on Schelling
Over their last six outings, the Huskies have rotated their two regal goaltenders on a curious basis of every two games. Sophomore Leah Sulyma propped them up long enough to at least extract a shootout point out of Maine last Saturday, then submitted to Boston College, 3-1, in the Beanpot semifinal Tuesday on her own pond.

On this pace, rookie phenom Florence Schelling is due to assume crease duties tonight and possibly again tomorrow.

Friday night slights
Sooner, rather than later, the Friars would like to alter a trivial trend that has given all the luck to the visiting team in Friday games this season. They fell before Ohio State, 2-1, on October 3, St. Lawrence, 3-1, October 10, and Mercyhurst, 3-0, on November 21, all here at Schneider Arena. Conversely, they floored Robert Morris, 3-1, on November 7 and Maine, 4-1, on December 5 –both as a start to eventual road sweeps.

For the remaining three weeks of the regular season –this weekend with NU, next versus New Hampshire, and the following against BC- Providence shall don TGI white and pay a return visit to the opposing venue the subsequent Saturday, a day on which they are a cumulative 8-3-2.

Quick Feeds: Team captain Brittany Simpson sported her Skating Strides pink laces in practice yesterday. The WHEA’s three-year-old breast cancer charity puts in its annual appearance at Schneider Arena tonight…The Friar goaltenders and those of the opposition have each amassed precisely 782 saves over the first 28 games of the season…Only senior forward Ali Bielawski (+5) and junior defender Kacey Cedorchuk (+1) are in the black under Northeastern’s plus/minus heading. Another five Huskies boast an even rate while the rest read negative…The obsessive-defensive Huskies are a pristine 9-0-1 when scoring first, but 1-14-1 when admitting the first strike…Northeastern senior Missy Elumba was named one of 21 candidates for the 2009 BNY Mellon Hockey Humanitarian Award on Tuesday, as was PC men’s co-captain Kyle Laughlin. Elumba is one of five in consideration for the second consecutive season…Online video streaming will be offered for tonight’s game courtesy of friars.com.

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Hockey Log

PC women vie to reload versus NU

An altogether meeker breed of Husky awaits the Friars this weekend in the designedly fading aftermath of a brief-but-fatal nipping dealt by rival Connecticut.

All the more cause for Providence (10-4-1 in Hockey East, 15-11-2 overall) this week to hit the playbooks with a pinch of extra studious scrutiny, think a little deeper about the auspicious concept of safer (or, at least, less precarious) leads, and upgrade their fuel of choice from the mental/psychological equivalent of Powerade Option to regular.

Anything that would verify the ostensible upper hand they hold over Northeastern, a program rapidly receding to irrelevance on an active 0-6-1 slump only three months after they had lunged out to a 5-0-2 start.

Come what may, the Hub Huskies (5-9-1 in Hockey East, 10-14-3 overall) have flaunted spurts of stealth as recently as January 8, when they arrested Boston University, 2-0 –on the road, no less. And, all things considered, they have respectably restricted every given opponent’s offense, never losing by a margin greater than two since New Year’s.

“It’s gonna be two tough games,” PC captain Brittany Simpson stated bluntly, recalling the 1-0 falter up at Matthews Arena to commence the Hockey East season in mid-October and glancing forward to this weekend’s home-and-home card, which commences tomorrow evening at Schneider Arena.

“We had a tough loss against them earlier in the year and these are going to be two huge games with four huge points at stake.”

Afflicted by plebeian offensive funds that have painstakingly grossed 48 goals in 27 outings –a nightly median of 1.78- and no more than two in any of their last seven whiffs at a win, Northeastern can occasionally compensate with the proficient goaltending tag team of Florence Schelling and Leah Sulyma. Their aggregate accumulation of 734 saves trails only the Friars’ 782 and Maine’s 853 and 55 goals-against is second only to Boston College on the WHEA leaderboard.

It happened in the young weeks of the season at PC’s expense. At that time, the Huskies were the primordially peddled surprise of the year with the likes of Schelling, a freshman phenom out of Switzerland, and first-year skipper Dave Flint the chief magnets of attention.

Few, if any, had yet detected Schelling’s radiant contemporary from the Divine Campus, Genevieve Lacasse (who now eclipses the stellar NU tandem in terms of both goals-against average and save percentage). So much so that senior stopper Danielle Ciarletta was assigned to backstop the Friars that afternoon.

As it happened, Schelling neutralized the whole of a 31-shot flurry from PC while Ciarletta blinked but once, yielding a breakaway tally to Ali Bielawski early in the third period for the eventual decider.

“We played really well that night,” said junior forward Arianna Rigano, who formerly answered to Flint at Division-III St. Anselm. “We just have to play well the whole game this time. We just need to keep working hard and playing our game and we should be fine.

“I think we’ve matured a lot since the beginning of the season, so I definitely think we can come up with four points.”

Still, last Sunday’s Connecticut calamity emboldened the same basic shortcomings as the October hiccup on Huntington Avenue. Though to a less egregious and less consequential extent, the Friars have likewise been plagued by a frequently fettered offense.

Granted, most all of their regular skaters have put their pen to the scoresheet more than once over a recent 5-3-0 run. And Lacasse’s MVP-caliber reliability is as frank as can be now.

But save for last Saturday’s 5-1 lashing of UConn and a gale-forced, historically ice-shattering 5-0 romp of New Hampshire last month, PC has not brandished the assertive, Cyclopean breed of offense they yearn for. Such elements as a middle-class power play and a rash of unclaimed rebounds have amounted to either close shaves or repulsive jolts to the jaw.

And, like the Huskies (Kristi Kehoe: 13), the Friars currently boast but one puckslinger with double-digits in her goal column (Laura Veharanta: 15).

Now is the time, head coach Bob Deraney decrees, to get a two-way grip and scrap their concession to this wobbly epidemic of defensive arm-wrestling bouts. Now is the time to presage a homestretch pillage of the opposing nets.

“It’s about playing a better brand of hockey, becoming better goal scorers, and creating better opportunities for ourselves,” he said. “We created some great opportunities to score five goals against UNH and UConn. BU (two weeks ago, 2-0 and 2-1 wins) were completely different games, but we had (many more) great chances to score.”

“We have to continue to work on being more efficient with our chances. One or two goals (per game) isn’t going to cut it this year. Other teams are just too good offensively. You have to be able to score three or four. It’s another opportunity to get better in the areas that are lacking.”

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Hockey Log

Deraney mixes gripes with gratefulness

Providence College women’s hockey coach Bob Deraney commenced a brief media conference yesterday afternoon by first detouring to his cell phone to assess the last of any new paper-based (or, really, electro-screen-based) remnants from the bittersweet split of his team’s weekend series with Connecticut.

USA Today, which had perched his program in the #9 slot prior to the first face-off in October but since kept them out of sincere consideration, had at least replenished their recognition with an honorable mention in its most freshly revised poll.

“Looks like we got eight votes for the Top 10, UConn’s (ranked number) 9,” the coach thought aloud.

Indeed. So by at least keeping one telling stride ahead of the Huskies for about the first 110 minutes of playing time over the weekend, the Friars have at least whittled their way back to a fraction of the limelight.

Connecticut, meanwhile, slid down a slot as penance for stalling their powerful gun rack throughout Saturday’s 5-1 Providence triumph and the better part of Sunday’s rematch.

That aside, Deraney, like one who has just finished savoring an extravagantly scrumptious free sample at Shaw’s, now thirsts over what more he and his pupils could have had. What more they would have/could have garnered for this week had they not tripped from ahead en route to an epic 2-1 overtime loss on Sunday.

“It was kind of the opposite of Saturday, when they hit the crossbar a couple of times, had some chances to score, and they didn’t,” he reflected. “We had the same opportunities at their place on Sunday where we had some great opportunities to make it 1-0, maybe even 3-0 early on. We hit a post, had a couple of crease plays. But, to our credit, we didn’t let that get to us. We ended up going into the second period and scored the first goal.

“I think we were playing like we knew we were good instead of playing like we should have been proving that we’re a good team. We just got too loose in the third period against a team that’s not going to relent. If you give them too many opportunities, they’re gonna score. And that gave them momentum. We just gave them too much life and we beat ourselves. That’s why it’s so disappointing, because there could have been more points for us.”

And then there was the spilled potential for a comparatively jutting stature in the W-L column. Until cross-coastal action resumes on Friday, the five established bigwigs in the league have 10 conference wins apiece. Hack off the final 10 minutes of Sunday’s affair, or at least branch out a little more of Saturday’s comfy command, and PC would be standing out with 11 wins whilst restricting the Huskies to nine.

Not to mention, they would also be coiled with New Hampshire for the regal spot in the standings right about now.

But, Deraney added, “You have to kind of peel it away and look at those shootout win totals. There are only two of those teams who have 10 legitimate wins –us and Boston College.”

I.e. the Wildcats and Huskies have each needed a case of one-on-ones, Boston University three, to claim the full two-point package, which is of no extra benefit on the national landscape anyway.

“In our league, it comes down to losses, in my opinion,” said Deraney. “That’s another thing that really hurt about Sunday. (A win) would have kept us one loss less than UNH with still two games to play against them. So even though it seems like we’re only one win behind, I think we’re really two points behind. We made it a little bit tougher on ourselves because we couldn’t close the game on Sunday.”

Officially guaranteed at least one extra game after Game #34 on their pre-arranged 2008-09 itinerary, the Friars –if all goes according to Deraney’s plan- vow only to whet their craving for growth in these climactic three weeks. Weeks that shall package six games’ worth of titanic tune-ups.

“I’m glad to learn this lesson now,” Deraney concluded. “Because, say we went 7-1 in our last eight and go into the playoffs thinking we’re good, playing like we’re good, and putting in the kind of effort we did on Sunday where it’s one-and-done. That’s the lesson we need to take out of this week. You gotta play shutdown defense all the time. You can’t create separation with your opponent. You have to keep them off the board.

“As far as I’m concerned, we’re fighting to get home ice and to get a bye. We want to win the league and at least get a bye in that first round. It’ll probably come down to the last game of the regular season.”

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com

On Hockey

Mazz attack regains positive persona

En route to grossing the Hockey East Player of the Week award, beneath the basic act of blowing ample ice chips on his (literally) painful past, Nick Mazzolini wholly recompensed the toe-curling visuals of his recent career speed bumps.

Who better to initially kindle it –let alone before the watchful eyes of NESN and an egregiously overflowing Schneider congregation- than against the Boston College Eagles? It was, after all, but ten-and-a-half months prior that the towering attackman’s 2007-08 journey ended about 24 hours before the PC men, as a whole, grudgingly stashed away their skates for the summer.

The fashion of Mazzolini’s personal knockout, one will recall, was splitting symbolism of the Friars’ unceremonious exile from the Conte Forum over the last Ides of March weekend. In Game 1, around the halfway mark of the first period, BC’s Benn Ferriero charged after Mazzolini at the Eagles’ blue line and dealt a blow that dislodged the pivot’s lid like a champagne cork.

Unmistakably wiped, the then-junior sat the following night out with what was curiously disclosed as a knee ailment. But apart from his absence, there was no sensational difference for the packets of Friar Fanatics in attendance. The volcanic Eagles stamped another swift 5-1 final and proceeded to whitewash six more adversaries en route to national glamor.

Now, all of a sudden, Jerry York’s capstone club is back in the mid-to-late season pothole it Homerically lunged out of last season (as was most callously evidenced Monday in their 6-1 bow to Northeastern in the Beanpot semifinals).

And last Friday, the resurging Friars exploited BC’s subpar state to an altogether satisfactory extent, ultimately drawing a 2-2 knot. If only for 97 seconds, they had an upper hand on their Catholic Clash rivals courtesy a fresh-out-the-box Mazzolini -11 seconds removed from fulfilling a two-minute slashing sentence- who raked home glue guy John Cavanagh’s rebound into a gaping back door with 2:40 to spare in the middle frame.

It was then that the masses got to see his new, rather original choice of poses to acknowledge a lit lamp, crouching over his twig and gliding in the manner of an old-fashioned rod hockey figure.

It was the following night, amidst a 5-3 triumph over Merrimack, that Mazzolini confirmed his new little habit. He performed the exact same civilized stick-ride upon planting the Friars a 4-0 edge at 14:16 of the second period. Then he offered an encore late in the third after running a clean, unchallenged incision down the Broadway lane to bury an insurance tally under goaltender Joe Cannata.

Weekend totals: three goals, four assists. Month totals: four firsthand strikes, two helpers –and almost all of them falling in arguably clutch situations.

Sure makes for a nice remedy after missing the last nine games of the fall term due to another ailment, does it not?

Back on November 7, Mazzolini crumpled to the ice upon sucking in a Vermont shot and, with a lower body injury, went on prompt respite a month before his teammates. And he was nearly entitled to a sense of supreme fortune –unless it’s more agonizing to watch stuff than to live stuff. He merely was forced to watch as his associates went 1-8 up till the December deceleration, authorizing an unfavorable goal differential 36-17 along the way.

Coupled with the March mayhem before, those were just old patterns at their worst. It was beginning to read “Eric Lindros” on the luck-o-meter.

But together with the rest of the Friars, he reemerged from the protracted winter break in a much more orderly state than from the preceding summer holiday. In the latter case, Mazzolini along with classmates Kyle Laughlin and Pierce Norton were swiftly assigned to the upper bowl for the second game of the season after an opening night meltdown before Northeastern.

More recently, the sizeable, seasoned senior was sandwiched between two frosh –Andy Balysky and Rob Maloney- on the third line versus Lowell on January 10, a night on which he discharged a team-best four shots on net as part of a 4-2 win.

After mustering a meek 1-2-3 scoring transcript in his six pre-injury ventures, Mazzolini’s thawing process has sped along in the second half. Ditto the team, which cemented a January record of 4-2-2 and, with 10 contests yet to digest, is back within orthodox hooking distance of a playoff spot.

It need not be stressed that a Mighty Duck-esque spring to banner glory isn’t the likeliest upshot. But Mazzolini, more than any other Friar, should by now have his career in valuable pucks perspective.

He ought to have a sturdy grip on the parables of a “strong finish.” And, judging by his most recent recitals, he has the means to concoct such a finish.

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Hockey Log

PC women ahead in the (playoff) game

In the midst of force-feeding vinegar to the Friars in their epic overtime rally on Sunday, the Connecticut Huskies confirmed their acceptance and entry into the Hockey East post-season. Only one slot –available for any of the three established welterweights Northeastern, Vermont or Maine- remains in the refined six-team bracket with still three rich weeks of regular season action to consume across the coast.

As for the remarkably extensive snowy-capped sect of the mountain, the five fixed entrants each have 10 league wins to their credit and are pried apart by no more than three points. The 10-4-1 Friars are rooming in second place with Boston College –albeit with a game in hand- one point up on the Huskies and Boston University and within roping distance of New Hampshire, who at 10-2-3 against conference cohabitants refuse to fizzle even with an incurably short bench.

The current arrangement poses a thick hybrid brew of closeness and comfort –the latter element stemming chiefly from the fact that, in each of the previous two seasons, Providence had not verified its postseason membership until the eleventh hour of the regular season.

Still, they pine to partake in the innovative offerings that have come with the new format. Did someone say “home ice?”

Or, better yet, a temporary spectator’s pass for the final week of this month, when Seeds 3 and 4 will host Nos. 6 and 5, respectively, to decide who goes to the final four?

“It’s definitely nice knowing that we’re, for sure, going to be in the playoffs this early,” acknowledged team captain Brittany Simpson. “We hope to clinch first or second place, though, to push us higher and get that bye into the semifinals.”

And the sixth berth, odds-on, should go to Northeastern, who are next on tap for the Friars. All the more reason why head coach Bob Deraney has opted to swiftly instill the sensations of spring about a month in advance of the preliminary round.

“I just think we’ve got a terrific league, and every game is a dogfight,” he said. “We’ve been playing playoff games for the last couple weeks. I think UNH has done that, Boston College has, UConn has, BU has, and we have. That’s the way to approach it.

“What happened in the past or leading right up to this game has no relevance, it’s really who comes ready to play that day.”

Deficient diagram
Yesterday’s notebook delivered an erroneous report based on the line charts provided in Sunday’s box score. Junior Arianna Rigano, a healthy scratch in the previous three games, was summoned to fill a void when Christie Jensen was sidelined by the aftershock of a hit via UConn’s Brittany Murphy on Saturday.

But contrary to the line charts, Rigano was not, in fact, partnering with Amber Yung on the second defensive unit, but rather filling the void left in the offensive dozen while two-way connoisseur Erin Normore played portions of the game on the blue line.

“No, I’ve never played D,” Rigano clarified, a tad bowled over by the lineup reading. “That’s funny, though.”

With Jensen’s indefinite absence, only six remaining Friars have seen action in all 28 games this season: Ashley Cottrell, Jennifer Friedman, Normore, Alyse Ruff, Brittany Simpson, and Laura Veharanta.

Quick Feeds: The Friars are back on the national platform for the first time in nearly a month, receiving one honorable mention vote in yesterday’s refreshed USCHO poll…First line winger Alyse Ruff was belatedly credited with the second assist on Laura Veharanta’s second period goal on Sunday, upping the sophomore’s scoring totals to 9-7-16 on the year and knotting her with Katy Beach for fourth on the time in terms of point-snatching…In a rather drastic deviation from the orthodox women’s hockey itinerary, each of PC’s next four games will commence at 7:00 p.m. They will host Northeastern and New Hampshire over the next two Fridays, returning the visit to those respective institutions on the subsequent Saturday.

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com

Monday, February 2, 2009

Connecticut 2, Women's Hockey 1 (OT)

Friars trip late, spill points in OT
Report based on Gametracker

Storrs, Conn.- If only by a few ice chips, the Friars had outshone the Connecticut Huskies under every vital heading for the first forty minutes yesterday.

Shot count prior to the third: 17-15, advantage visitors. Disciplinary records: two minor infractions against UConn, only one on PC. On the dot: 24 face-off wins out of 39 tries for the Friars.

And in the office of the database dictator: 1-0, Providence.

The Huskies, indubitably unforgiving for the Friars’ act of hacking away their NCAA playoff bubble last year through a 5-1 decision in the Hockey East semifinals in this very building –never mind the mortifying upshot of the same score at Schneider Arena on Saturday- were merely one loose finger away from a rancid rerun. And the obsessive-defensive Friars were in a snug position to lock away a momentous sweep of the weekend, not to mention the 2008-09 Battle for Southern New England trilogy.

But in the climactic latter half of the closing frame, UConn rehashed its rep after a cumulative absence of about 110 minutes of playing time. Bolstered by a high-sticking penalty to Jean O’Neill with 10:11 left in regulation, acetylene twig-carrier Dominique Thibault (game-leading eight shots on net) deposited the equalizer.

From there, the Huskies mollified Friar freshman fortress Genevieve Lacasse with nine additional stabs (period total: 18), drew one more power play in the dusk of regulation (Mari Pehkonen, tripping, 18:41 mark), and delivered the dagger in overtime for a 2-1 biff right in PC’s lately glimmering helmet cages.

Fifty seconds into the bonus round, one utterance of “Mississippi” after the Finnish Flare was released to join the four-on-four contest, Nicole Tritter converted a feed from Monique Weber to appease the home masses of Freitas Ice Forum.

And so, while their western border rivals were swift to strike the chord on redemption songs and confirm their claim to the fifth of six available slots in the WHEA playoffs, Providence endured a stinging nudge backward after stocking up invaluable collateral in the form of a three-game winning streak and an irreproachable start to yesterday’s tussle.

For the third time in as many clashes, the Friars and Huskies arm-wrestled their way through a tantalizingly scoreless first period, PC owning a 9-8 edge in the shooting gallery and drawing an early, solitary power play, during which they were barred from pestering goaltender Brittany Wilson (24 saves).

The young stages of the middle frame duplicated the preceding stanza. Even with Jody Sydor caged for roughing at the 3:09 mark, the Friars couldn’t skate up any harrowing threats. Nothing like the fleeting, decisive three-goal gale they concocted 24 hours prior.

The air hockey-paced exchange of possession and negligible scoring chances lagged on until 3:40 remained in the period. For the second consecutive day, PC captain Brittany Simpson initiated the icebreaker, setting up top gun Laura Veharanta for her 15th strike of the season.

Within moments, the newly jumpy Friars pelted Wilson five more times –including a nonstop succession of three bids by Abby Gauthier, Katy Beach, and Colleen Martin. But the Huskies retorted with a similar mini-swarm in the final two minutes, though Lacasse withstood it all to retain the 1-0 upper hand.

Cristin Allen –who would ultimately recompense her tinkering tendencies with a pair of helpers- initially dropped Providence a written invitation to broaden the gap, absorbing a two-minute citation for body-checking with 6:47 gone in the third. Wilson, though, needed only to deal with a singular power play shot from Alyse Ruff while her praetorian guards guided Jennifer Friedman’s attempt wide.

Sixty-two seconds after Allen’s release, O’Neill took her team’s second penalty of the day. And the tables turned within moments.

Lacasse –whose game total of 34 saves equated her performance in Saturday’s win- pushed away the first three power play shots, but Allen left a soapy rebound for Thibault to grip and bury.

The unwavering stopper pushed away another three between Pehkonen’s infraction and the regulation buzzer. And she hauled in an unhesitant stab by Allen to start the overtime, gradually upping the odds of each team at least laying claim to a single point.

That was not to be. Tritter would polish off the rally sparked by her co-captain Thibault some ten minutes prior.

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com

Hockey Log

Another bitter Nutmeg twist
PC’s loss to UConn follows pattern of Yale visit

Report based on Gametracker

Storrs, Conn.- Laura Veharanta helps the Friars step off on the right skate in the second period. Providence subsists on the resultant 1-0 edge till the opposition converts a rare-find power play to force overtime. At that point, the momentum is not to be regained. PC lets it slip in the first minute of the bite-sized bonus round.

Only now –after the fact- have the puck prophets unveiled that repetitious plot summary for the PC women’s 2008-09 excursions west to Connecticut.

This was how their venture to Yale University fundamentally panned out on December 30. Ditto yesterday’s drop-in at Freitas Ice Forum, the bottom half of a home-and-home series with the radiant UConn Huskies, whom they had muzzled long enough for a stimulating 5-1 win at Schneider Arena two days ago and to clutch the upper hand for the first portion of yesterday’s rematch.

But the Huskies sniffed out their sparse offering of comeback opportunities, exploited them once unearthed, and in effect docked two points from the Friars, whose post-regulation futility lives to tease them another day.

PC has not sipped the exuberant end of a walk-off win since Jenna Keilch’s goal overthrew Maine, 3-2, on January 21, 2007. Their record since then in the bonus round: 0-2-7. A smooth succession of seven ties –one of which was technically a shootout loss to Boston University on November 1 of this season- preceded these sequentially twin downfalls just over the border.

With yesterday’s climactic turnaround, the Huskies (10-5-0 in league play) claimed the two allotted points and renewed their one-point deficit behind the now 10-4-1 Friars, who might otherwise have assumed sole possession of second place in the Hockey East standings. Or, better yet, draw a knot with New Hampshire for first.

Parting shots
Barring any spontaneous post-season encounters, UConn senior forward and co-captain Nicole Tritter –who inserted the OT clincher- finished her career with a 5-1-6 scoring transcript against PC. Goaltender Brittany Wilson went 4-6 over her three years as the Huskies go-to goalie, though three of her wins over the Friars were shutouts.

On the flip side, Erin Normore will likely skate off with 4-5-9 totals against the Huskies. Her 1-1-2 showing on Saturday was her third goal-assist value pack in her career against UConn. Mari Pehkonen finishes at 7-2-9 in eight meetings, including three multi-point performances, and team captain Brittany Simpson whittled off five assists, including one each day over this weekend.

Jen-uary
Though she curiously continues to link up with classmate and former supplement Christie Jensen during pregame warmup drills, rookie defender Jennifer Friedman has let her newly two-way twig feed off of her new top-unit associate, Simpson.

Over the past calendar month, Friedman augmented her scoring transcript from 0-2-2 to 4-4-8 in a matter of seven outings, culminating with the initial helper on Mari Pehkonen’s empty netter Saturday.

In the same span, she has slowed down her penalty frequency, only adding two more minors to the 14 PIM she had carried into the New Year.

And now, with Erin Normore ostensibly fixated on a forward assignment for the rest of this ride, Simpson and Friedman stand out as the Friars two most offensively luminous blueliners with 13 and eight respective points. Simpson’s assist on Veharanta’s second period goal yesterday has her matching a career-high 11 helpers to a season.

Quick Feeds: Jensen, thrust into the boards Saturday precipitating Brittany Murphy's five-minute checking major, sat yesterday out, replaced by Arianna Rigano on the second defensive unit...Colleen Martin led all PC puckslingers with five shots yesterday. Her blueline associate, Amber Yung, discharged three in the first and would add a fourth midway through the second…The Friars slipped to 10-5-1 when scoring first this season…The home team has won each of the last six PC-UConn regular season get-togethers…Even in the losing effort, Ashley Cottrell, Leigh Riley, Alyse Ruff, and Laura Veharanta all posted a +1 rate yesterday to go with their even-or-better rates on Saturday…In each of their last three games, the Friars and their adversaries have taken an equal number of penalties: 6-6 last Sunday at BU, 7-7 Saturday versus UConn, and 3-3 yesterday. Saturday’s five-minute checking sentence to Murphy was the second major PC has drawn this season…Genevieve Lacasse surpassed the 600-save plateau yesterday, currently boasting a cumulative 624 in 22 games. With five more, she will surpass Jana Bugden’s 2002-03 total of 628 and trail only Sara Decosta (794 saves in 1996-97) for the most saves consumed by a PC rookie.

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Women's Hockey 5, Connecticut 1

A Conn-descending message
Friars break out in second, flatten Huskies

With her team trailing, 3-1, and having painstakingly fended off two Friar power plays within the first nine minutes of the third period, flustered Connecticut forward Brittany Murphy unleashed a little too much of the Milan Lucic within, thunderously thrusting opponent Christie Jensen into the near boards along the Husky hash marks.

While a temporarily ailing Jensen pulled herself together and was escorted off the ice by trainer Amanda Bowman, Murphy was caged for a five-minute body-checking major. And though a good 11:01 remained on the clock, PC coach Bob Deraney opted to utilize his one allotted timeout.

Why do it then?

“That can be a double whammy. When you draw a five-minute major, you can get sloppy, you can think the game’s over,” explained the skipper, who back in the second was hollering in vain for a major sentence to Brianna Uliasz for similarly slamming Erin Normore.

“It’s five minutes to play smart. And as you saw, UConn tried to capitalize and tried to score offensively. I think I’d do the same thing, because they had nothing to lose. So I wanted to make sure we didn’t let down our guard and get caught up trying to play offense when I thought we had enough goals to win. I didn’t want us to risk beating ourselves for getting too greedy.”

Indeed, coupled with Deraney’s self-imposed restraint, the Huskies stalled the Friars’ progress in the all-you-can-score buffet, outshooting PC, 3-1, over the first four minutes of the kill.

But with 39 seconds still to work with, the Providence power play brigade finally snagged a little can’t-hurt indulgence. Alyse Ruff, withholding the puck in the far corner off a feed from linemate Laura Veharanta, thrust it out to the slot where it caught up with an incoming Normore. The two-way connoisseur slugged home a one-timer for a gaping 4-1 edge with 6:40 remaining.

A subsequent empty netter via Mari Pehkonen would solidify a 5-1 final before 229 rabid rooters at Schneider Arena –PC’s third consecutive win and 10th out of 14 Hockey East contests.

“They threw everything they could at us,” Deraney insisted in a credit to the Huskies, who had come in having wrested 11 wins out of their last 12 offerings. “They tried to out-skill us, we met that challenge. They were trying to out-tough us, we met that challenge. They tried to wear us down mentally, and we met that challenge.

“It was a good indication of where we are right now, and we’re getting better in all areas of the game.”

The first area of strength they needed to flex was staying power. A ho-hum, tensely dead-heated first period passed with the likes of Genevieve Lacasse (34 saves) and Brittany Wilson (29 saves) pushing away 10 shots apiece and mutually unwavering disciplines for all of the first seventeen-and-a-half minutes.

Then, with 2:30 till intermission, Veharanta was flagged for body-checking. But Connecticut likewise blinked in another 72 seconds as Monique Weber pinned Normore as the Friars were swinging into PK breakout mode.

Ultimately granted 42 seconds of 5-on-4 on the new sheet, the Friars triggered a divergent flood of ink on all areas of the scoresheet for the middle frame. Only one second before Weber’s due jailbreak, Brittany Simpson churned forward with Normore’s cross-ice shipment in the neutral zone and handed it off to Ashley Cottrell in the far upper alley of UConn territory.

Cottrell’s nimble, deceptively harmless-looking snapper –the first shot of the period- fluttered home within the opposite post, granting the Friars the icebreaker.

“You may have thought it was a fluke, but I thought it was a great shot,” said Deraney. “That’s a goal-scorers’ shot, blocker-side, coming down the off-wing. That’s what good goal-scorers do, put it underneath the crossbar.”

Regardless, Cottrell’s connection spun the Friars on a decisive throttle for the next seven minutes, during which they outshot the Huskies, 11-1, and enhanced their lead to 3-0.

At 2:44, amidst a claustrophobic grinding session in the Connecticut crease, Steph Morris clamped down and raked in a fugitive biscuit for the eventual game-winner.

Five minutes later, linemates Katy Beach, Abby Gauthier, and Jean O’Neill converged along the near wall to avert an offside, sending the puck-carrier Beach on a counterclockwise swoop to the cage. O’Neill, meanwhile, cut to the porch, where she waited to lace Beach’s rebound behind the unsuspecting Wilson.

Near back-to-back power plays allowed the Huskies to make an incision on the scoreboard before the tempestuous period was up. Only five seconds after Pehkonen was through serving a two-minute interference sentence, PC was whistled once more for too many players.

And within 79 seconds, Amy Hollstein drilled a low-riding slapper through a forest of bodies to the right of Lacasse.

But penalties to Nicole Tritter at 0:30 and Jody Sydor at 2:45 of the third hampered UConn’s bid to wrinkle the gap much further, though they would substantially outshoot the Friars, 13-7 over that final stanza.

When Beach went off for tripping at 13:33, terminating PC’s seventh power play prematurely, Husky coach Heather Linstad elected to deploy the six-pack attack remarkably early. But Pehkonen’s would reel home the dagger at 15:39, six seconds after Beach’s release and after the UConn strike force was muzzled for the duration of their power play.

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com

Hockey Log

Scoring woes be gone
PC’s noses hardening in each zone

A grand total of 14 new points were split amongst thirteen different Friars on yesterday’s scoresheet, thus splintering a handful of spells and prolonging a few positive trends.

All three constituents of PC’s top line –Ashley Cottrell, Alyse Ruff, Laura Veharanta- were apt to splash their respective three-game scoring droughts yesterday. Cottrell rinsed out her vinegar with a tone-setting power play strike early in the second period, as would Ruff and Veharanta in assisting Normore’s player-up conversion at 13:20 of the third. Veharanta would sprinkle an additional helper on her resume, collaborating with Jennifer Friedman in the neutral zone to set up Mari Pehkonen’s empty netter.

Meanwhile, senior grinder Steph Morris inserted her first goal of the season –the eventual clincher- and granted linemate Pam McDevitt a helper in the process, the junior’s second point in her last three games.

Abby Gauthier halted her seven-game pointless streak with the initial assist on Jean O’Neill’s goal roughly five minutes after Morris connected. Upon snatching the other helper, Katy Beach has statistically contributed in each of her last four ventures and 10 of her last 14.

Not to mention, PC nailed two power play conversions for the first time since they steamrolled New Hampshire, 5-0, three weeks ago.

Yesterday’s 5-1 victory was most tellingly laid out in the first half of the second period, wherein the Friars converted thrice on a twelve-shot sugar rush in a matter of seven minutes. By period’s end, they had outpaced UConn on the board, 3-1, and the shooting gallery, 17-12, between Zamboni shifts.

Naturally, that data was not foretold in the pregame playbill. Not for this matchup or this time of year.

“I’m not sure if we really have that type of offense,” observed head coach Bob Deraney, “But we’ve sure done it a lot lately, being able to score goals in bunches when the first one comes.”

And, he continued, being able to flood a sturdier moat in defense of those resultant leads.

“I think we’re becoming better playmakers, we’re becoming more opportunistic. I just think that our kids aren’t afraid to go into the tough areas of the ice now, especially around the crease. There’s a great confidence, determination and ferocity that we’re starting to display around the net. If you want to score goals, you have to be willing to go into those areas and compete there.

“And, conversely, in front of our own net, we’re battling. You know the way a football line is supposed to create a pocket for the quarterback? I think our defensive players are doing a great job of creating a pocket for our goalies, so they can get a good-enough look at the rebound.”

Upper hand finalized
Regardless of the upshot today over at UConn’s Freitas Ice Forum (1:00 p.m. face-off), the Friars have already scampered merrily away with the better half of the three-game wishbone with the Huskies.

Coupling yesterday’s 5-1 win with the 2-0 triumph here in mid-November, PC gets the better part of UConn for the fifth time in their seven years as WHEA cohabitants.

Couple that with best-of-three triumphs over Boston University, Maine, and Vermont, and they are now 4-for-4 in Hockey East season series.

“Our goal going in every season is to win series,” Deraney acknowledged, though we would add, “if you’ve won a series and you still have another game to play, then that means you have a chance to sweep. And that’s what tomorrow’s all about.

“We’re not satisfied. The goal is to sweep every series. And unfortunately, in a couple of these series (Northeastern and Boston College), we haven’t won the first game, so all we can do is win it, not sweep it. But here’s an opportunity to sweep, and that’s going to be the mentality tomorrow. Whether we do it or not? Hey, we’ll let the next 60 minutes decide that.”

Quick Feeds: Yesterday’s game featured three 4-on-4 segments. Monique Weber’s body-checking felony terminated UConn’s first power play, putting each team down a body for 48 seconds late in the first. At the halfway mark, Pehkonen was called for interference five seconds before Husky Brianna Uliasz was due out for boarding. And Beach was flagged for tripping with 26 seconds on Brittany Murphy’s third period checking major…Two first period shot attempts of UConn twigs –one by Sami Evelyn in the ninth minute, another by Michelle Binning in the fourteenth minute- dinked off the crossbar…Pehkonen led all participants with nine shots on goal…PC swept yesterday’s three-star selection for the fourth time in their last seven games, with Morris, Genevieve Lacasse, and Normore honored in ascending order…With Vermont’s 4-0 loss to Boston University, the Friars –along with BC and UNH- have assured themselves a passport to the postseason with still one-third of their regular season Hockey East schedule yet to be consumed.

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com

Hockey Log: Sunday Edition

Ginand and Co. vow to stick
Northeastern preserving its promise this time

There’s no other way of saying this. When the likes of Curse of the Bambino, Seeing Red, and At Fenway essayist Dan Shaughnessy devotes his column to spotlighting Northeastern hockey –as was the case in Friday morning’s Boston Globe- they Huskies are doing something to turn heads with the ultimate magnetic pull.

No more lack of relevance as the Beanpot approaches and no more fortified conviction that merely reaching out for hardware like the regular season or playoff crown will zap a tantalizing static shock at their fingers.

They must have, for once, refined their one-dimensional, obsessive-defensive approach. Although, beyond senior Ryan Ginand, they aren’t exactly brandishing billboard-worthy scorers.

But hey, would the Dog House Dwellers rather have a molecular, disorderly conglomeration of Alex Ovechkin impersonators or a regimented legion of name-on-the-front-first Northeastern Huskies? Sometimes the customer isn’t necessarily right.

Although, the likes of Ginand has sprinkled generous sugar on the Huskies healthful run so far (17-5-2 overall coming into the weekend).

“He lights up like a Christmas tree when he gets the puck near the scoring areas,” head coach Greg Cronin said last Saturday after Ginand’s hat trick equaled the difference in NU’s 6-3 home pasting of the Friars, Part II of an assertive home-and-home sweep for the Huskies.

Lights up like a Christmas tree? That comment from the colorful Cronin –who bears a mug worthy of 24 or 007 cast consideration- either signifies a month-old case of post-holiday blues or refreshed pre-homestretch faith.

It’s pretty tough to question that faith. The tediously obvious void in Northeastern’s roll of requirements is finally showing a sturdy presence.

Ginand’s 4-1-5 totals on the past weekend swelled his season totals to 15-7-22 coming into the weekend, a pace that should have him flaunting 33 by the time the Huskies have met the two-game minimum limit for all playoff entries, which they are odds-on to do at a bare minimum.

Hypothetically, roughly 22 of those points would be goals, amounting to the most by a Husky since Mike Morris slugged home 19 and Jason Guerriero 17 in 2004-05. No other individuals in Cronin’s capstone project are on quite the same net-stuffing pace, but as a whole, Northeastern should charge up about 112 strikes by mid-March, which would be their first hustle beyond the 100-plateau since they planted 123 in 2001-02.

Of course, there was another time when Ginand was the Huskies’ primal scoring beacon. As a freshman he led the team with a grand total of 10 firsthand strikes. His 18 total points that year fell short only to Jimmy Russo’s 18.

With little much beyond that to subsist on, though (team total 67 goals), the 2005-06 Huskies were officially more shriveled than this year’s Friars, amassing but three wins –all in Hockey East action- and missing out on the postseason for the third time in four years.

Since then, they have merely subsisted too much and too long on Brad Thiessen’s gallant goaltending to hold on to any home ice privileges, much less push their campaign beyond the conference quarterfinals.

But beneath the Ginand of this year, Northeastern entered this weekend with 60 tallies to go with his 15. The remaining four-fifths have been rather smoothly split amongst 16 other puckslingers, six of them with at least five goals to their credit.

NU has had neither a festive February nor a merry March at any Causeway hockey facilities since the dusk of 1980s, back when Bruce Racine backstopped them to the Hub’s Double Crown in 1988. So by all means let their fans recreate the limbo-based anticipation many of them partook in over the 2004 Red Sox.

After all, their ultimate cushion is knowing their boys haven’t blown a tire yet.

State of disarray
There’s never a favorable time for incidents like the assault last Saturday in the final minute of a Michigan-Michigan State tangle that has since convinced partial perpetrator Andrew Conboy to dishonorably defect the Spartans.

But the timing of this play is comparatively horrid what with the NHL’s long-overdue attempts to assess the formula for dealing with fighting/unnatural infractions and the collegiate game’s renewed campaign to neutralize salty-breathed fans.

Last week, backchecking Michigan defenseman Steve Kampfer approached the oncoming puck-carrier Corey Tropp, became a touch ineptly intertwined as he thrust his body, and thus sent the Spartan on a rough jackknife dive along the center line. Upon hustling after the fugitive biscuit in his own end, Kampfer was suddenly ambushed by Tropp and Conboy, who both offhandedly applied their twigs whilst steamrolling the Wolverine along the boards.

“Whenever there’s a good hit, why does there always have to be retribution?” announcer Ken Daniels bemoaned over the FSN-Detroit airwaves while the Yost Nasties spewed unmistakable expletives at the Spartans for an entire internal and external audience to hear.

MSU foreman Rick Comley ultimately suspended Conboy and Tropp for the remainder of the season. Such a spontaneous one-strike policy is bound to flood yet another pond of debate, but theoretically, next-to-zero tolerance ought to be the most functional deterrence.

Growth in the Granite State
Myia Yates, a PC class of 1999 alumna who, in 125 ventures, meticulously crafted a perfect point-per-game career median two collegiate generations before Sonny Watrous, recently claimed a sliver of her new local spotlight as head coach of the Bishop Guertin High School Cardinals in Nashua, N.H. Nashua Telegraph scribe Tom King noted the offseason positional swap that had Yates assuming the primal whistle after serving as a sidekick to Mark Karaska.

The Cardinals, King’s column explains, “have been around for around a half-dozen years or so, but are in their second season as a full-fledged varsity competing for an NHIAA championship.”

A Minnesota expatriate when she came to Providence in 1995, Yates is suddenly vowing left and right to strengthen the seeds of women’s hockey in New Hampshire. Beyond her new duties at Bishop Guertin –where she insists better days are ahead of the team’s 2-6 start to her tenure- she is also eyeing core administrative duties with the Hudson-based Northern Cyclones program. The so-termed “Lady Cyclones” will sanction U12, U14, and U16 teams effective next season and conduct tryouts throughout April.

Quick Feeds: Not-too-distant Friar Puck alumnus Tyler Sims latched on with the AHL’s Norfolk Admirals –Tampa Bay’s top affiliate- through a PTO signed Thursday. His presumptive debut in pro hockey’s petite bourgeoisie league shall thus fall after a mere 13 games spaced over three Double-A cities (Reading, Pa., Las Vegas, Memphis) in his ten-and-a-half months removed from PC. But come what may, Admiral Sims? Fun concept for any history majors who also witnessed Sims’ record-smashing toil here, is it not?…Ex-Hockey East commissioner Bob DeGregorio, now the chieftain of the Atlantic Hockey Association, has just latched the likes of Niagara and Robert Morris –two programs bracing for eviction from the termite-riddled house that is College Hockey America- effective no later than the fall of 2010. The expectable knee-jerk inquiry from fans has concerned the ultimate fate of the more geographically scattered Alabama-Huntsville and Bemidji State. May we remind you, though, that the ripening AHA is currently led by RIT and another program based in the Rocky Mountains?...Boston College graduate Scott Clemmensen, the backstop behind four consecutive Frozen Four entries between 1998 and 2001, was voted Hockey East’s all-time Unsung Hero, out-bustling the likes of ex-Friar Fernando Pisani in that derby…This author’s picks for the out-of-market game of the week: All of the Beanpot action –men’s semifinals tomorrow at TD Banknorth Garden and women’s at Northeastern on Tuesday- is an easy enough choice, but the men’s tangle between BC and NU pits two intriguing agendas against one another. The Eagles are again yearning to momentously breach out of midseason limbo. The Huskies are again trying not the let the Garden spell Waterloo for them. And both crave the prospective privilege of forcing BU to go Potless for –Doggone it- two years in a row.

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com