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Sunday, May 24, 2009

Hockey Log: Sunday Edition

Next C should stand for Colleen
Martin the ideal pick to lead PC women in 2009-10

Colleen Martin knows how to savor even the little memories in the making, as evidenced by her actions moments prior to the Friars’ last home game of the 2008-09 season.

The day of that Hockey East preliminary round tangle with Connecticut, Martin, along with seniors Katy Beach, Steph Morris, Erin Normore, and Brittany Simpson, went along business as usual, circle kicking a footbag in the seating cavity of Section N at Schneider Arena until they had about 15 minutes to suit up for pregame warm-ups. There was nothing unusual in that regard.

But as their unofficial two-minute warning to wrap it up dawned on them and the never-tiring “Feel the rain on your skin…” chimed from the PA system, the frolicsome five went into full campfire karaoke mode.

Guess girls just want to have fun, and they naturally understood that this was their last formal pregame kick-around as a group. Appropriately, they and their active associates proceeded to take the ice and wrest away an assertive 3-0 victory.

Now roughly three months removed from that moment, and a week removed from seeing each of her four aforementioned teammates snag their degrees at the Dunk, Martin’s most trying task going forward appears to be a wholesale hackeysack rebuilding project. She should be fine in that regard, and if this author has any prophetic proficiency whatsoever, she should be willing and able to take over Simpson’s captaincy duty in another three-and-a-half months.

One of four rising seniors in the PC women’s program, Martin has long established her on-ice persona as a stay-at-home defender. She has not tuned the opposing mesh firsthand since February 25, 2007, when she converted a set-up from Sonny Watrous against UConn.

Watrous has since graduated and scored a handful of rinkside broadcasting gigs with Cox Sports and NESN. Meantime, Martin will carry a two-year, 71-game goal drought into training camp.

Beyond that, though, her data points chiefly to consistent durability, discipline, and effective drive in her blue line specialty. As a sophomore, Martin was one of 14 Friars to appear in all 36 contests and accumulated an infinitesimal eight minor penalties along the way. Meanwhile, she sprinkled four assists on her transcript but more importantly flaunted her strength in her own zone with a celestial +16 rating, exceeded only by that of the incomparable Normore (+19) and goaltender Danielle Ciarletta (+22).

This past season, Martin’s ride blew a tire when she absorbed a blindsided check via Robert Morris’ Megan Picinic, effectively sidelining her for three games during a mid-November homestand. That glitch aside, she put in 33 appearances, upped her offensive output to seven helpers, and paid a mere seven trips to the sin bin –a behavioral rate unsurpassed by any of her blue line peers except Captain Simpson.

Then there was her +10 rating, the best among any Providence skaters and four points above the club average, just as it was in 2007-08. And beyond plus/minus, there are few breeds of statistic that can size up defensive efficiency.

Granted, the obsessive-defensive Friars could stand to bulk up their offensive output if they wish to enhance their posture on both the Hockey East and national landscapes. But Martin is the type of player who can personify the popularly accepted starts-from-the-goal-out adage. Furthermore, she can make countless uncredited contributions to a scoring rush by launching it in the first place from the breakout station around her own cage.

Remember, starting now, the two-way connoisseur Normore is no longer available to singlehandedly tour the puck end to end. From here on out, someone will need to set up the breakout behind the Providence cage and call for everyone’s cooperation.

Knowing that, putting a “C” on the only senior defender’s sweater just seems natural, does it not? The amiable, vocal, and brisk Martin can summon four fellow skaters to a solid breakout the same way she could easily summon four newbies to her pregame footbag gathering.

That is, after all, where every PC women’s hockey home game essentially gets its spirited start.

Centrally focused
The PC men appear bent on making two fleeting double-dips into CCHA territory all a good week before Halloween, after which they will not venture without New England boundaries for the remainder of the 2009-2010 schedule. Additionally, there will be no new nonconference additives from last year’s oppositional roundup: Holy Cross, Notre Dame, Bowling Green, Dartmouth, and, naturally, Brown, are all back for more.

One stark difference: Friars will return the favor of Notre Dame and Bowling Green –both of whom made a one-night stop to the Divine Campus last autumn- with a two-game visit to South Bend October 15-16 and to southern Ohio the following weekend.

We’ll see how the extra early bus mileage affects the team when we cross that bridge, but it should certainly be encouraging for Friar Fanatics that the practice of scrimmaging a Canadian Interuniversity squad (New Brunswick, October 9) will return after a three year absence. It would be admittedly radical to blame the entire 2008-09 atrocity on a belated start to their game schedule, but even Friars’ head coach Tim Army acknowledged his peers didn’t come prepared for the October 17 opener versus Northeastern after merely scrimmaging each other the preceding weekend while the rest of the national got down to intercollegiate contests.

No more. One night after the Varsity Reds go back up north, the Holy Cross Crusaders are on tap to visit Schneider Arena. While there is still a lot of mending to be done for the Tim Army Corps, getting into the rhythm without delay just like everybody else can’t hurt.

Easy relief
With his Houston Aeros on the brink of a brooming from the AHL’s Western Conference final this past Wednesday, head coach Kevin Constantine initially benched PC alumnus Nolan Schaefer –a no-decision in Game 2 and the Game 3 loser- in favor of Anton Khudobin. But when Khudobin matched the mediocrity of the Manitoba Moose’s Cory Schneider (two long years removed from Boston College) to spell a 4-4 draw, Schaefer was reinstated for the overtime period. As it happened, the former Friar required a shotless shift of 2:01 before Matt Beaudoin buried the clincher, granting Houston a temporary extension to its season and Schaefer his easiest-earned victory known to the public eye.

Quick Feeds: With North Dakota bound to be sent on a new nickname scavenger hunt, this author suggests an alternative that reflects the program’s most passionate rivalry –namely the pleasantries they share with the Minnesota Gophers. How does one like the sound of “Fighting Spacklers?” Nothing is guaranteed, but it would probably be easier to obtain permission from Bill Murray and/or Warner Bros. than from the three Sioux tribes required to retain the current/former moniker…Rising second-year Northeastern women’s coach Dave Flint and Brown alumna McKenna –now the bench boss at Wesleyan University- have been tabbed as Mark Johnson’s assistants for the forthcoming Vancouver Olympics…Chris MacKenzie, Blaise MacDonald’s longtime sidekick on the UMass-Lowell coaching staff, will return to his alma mater at Niagara to plug the two-month-old head coaching void in the women’s program…With the signing of fresh Boston University graduate Jason Lawrence, the P-Bruins up their active total of former collegians to six, three of them one-time Hockey Easterners: Lawrence, ex-BU teammate Kevin Schaeffer and UNH alumnus Kevin Regan.

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com