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Thursday, May 12, 2011

The 10 Best Men’s Hockey Games I Witnessed as a PC Student

10. October 20, 2007: Holy Cross 6, Providence 4
Each team converted three power plays. The Friars closed a 2-0 pothole and deleted three one-goal deficits all within a four-strike second period. And then, Crusaders’ goaltender Ian Dams thwarted PC’s threat to usurp the lead, regained on the strength of Dale Reinhardt’s goal at 2:52 of the third, protected despite a 12-3 shooting edge to Providence in the closing frame, and cemented by Peter Lorinser’s last-second empty netter.

9. February 19, 2011: Boston University 1, Providence 0
On the one hand, the Friars’ discipline was less than commendable, seeing as they drew eight penalties on themselves as opposed to two on the Terriers. On the other hand, Alex Beaudry turned in another trademark irreproachable effort, repelling 13 out of 14 power play shots and 31 out of 32 overall to keep the game competitive for the full length. And Providence equated BU’s output with 32 pelts on opposing stopper Kieran Millan, including three shorthanded tries. The only difference was Millan blinked one time fewer.

8. January 22, 2010: New Hampshire 3, Providence 2 (OT)
After Alex Beaudry withstood all but two of 41 regulation shots, and after his skating mates deleted a 2-0 deficit to force the bonus round, New Hampshire counterpart Brian Foster had his turn repelling a frenzied Friar storm. PC launched three unanswered, but unproductive overtime shots before starting center Phil DeSimone won it for the Wildcats on a fleeting rush to the other end.

7. January 31, 2009: Providence 5, Merrimack 3
It was the last hurrah in a calendar month that momentarily replenished some optimism for the 2008-09 edition of the Tim Army Corps. One evening after tying Boston College, 2-2, before an overflowing home crowd and a NESN television audience, PC issued a balanced attack and set an early tone on the power play to pace itself past the Warriors.

All 18 skaters, save rookie blueliner Danny New, contributed to a bushel of 34 shots. Although, New still had some tangible input with an assist on junior captain John Cavanagh’s goal that made it 2-0 and gave PC a 2-for-2 success rate on the power play.

But on top of that, towering senior pivot Nick Mazzolini and Cavanagh both had a 100 percent connectivity rate, scoring on both of their stabs to help sculpt a 4-0 lead by the time there was 5:44 to spare in the second. Although Merrimack regrouped to wither that difference to 4-3, Mazzolini –already with a goal-assist value pack to his credit- added insurance to his game clincher on a partial breakaway tally with 2:32 left in the third.

That effectively curtained a 4-2-2 January run for the Friars, though they proceeded to go winless for the remainder of the year.

6. December 3, 2010: Providence 3, Maine 3
A regular Chumbawmba theme night from a Providence perspective. They got knocked down, then up again, and ultimately couldn’t be kept down.

The Friars thrice went down by a goal –all owing heavily to the celestial Spencer Abbott, who nailed two and aided the other Black Bear strike. But PC thrice drew a knot, culminating in Chris Rooney’s shorthanded breakaway with 4:50 remaining in regulation.

In the bonus round, goaltender Alex Beaudry dealt with seven Black Bear bids and literally held fort long enough to bar Maine’s Tanner House from converting the walkoff strike. Initial exhilaration from the visiting sector was usurped by the Friar faithful when replays confirmed the buzzer had beaten the biscuit to the mouth.

5. November 17, 2007: New Hampshire 5, Providence 4 (OT)
This one featured three lead changes, double-digit shot counts on both sides in each regulation stanza, and five individual multipoint performances. The post-game three-star custom was not nearly enough to do justice to the sparkling efforts from each party. And, for Providence in particular, neither was Hockey East’s continued refusal to recognize overtime losses as regulation ties.

Ultimately, though, the Friars had the right to feel a little stung as they led a 1-0 edge devolve into a 3-1 deficit and then seized a 4-3 edge on two goals 11 seconds apart midway through the third, only to let it all slip. More than anybody, Pierce Norton had a right to feel gypped after he had given his team two leads.

But PC could not fault itself too much on this night, for a quartet of Wildcats were simply too stubborn to be pushed over the precipice. Visiting stopper Brian Foster did his part with 41 saves –all in regulation- and New Hampshire’s searing forward line of James van Riemsdyk, Thomas Fortney, and Paul Thompson combined for 12 of their team’s 14 points.

4. February 9, 2008: Providence 4, Vermont 3 (OT)
For what it’s worth, the reported attendance at Schneider Arena was 2,121. And as it happened, PC’s No. 21, senior captain Jon Rheault, was the unquestioned man of the night. A first period shorthanded strike to etch a 1-0 lead, followed by an assist on Greg Collins’ goal 62 ticks into the middle frame, pole-vaulted Rheault into the 100-career point club.

After the Catamounts, who had surmounted Rheault’s goal the evening prior en route to a 2-1 win, deleted a 3-1 deficit to force overtime, the captain salvaged his own special night with a delightfully-timed Dalmatian point. With 14 seconds remaining in the sudden-death stanza, he set up shop on the porch and tilted point patroller Matt Taormina’s low rider home for his second walk-off goal in as many months.

3. December 29, 2007: Providence 5, Michigan State 3
Until the 13:18 mark of the second period, the Friars had whiffed on a cumulative 64 shots and been outscored, 7-0, by Great Lakes Invitational staples Michigan and Michigan State in 93:18 of weekend play.

That finally changed when, on a two-on-one break, freshman Kyle MacKinnon let a wrist shot wipe off the cross bar like a skateboarder descending a staircase. The puck plopped into the crease and patiently waited for an incoming Jon Rheault to rake the rebound behind an unprepared Jeff Lerg.

From there, despite falling behind again, 2-1, early in the third, the Friars firestorm’ only accelerated. After a 50-save shutout at the hands of Michigan’s Billy Sauer the day prior, they tested the Spartans nine times in the first, 15 in the second, and a cyclonic 21 in the third. That, combined with a little fatigue from their semifinal game and a general lack of incentive that visibly steamed MSU head coach Rick Comley, was just enough to blow the defending NCAA champion Spartans off their pegs.

In a matter of eight minutes and five seconds, three unanswered goals via John Cavanagh, Rheault, and MacKinnon morphed a 2-1 deficit into a 4-2 lead and paced PC to a 5-3 victory. Fittingly, the nascent MacKinnon tacked on the insurance in the final minute, capping off his second multi-goal game of the month, and second of what would be seven in his career.

2. January 30, 2009: Providence 2, Boston College 2
It would be the only sellout that the House That Lou Built has seen this collegiate generation –for obvious reasons beforehand and for a justified reason thereafter.

Knowing for months that this bout with the defending national champions would be regionally televised on NESN, faces seen everywhere on campus except for the ice house overstocked the student section seeking a morsel of coveted face time. And if they took enough time to look at what the cameras were looking at, they watched a gritty grudge match that saw each team enjoy a momentary lead –BC in the first, PC in the second- before dueling goaltenders Alex Beaudry and John Muse clamped down and drew the final 2-2 knot.

1. February 19, 2010: Providence 5, Boston University 4
Neither party in this card had any cause to sympathize with the other. The host Friars were as few as two losses away from whiffing on a Hockey East playoff spot for the second year in a row. The defending national champion Terriers, ranked No. 19 in the country going into the weekend, needed every invisible point they could scrape out to salvage their hopes for an at-large NCAA tournament bid.

Accordingly and appropriately, the concoction of those storylines produced a back-and-forth, lock-and-load bout. The Terriers struck twice to grab an assertive 2-0 upper hand by 8:45 of the first period, but the Friartownies’ spirits were percolated by the endless physicality that finally broke out in hives at the 9:00 mark. The previously unblemished penalty side of the scoresheet had five entries in the last 11 minutes of the opening frame, though PC failed to hit the board on three power play opportunities.

But starting at 2:14 of the middle frame, the special teams started holding sway. PC’s Kyle MacKinnon struck twice in separate 4-on-4 segments to saw two Terrier leads in half, and it was 3-2 with only 5:50 gone. Less than 14 minutes later, after the eye of the cyclone had passed through the Schneider pond, Matt Bergland gave the Friars their first conversion in seven power plays and a 3-3 tie to take into the final stanza.

The night had only begun. The third period alone saw an incomprehensible 17-16 edge in the shooting gallery for Providence, though BU bouncer Kevin Shattenkirk restored his team’s lead with a carry-over power play bullet just 97 seconds in. But on their eighth twirl, PC’s man-up brigade set up MacKinnon’s hat trick, drawing a 4-4 knot with 14:04 to spare.

From there, it only felt increasingly like the Skating Friars’ fun-sized answer to Game Six of Bruins-Canadiens 2008. The Friars’ nightlong persistence, combined with the Terriers’ incurable disciplinary ailment presaged a first-time and permanent lead for the scrappy home squad.

Lo and behold, during a 5-on-3 segment, with 5:25 to go, the MacKinnon machine fell inches short of the key conversion. He settled for an assist as Aaron Jamnick swooped in the extract the rebound and buried it through a screen of fallen columns, giving Schneider Arena its strongest dose of stimuli in at least two years.

PC was eliminated from playoff contention the following night at Agganis Arena, but it was a refreshing sendoff to the student rooters, who would miss the season’s final two home games due to spring break.

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com