PC Men's Hockey Playoff Preview

Friday evening Providence opens the quarterfinals of the Hockey East Hockey Tournament at BU in the new Agganis Arena. The opening round is a best of 3 series with the second game scheduled for Saturday and a deciding game, if necessary, on Sunday. In regular season play this year the Friars dropped all three games between the two teams.

An opening round game between PC and BU has become practically a Hockey East Tradition. Since 1999 PC has now faced BU 5 times in the first round. Providence took the 1999 and 2001 series in three games, both at Schneider Arena. BU won the last two in two game sweeps in 2002 and 2003. The 2002 series was at Walter Brown and the 2003 games at Schneider.

The Friars enter the series playing their best hockey of the season. They have won 3 of their last 4 games and moved up to 7th place in the final standings. Part of the reason for playing better was the stabilization of the lineup.

In goal the Friars are getting solid work from freshman Tyler Sims. Sims was named Rookie of the Week for Hockey East last week. Sims has provided one of the hopes for the future for Providence. As the season wore on he began to see more and more work. He has been in net for all but one game since relieving David Cacciola about 5 minutes into the February 13th game against Lowell. Sims has not faced BU at all this year so he also has the advantage of having studied them while they have not seen him.

Providence also has both Trevor Ludwig and Mark Bastarache back in the lineup. Ludwig missed time with a shoulder injury and Bastarche with a wrist problem. Their return coincided with PC's win streak. Again consistency in the lineup has been paying off. PC has been pairing captain Jeff Mason with James Pemberton and Dinos Stamoulis with Eric Lundberg. All have played solid defense at late. The freshmen combo of Ludwig and Bastarache then plays as a 3rd pairing giving the others valuable time to rest their legs. Having 6 defensemen they can count on in the lineup has been a big boost to the Friars.

Up front the lines have not been as set. The top line is the team's leading scorer Chris Chaput who has 28 points including 20 assists. The top sniper on his line is Jamie Carroll who was tied for the team lead with 11 goals. The third member of the line is junior Torry Gajda who after a slow start netted 6 goals on the season. The core of the second line is sophomore Colin McDonald, who also scored 11 goals, and freshman Jon Rheault, who scored 9 in his first season. Last week the line was adjusted to have Bill McCreary on wing, the previous week they used senior Dave Carpentier. Other key forwards are Chase Watson who had 18 points on the season and Nate Meyers whose 6 goals doubled his previous career totals.

Part of the reason for the musical chair game with the forwards is that despite winning 4 of the last 5 the Friars in that stretch still average just over 3 goals a game. In league play the average was just over 2 goals a game and overall for the season it ended up about 2.5 goals a game. They are still searching for some answers when it comes to goal scoring.

Providence is also looking at playing a more disciplined game as playoff games tend to be low scoring. PC has consistently taken more penalties then their opposition and their penalty kill has shown the affect of so much playing time. The Friars had the next to the worst penalty kill team in the league. While BU is not as good on the power play as past BU teams have been, they still finished in the middle of the pack in Hockey East in power play conversion.

The road jinx PC has carried all year was finally broken in next to the last road game of the season at Merrimack. PC actually has a 2 game winning streak on the road. However they finished the year with a 2-11-1 road record. BU on the other hand was 11-4-2 at home though only 4-2-2 at the Agganis Arena which opened in January.

BU also is playing some of their best hockey of the year. They ended the year on an 8-1-3 tear. With other teams faltering they also moved up in the standings on the last weekend of the season.

Through the course of the year BU has found their most consistent goalie was their most unheralded goalie. John Curry won the job early in the year and has played well all year long. He ended up with an 11-5-3 records and a 2.12 goals against. He did miss time due to a shoulder injury. Due to that injury he played only the early season game in the Providence-BU series. He won that game 3-2.

The BU defense has been suspect at times. Their best combination is Dan Spang and Kevin Schaeffer. Both are solid two way defenders who play a role in BU's offense. The rest of the BU defense is more stay at home types trying to avoid costly mistakes.

Like PC BU can not afford to make many mistakes. Their offense rated in the middle of the league but production dropped in the 2nd half of the year despite their very good record. Their offense is spread around among its top 3 lines. Their biggest threat is David Van der Gulik. Last year BU barely made the playoffs, the boost they got from the play of freshmen Pete MacArthur, Chris Bourque and Brian Ewing was the needed lift to rise from 8th to 2nd.

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