PC Hockey Recap & Northeastern Preview

This past weekend the men's team stumbled against Vermont by a 6-2 count. Their weekend's work is not done as they get back into action Tuesday night at Northeastern. The women meanwhile rebounded from back to back road losses in the New York north country by taking 3 of 4 points from Maine.

For Bob Deraney's squad the 2 games at home represented the fist of seven straight home games to work out their early season inconsistencies. Maine came into the series as a bit of an unknown quantity. They sported a 5-2-1 at the start of the first game. However only their games against UNH and BC were against teams with winning records and they dropped both those contests.

As a result of the closeness of this series it is clear that Coach Deraney has some decisions to make on how to get the team playing as a cohesive unit. At this point he regularly uses all 18 of the skaters he dresses when all are healthy. Maine as a team exhibited good skating, team speed and seemed to force the PC defense to play back and not step into the offensive scheme. PC also failed to put consistent pressure or quality shots on net. The first line seemed too focused on running everything through Karen Thatcher who Maine keyed on defensively by smothering her when she got the puck. In turn her line mates failed to create space for Thatcher to use her speed and stick handling to create opportunities for herself or her line mates.

In particular in Saturday's 3-3 tie the first line appeared to get as many extra shifts as possible. Sunday Deraney seemed to balance the playing time more evenly. For that he was rewarded with a 4-3 victory and a couple of key goals from members of the 2nd and 3rd lines. PC grabbed a 2-1 lead on a top corner shot by sophomore Jenna Keilch. Later they retook a lead 3-2 when sophomore Kelli Doolin tipped home a shot from the point. For both players it was their first goal of the season.

The hero of the day though was junior Sonny Watrous as she scored two goals. With 9 seconds left in what had been a scoreless first period she jumped on a loose puck and tucked it home. Then about 3 minutes after Maine had tied the score for the third time She pounced on a misplayed shot by the Maine goalie. The shot popped over the goalie and once it landed behind her Watrous rammed it home.

The previous day any thought of a late Friar score were dashed by late penalty in overtime by PC. In this game Thatcher was able to get the Friars even in the first period when she outraced the Maine goalie for the puck, then weaved her way around a maze of Maine players to tuck home the short handed shot. PC would grab 1 goal leads at 2-1 and 3-2 with power play goals. Late in the first Katelynn Laffin tipped home a Kristin Gigliotti shot. In the 2nd freshman Katy Beach netted her first college goal when she redirected a puck in a goal mouth scramble.

The three points raise PC's record to 4-3-1 and 3-1-1 in league play. They presently sit in second place but have played more games then many of the teams below them. This week they again have two home games. The first is a Thursday evening encounter with Vermont who have struggled going 2-9-2 overall with a 1-2-1 league record. Their lone league win came Saturday with a win over Northeastern. On Saturday the Friars take on Boston University. BU like Providence has played more league games then most teams and has earned the most points. They have a 3-2-2 league record (which includes 5 points in their meetings with Vermont). Overall they are 5-5-3, but after a fast start have gone only 1-4 in their last 5 games. They did win their last outing yesterday against Vermont.

For the men's team the long trip up to Burlington Vermont exposed some of PC's weaknesses. In particular the lack of team speed and PC's youth. Numerous times it appeared that PC's younger players played just like young players. The nimble Vermont offense regularly created odd man rushes. That in turn put pressure on Tyler Sims in net to make the big save. However in this game Sims seemed off his game and let in several soft goals. This exposed another of PC's weaknesses. Often to shake up a team the coach will switch goalies, however with two inexperienced backups this is not a practical option this season. Actually Sims' backup this night was 3rd string goalie Chris Mannix.

Providence actually made it a game before Vermont asserted themselves. The Friars grabbed a 1-0 lead when Nate Meyers scored. Then before the tide turned dramatically in the second Jon Rheault scored a power play goal.

Vermont, playing their inaugural home game in Hockey East, would not be denied, from that point on they scored 4 unanswered goals and badly out shot PC (19-7 in the second). Vermont's win raised their record to 8-1 before they fell yesterday 2-1 to Boston College.

PC had been flying high before that game winning 5 of 6 games including a weekend sweep of Massachusetts the previous weekend. The Friars had tallied 4-2 and 3-2 wins. In the Friday home game the Friars took advantage of a late Massachusetts major penalty to tally the winning and insurance goals. The winner was a Tony Zancanaro flip over the down UMass goalie. Zancanaro also got the Friars off to a flying start the next night as he scored the first Friar goal. The Friars added a Jay Pemberton goal to go up 2-0. They squandered this lead when UMass scored 2 third periods goals. However as he had done in the pre season game freshman Cody Wild lifted the team by blasting home a shot from the top of the face off circle with about a minute and a half to go in the game.

Presently the Friars are tied for first with UNH, though Providence has played one more game then them. In fact PC has played the most league games of any Hockey East team. This week Providence plays two very important games. The first is Tuesday at Northeastern. The second is a Friday night home game against Jackie Parker and the BU Terriers. BU will come into the game having dropped both their games this past weekend. On Friday it was a tough 3-2 loss to UNH and Saturday a 4-2 decision to UMass (which was UMass's first league win of the year).

Tuesday's game represents more then just a hockey meeting between Northeastern and Providence. That in itself has become a pretty good rivalry. Two years ago all three games between these teams ended in ties as did the first game last year. Long time NU coach Fern Flaman played hockey in the city of Providence with the Old Rhode Island Reds. Both NU and Providence won ECAC championships in the years just before the split between the ECAC and the newly formed Hockey East. Northeastern was also the first team Tim's 1985 championship had to go through to get to the NCAA finals.

Now both schools are coached by coaches who live in Scarborough Maine. Actually Tim and Greg Cronin, the NU coach, go back about 16 years. Their first meeting was at Thayer Arena in Warwick RI as Tim had just become PC's top assistant and Cronin had joined Shawn Walsh's Maine staff. Then hockey life took both men in their own direction. Tim left first for the Anaheim, however at the time Tim was an assistant coach at Washington, Cronin joined the Islanders coaching staff.

After about three years of competing against each other in the NHL Tim went on to take the top position at Portland. Ironically in situating his family for his new job Tim moved into the same town Greg Cronin had set up home. Still they did not know each other lived in the same town. The year following Tim's move to Portland Cronin got the head coaching job for the Islanders top farm club in Bridgeport.

The two men always had common bond with hockey and could pick up a conversation after a period of not seeing each other. However beside the post game phone calls telling each other good game and pointing out some of the things the other's team did the two coaches found themselves talking more often. The AHL doesn't have film of every game so the coaches often use a more old fashioned way of scouting. Depending how well the coaches know each other teams outside the division, they will give reports on teams in the calling coach's division. On one such call Cronin got talking with Tim's wife and they quickly discovered they were neighbors.

The path to this meeting also seemed unlikely as last year drew to a close. Portland had played Bridgeport in the final weeks of the season and the customary phone call had been made but there was indication either would be any place but behind the bench in the AHL this season. Then after several favorite son candidates for the NU job passed on it Cronin was offered the job. Upon hearing the news Tim emailed Cronin his congratulations. About 6 weeks later with the late opening of the Providence job it was Cronin offering congratulations on getting the Providence post. One thing Tim is sure of though is that Cronin will have his Northeastern team well prepared and he expects a hard fought disciplined style of good hockey from them. For his part Tim wants to stick to the formula he sees as getting Providence to the next level, which is to play our game.

Northeastern is off to a slow start. They graduated 6 key players from last year's team. They won 2-0 on Friday night. Both of their goals were scored by Jimmy Russo a sophomore who is tied for the team lead in goals and points. The other 4 goal score is freshman Joe Vitale and the other player with 7 points is freshman Matti Uusivirta. Adam Geragosian has been in net for 6 of Northeastern's 8 games. Overall the Huskies have struggled to score averaging about 2 goals a game and giving up almost twice as many goals per game.

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