PC Hockey Tournament Field is Impressive

The Friars play host to their third, and what appears to be for now, final tournament this week. On Wednesday PC will face off with Colgate after the preliminary game of Brown against Sacred Heart. The opener is set for 4 PM with PC's game beginning around 7.

This year the tournament now simply called the Providence Holiday Tournament will be played at Schneider Arena. Ironically the field this year might be the best field in the tourney's three year run. For the first time in this period Providence is playing solid hockey. Colgate provides a strong foe that has been very successful over the last few seasons. Brown should help more with having a fan base close at hand that might travel cross town to catch a pre-holiday game or to raise the level of interest among the casual fan that can see both local teams in one location on the same day. Finally Sacred Heart is proving to be a solid member of the AHCA.

Next year the Friars will not host a tournament. At Christmas time next year the Providence team will travel to Wisconsin to be part of the Badger Classic. The following year they will participate in the Great Lakes Invitational. With 27 league games Hockey East schools can only play 7 non conference games, which makes hosting this type of tournament, while participating in higher profile tournaments, difficult. PC also is committed to the Mayor's Cup game each year limiting their flexibility even more.

In the week prior to the exam break the Friars seemed to have shaken the scoring draught that dogged them for almost a month. They come into the tourney off three straight solid efforts including wins against Hockey East rivals Boston University and Maine and a convincing Mayor's Cup triumph over Brown.

In a concession to get Brown into this tournament Providence will face the toughest team in the field in the opening round. Colgate has been on a roll the since the 2003-04 season. That year they compiled a 22-12-5 record and ended up 3rd in the ECACHL. Last year they improved on that record going 25-11-3 before dropping a Midwest regional game to Colorado College 6-5. In an ironic twist the interim coach of the 2003-04 Colgate team is present PC assistant Stan Moore. Last year Moore was the associate head coach as Don Vaughan returned to the top job.

This year Colgate again has gotten off to a solid start. Their record is 10-2-3 overall and 6-1-1 in league play. Technically they are in 2nd place in the ECACHL, but they have 4 games in hand on first place Harvard. Their success on the ice has them on the verge of a top ten ranking (which in hockey are the only spots that are meaningful if you look at polls).

Colgate is a veteran team. They are led in net by sophomore Mark Dekanich who has played in 14 of their games and has a 1.98 goals against average. Colgate plays good team defense even though that might be one of the younger areas on the team. Of their top 5 defensemen two are freshmen. Their defensive corps appears quite capable of jumping into the offensive flow. However they seem to lack the scorer from the blueline that PC is developing in Cody Wild. Their top blue liners are Mike Campienes and freshman Nick St Pierre. They also throw two solid lines. The top line is Tyler Burton and James Winchester their top goal and point producers respectively along with Peter Bogdanich. The second line is Marc Fulton, Jon Smyth and Kyle Wilson. Wilson is the top threat with 13 goals.

The Colgate resume does lack for solid victories and like PC they are looking for a top ranked out of conference opponent to knock off. Colgate is seeking what they would consider a big victory on PC's home ice. In games against common opponents the Raiders have easily knocked off Lowell just prior to us shutting Lowell out twice, they have an easy victory against Brown and a tie against RPI. Colgate's win total has been boosted by a pair of wins against AHCA teams. Colgate has also managed a 4-1-1 record in their last 6 games. However each of their victories have been by one goal.

Brown is a stronger team then they showed when they played at PC the beginning of the month. However the record shows them in a deep slump going 0-6-1 since November 19. Overall their record is 2-8-1 with losses to both Colgate and Providence. The Brown wins have been home wins against two teams Providence lost on the road to, St Lawrence and Clarkson.

Brown relies on sophomore Adam D'Alba in net as he has seen action in 10 of Brown's 11 games. D'Alba has a .890 save percent and a goal's against average of 3.22. Defensively they call upon seniors Pete LeCain, who scored the lone Brown goal against PC, and Paul Crusty, who is one of the chippier players on the squad. Jeff Prough, a sophomore leads the team in both goals and points with 5 and 9 respectively. Brian Ihnacak had been out of the lineup since their losing streak began. He was instrumental is the Brown sweep over Clarkson and St Lawrence, netting 4 points including 2 goals that weekend.

The fourth team in the tourney is AHCA member Sacred Heart. The Pioneers coming in with an 8-6-1 record but they too have been in a slump as of late dropping their final 3 games before their break Their biggest victory of the year was over a common opponent of all the teams in the tourney. In early December Sacred Heart upset RPI at the Houston Field House 4-3.

The key for Sacred Heart is the play of their goalie Jason Smith who has played in 14 of their 15 games. Smith possess a 2.21 goals against average while saving 92 percent of the shots against him. Smith is the lone NHL draft choice on the Pioneer roster having been drafted by the New Jersey Devils. Offensively the Pioneers are led by Pierre-Luc O'Brien with 8 goals 14 assists and 22 points.

The exam break halted the momentum PC built up following a disappointing tourney appearance at RPI. Since that time they have defeated Hockey East powers Boston University and Maine and convincingly retook the Mayor's Cup from Brown.

The question for PC would be will this be the week back up goalie Stephen Ritter gets a start. Having a couple of weeks off since his last start and with the next action a couple of weeks away there is no worries about Sims being over worked. On the other hand Ritter has had only mop up roles this year. Coach Army has settled on a very small rotation so there most likely will be few if any changes in the lineup. After having trouble scoring goals for a 3 week period PC has successfully opened things up in their last three games. The question then is how long will it take for PC to shake off the exam rust and be ready to play against a ranked opponent.

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