The Boston College Showdown

There are several things wrong with this showdown. It really would have been nice if it had been scheduled for Friday night. That way both teams coming into the start of the second half would have been tied for first. Instead Providence begins the second half with a road trip to finish their regular season series with the Terriers of Boston University on Friday.

In many seasons, except for catching them just before or between Beanpot games, this is the weekend to catch BU. Most years BU has had players on the USA Junior team which would have finished play in the World Juniors on January 5. However BU has no one on the team this year. In fact the Terrier team the Friars face this time has been reinforced by last year's leading scorer, David VanderGulik. Boston University also did not participate in any holiday tournaments and instead opened their second half against Merrimack in a league game. They won the lack luster game 4-2 over the Warriors. BU badly out shot Merrimack, but found themselves in a battle trailing after two periods 2-1. In the third Merrimack displayed why they are a team that still is learning how to win games. Merrimack took a 5 minute major for hitting from behind with 9 minutes left in the game. The Terriers quickly tied it and before the penalty expired took the lead. BU iced the game when the evil Zancanaro twin scored an empty net goal. The win moved Boston University into a 4th place tie with Vermont. Brad Zancanaro is tied for the team lead in points with 16 and leads the team in goals with 7. VanderGulik's return saw him reunited with Brad Zancanaro and with John Laliberte the trio forms one of the better lines in Hockey East.

By playing the BC on Saturday PC finds one of its best attractions of the season conflicts with one of the top basketball attractions of the year. Now they also will be conflicting with the Patriots home playoff game. There really are not many solutions around this. BC actually might have been quite amenable to moving the game since they do have 3 players returning from the World Juniors, including their top goaltender and two top forwards. Delaying it a game would have given them an extra day to get over their jet lag. However Schneider Arena is booked for afternoon games for the women's team on both Saturday and Sunday with Niagara and Mercyhurst coming to town. These two teams are swapping games between Providence and the University of Connecticut before both make the over 8 hour journey by bus home. The only solution would have been to have moved the game to Sunday night. Since Conte is home to all the BC winter sports teams they often have to get other teams to make accommodations such as playing in the middle of the week, which the Hockey Friars have done. Still there is the balancing act of how much, with the students out would be gained in attendance on a Sunday night, especially with a last minute schedule change. The thinking might be that by the time the game is over most people will get home to see half the game on TV. Only those who have to choose between going to the game and going to Foxboro have a dilemma. Bottom line is the fact the Patriots are playing may keep away more Eagle fans then Friar fans and with the students out it may preserve a home ice advantage.

PC will be looking to avenge an early season loss to BC by a 3-2 score. In that game it was Providence who was hurt by a major penalty. BC began their post holiday part of the schedule with a trip to the Rocky Mountains. They participated and won the Denver Cup. BC playing shorthanded, due to the departure of their World Junior players, was pushed to the limit by Ferris State. To advance to the finals BC ended up needing to win a shootout, which they did 3-2. BC was hurt by taking an uncharacteristic 12 penalties. Once the Eagles had adjusted to the Mile High City and to their replacement lineup, they sailed easily past Princeton 5-1. In preparation for the Saturday contest with PC, the Eagles will face off Friday night with Northeastern. Though Northeastern has struggled a great deal this season they did manage a tie with BC on October 22.

So far this season BC is lead by senior Chris Collins who has 15 goals among his 25 points. His usual linemate is junior Brian Boyle, the 6'5" giant whose presence causes problems in front of the net. Boyle is second on the team in scoring, but has only 4 goals. Stephen Gionta, after missing the last couple of weeks before the exam break was back in the lineup and took his regular turn on this line in Denver. The second line has been affected by the World Junior play. With the return of sophomore Dan Bertram and freshman Nate Gerbe, the only question will be have they regained their legs from the tournament. Often times players returning have struggled into the second half of the season. Brock Bradford, another of BC's blue chippers, rounds out the 2nd line.

The Providence Holiday Tournament

Just before the holidays PC captured their own tournament and their first championship of any kind in almost 6 seasons. PC routed Colgate 7-1 and fought their way past Sacred Heart 5-2. The 12 goals the Friars scored represented the most goals PC had scored in back to back games since they opened the 2003-04 season against RPI and Ironically Sacred Heart. In the opening game, after some preliminary feeling out of their opponent, the Friars struck fro 3 goals in under 3 minutes and added a 4th before the initial stanza was complete. The hero of the night was captain Tony Zancanaro who scored two goals. Colgate had come into the game highly rated, but had been off for 18 days. Still they did not look like they had fully regained their stride until the final period of the consolation game the following evening against Brown, when they rallied to tie 3-3.

PC gained the championship against Sacred Heart in a game that at times looked like the Friars were mentally checking on their holiday plans. PC broke on top in the opening seconds when freshman Matt Taormina scored his first college goal. However, Sacred Heart used a bit of the old Friar game plan on PC. PC did not panic and while a good number of the Pioneer's shots were not from good positions Sacred Heart slowed down play considerably. Tyler Sims kept them off the board for most of the period while PC was out shot 14-3, but the Pioneers scored about three quarters of the way through the period to tie the game. Like how PC tried to drag teams into a slow clutch and grab affair Sacred Heart latched onto this style in this contest forcing PC to have to first get mentally back into the game and focus playing their own style. While PC never got the tempo they had against Colgate they did slowly pull away. Jamie Carroll began the second period just as the first had begun with a goal in the first minute of play. Then freshman Brad Cooper joined Taormina in scoring the first goal of his Friar career. Hopefully this will take the pressure off him to score, as Cooper was one of the highly regarded forwards PC brought in this season. For the better part of the game the referee allowed the teams to play thus aiding in Sacred Heart's game of clutch and grab to slow the Friars down. Just before the halfway point of the final period he called Sacred Heart for only a 2 minute minor for boarding instead of the required 5 minute major if it was called hitting from behind. Sacred Heart didn't get the message though, a few minutes later the referee was forced to dish out a major for that infraction. The affect of the penalty was to allow PC to wind down the clock, to have senior James Pemberton score a goal (the fourth in the tournament by a Friar defenseman—all of last season the PC defense scored by 7 goals) and to provide some important ice time to the lone Friar freshman forward still looking for his first goal. Pierce Norton had several good bids on the power play, the best of which he fired wide to the goalie's glove side. Still hopefully it was a good chance to get the feel of making things happen and lead to a more productive second half.

Winning their own tournament led to all tournament honors for Cody Wild, Torry Gajda, Tyler Sims, and Chase Watson. Gajda also picked up the MVP honors and won the Hockey East Player of the Week award With PC posting a 5-0-0 record in December the team also garnered a pair of the league's monthly awards. Tyler Sims won Goaltender of the Month and Cody Wild was Freshman of the Month.

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