PC Hockey Update

This past weekend both Friar teams split their games. Both teams dropped one sided contests to their league's top team and had an impressive showing against a team they had to beat. The men lost to BC 8-3 on Friday night but rebounded with a 4-1 win against the University of Massachusetts. The women began their work on Saturday with a solid 6-1 win against Boston University, but fell at New Hampshire 4-1 the following day.

For the men there were few positives to be taken from the loss at BC. Providence played a solid first period until BC found the back of the net on two weak goals. In response Coach Army lifted Tyler Sims from his second consecutive start in favor of Stephen Ritter at the beginning of the second period. PC got back into the game following a strong penalty kill. Chase Watson converted passes from Colin McDonald and Nate Meyers. The momentum was short lived as BC regained their two goal lead 30 seconds later. Midway through the period PC showed some life in responding to BC making the lead 3 goals. Captain Tony Zancanaro positioned himself in front of the net and deflected a James Pemberton blast from the point into the net. However before the period ended BC had regained the 3 goal lead.

The third period saw the game turn into a rout. Ritter seemed to be fighting the puck all game long and in a 5 minute span he allowed BC to build the lead to 6. PC's only response was Chase Watson's second goal of the game.

There were few positives to take from this game. The defense seemed again to have a very flat performance which left Ritter hung out to dry. The offense seemed to stall when BC used their speed to get in the Friars' faces and stop them in their tracks. The game did show however that despite the score though PC would not purposely fall back into the passive offense they used last year. While the quality of shots was not great the Friars did out shoot BC 32-29. It was also a positive to have the team's top playmaker, Watson, look to take the open shots and convert them. One major problem was simply PC does not have enough talent to match BC line for line. Until the disparity in talent is evened up a bit winning games like this will prove difficult.

Providence responded in the best way possible for a team with its back against the wall. They put together a solid effort against one of the teams in the league they must beat if they are to gain home ice in March. Providence gained control of the game from the opening face-off and except for a let down during the second half of the second period, they played a complete game.

In the first period which the Friars completely dominated PC scored two goals. Both goals came shortly after penalties had expired. The first goal saw Nate Meyers emerge from the box and follow the play down low. When James Pemberton fired a shot on net, Meyers knocked it loose and pushed it in the direction of freshman Nick Mazzolini. With PC's successful kill of their second penalty of the night, Torry Gajda got out ahead of the pack, taking a lead pass from Dinos Stamoulis, and deked out Massachusetts goalie Gabe Winer for his career best 14th goal of the season.

Massachusetts made its noise in the second period. Slowly building up momentum the Minutemen got on the board when Cory Quirk intercepted an errant clearing pass and blasted it past Tyler Sims. Massachusetts continued to apply the pressure hemming PC in their zone for significant stretches at a time. They almost had another clear break when another errant pass was intercepted just over the blue line. The Massachusetts player in his haste to take advantage carried the puck into the zone before his team's fore checkers cleared resulting in the play being blown offside.

PC regained control of the game early in the third period. PC began an abbreviated power play a couple of minutes into the period. James Pemberton set up Jon Rheault for a shot from the right wing face off area. Winer let the puck fall to his feet, had it roll behind him and when one of his defenseman came to his aid it appeared it was pushed into the net. Tony Zancanaro was credited for the goal. Shortly afterwards Kyle Laughlin redirected a Stamoulis slap shot.

Against Massachusetts the Friars got a strong effort from the defense. They limited UMass to 27 shorts defensively and garnered 5 assists offensively. The Friars also capitalized on special teams with a power play goal and 2 goals right off the penalty kill. Finally, while still appearing to fight the puck Tyler Sims seems to have shaken off most of the sluggishness that saw him lifted twice.

It should also be noted this Friar team has done a good job of staying out of the penalty box. In a year when the referees are calling games tighter, with particular emphasis on giving majors for hits near the boards the Friars have gone from being ranked as the 3rd leading penalized team in Hockey East to being the 4th least penalized. They've also made progress on special teams. Last year the power play ranked dead last, this year it ranks 4th. Meanwhile the penalty kill has risen a spot to 5th. Overall on special teams the Friars rank 3rd in the league.

For the women the quality game was the home effort against BU. Having dropped their previous outing to BU, the Friars realized they had to pressure the BU defense. The Terriers have built their team around defense and seem to have the most trouble when they have to play from behind.

The Friars put the Terriers in that hole late in the first period. Providence kept up a steady stream of shots on goal during the entire period. Finally junior Sonny Watrous worked a nice passing play from Ashley Payton resulting in the first goal of the game. The goal was Watrous' 100th career point. Payton continued to shine in the second period as she notched the team's second and third goals. The first was a wrist shot she rifled by the BU goalie who appeared not to see the puck. On the second goal Payton popped in the rebound of a Katelynn Laffin shot. Despite PC dominating the period BU did get one goal. With the Terriers on the power play they were able to work the puck down low where Nicki Wiart backhanded a loose puck over Jana Bugden.

In the final stanza the Friars finished off the Terriers. First Kathleen Smith had her shot deflected in the net by Laffin for a power play goal. Next Watrous dug the puck out of the corner and set up freshman Erin Normore for her 5th goal of the season. Finally Cherie Hendrickson and Rachel Crissy hemmed the puck in the BU zone and when Hendrickson forced a BU defender to cough up the puck Crissy hopped on it and knocked a shot by BU goalie Wilcox.

For the game the Friars fired 51 shots on net. The game also saw Karen Thatcher get four assists putting her over the 100 mark in career assists. Bugden stopped 17 shots to earn the win.

After the game and before the snows came PC headed for their last match with UNH. Unfortunately for the Friars their second trip to UNH proved no more fruitful then their first.

Badly outshoot in the first period the Jana Bugden kept Providence in the game by turning aside 14 UNH shots. However with just 8 minutes gone in the second period Providence took back to back penalties which forced Providence to play 5 on 3. UNH converted the 2 man advantage, and then proceeded to score with the one man advantage 13 seconds later. Just before the end of the period PC got what would be their only tally of the game. Kristin Gigliotti carried the puck into the zone, sliced a pass through the UNH defense sending Karen Thatcher in on goal alone. Thatcher fired a wrist shot which caught the left post and went in. Originally the referee waved off the goal, but after consulting with the linesmen, he ruled it good.

In the third period PC surrendered two more goals. While the first goal was an even strength goal by UNH's top line, the second one was yet another power play goal. In total PC took 9 penalties compared to 4 for UNH. Providence was also out shot by a 44-13 margin. The loss marks the first time Providence has dropped the entire season series to UNH since the advent of Hockey East.

This weekend the women find themselves on the verge of being eliminated from the fight for first place. More importantly they find their backs against the wall as they fight to overtake Boston College for second place. The Eagles and Friars will square off Saturday in Providence and Sunday at Conte Forum. PC goes into the contest trailing the Eagles by 5 points. After this weekend both teams will have two games left on their schedule. If PC loses even one game this weekend BC will clinch 2nd place. If the Friars take at least 3 points they will need to rely on Maine to prevent BC from gaining the remaining points needed to clinch. Providence will be facing Connecticut, the team Maine is in contention with for the final playoff spot. The worst case scenario is that PC drops both games to BC and both games to Connecticut while Maine sweeps BC after sweeping Vermont this weekend. Connecticut either by getting even a point in their series with UNH this weekend or simply by virtue of winning the season series with PC would eliminate PC from the playoffs.

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