Friars Hockey Season Ends

When UNH converted their scoring chance shortly after the halfway mark of the second overtime it brought an end to what had been an exciting and unexpected hockey season. Forced to play on the road the Friars were eliminated in two straight games by UNH.

Still the Friar's year ranks as one of their most successful in league play. I will break it down a bit more when I wrap up the season in a few weeks, but all one must do is look at league wins, points and how many points behind first place we finished and you will see some of the best numbers by PC in the league's 22 year history.

PC came into the quarterfinals struggling. They had gone 3-5-2 in the previous ten games and averaging only 2 and a half goals a game after having average over 3 a game the first 22 games of the season. Included in that struggle were losses to the two Hockey East teams which failed to make the playoffs. PC was also fighting the injury bug. In particular they felt the loss of two of their seniors, Nate Meyers and James Pemberton.

Through their early season success and most of the recent slump Coach Army had stuck with a stable lineup and generally gave everyone ice time, which in theory kept everyone fresh for the final push. The reality was it did not seem to work as several key players went into slumps as the games got larger. Most noteworthy were the struggles of Torry Gajda who lead the team in scoring, but over the final twelve games had only 4 points. As a result of the injuries and the slumps adjustments were made to the lineup. Freshman Brad Cooper who had scored but 1 goal all season sat and an extra defenseman was dressed. Jon Rheault who had been the top offensive threat down the home stretch was moved into Torry Gajda's spot on the first line. Coach Army also created a big line of Nick Mazzolini, Dylan Cox and Pierce Norton, all of whom are over 200 pounds.

Despite the changes on opening night the Friars could find little in the way of offense. The first period played out scoreless. However in the second PC quickly got themselves into a hole they would not dig themselves out of. First Jacob Micflikier from the top of the crease pushed a rebound home, then UNH top guns Daniel Winnik and Brett Hemmingway combined for a redirected goal by Hemmingway .while on the power play. For Providence the best they could muster was a hit cross bar by Jon Rheault while PC was on the power play late in the period.

In the final period UNH put the game away. Early on Winnik took a Micflikier pass and whistled a shot from just above the crease past Tyler Sims. Down by 3 and time ticking away Sims was pulled on the next PC power play attempt to give the Friars a 2 man advantage. Wildcat Josh Ciocco spoiled that plan, when with the puck already out of the PC offensive zone, he stole a PC pass, zipped past the lone PC defender and drove past the face-off circles where he had a perfect shot for UNH's final goal into an open net.

PC's final stand was one of those games you remember forever. Unfortunately for PC they lost 2-1 in double overtime. I've based my road game reports this year on accounts from several people who go to almost all the road games. This was the first time this year they said it would be difficult to convey the true feel of this game. With that caveat out of the way the reader should try to draw a picture of this game being one of the best games the Friars played this season. They did not go down without a fight.

For this game PC made a few minor adjustments. Again PC dressed an extra defenseman and in this game Brad Cooper was in the lineup, Bryan Horan was sat down. Rheault was on a line with Tony Zancanaro and Colin McDonald to begin the game and Kyle Laughlin was put on the line Rheault had played with the night before. The Cox-Mazzolini-Norton combination was kept together. Finally Gajda was spotted in the lineup as Coach Army attempted to keep fresh legs available.

Paramount to PC being successful in this game was the necessity to break out first on the scoreboard. The Friars had come into this game having been shut out in three straight playoff games. PC did score the first goal of the game; however it took until 3:20 of the second period to get the marker. The first period had been scoreless, which has been a problem for PC when they have put some of their best efforts into the initial period, yet have often time not gotten the goals that reflect their control of play. Then against many good teams the tide slipped away as the game went on and PC's lack of a sniper to finish off a team came to the fore.

The Friars got the jump on their first power play attempt of the game. While on the power play the Friars worked the puck to Nick Mazzolini for a shot. That attempt was blocked; however the rebound was left for Colin McDonald to drive back into the net. Later in the period though, while UNH was on the power play, the Wildcats tied it up. Hemmingway was centering the puck when it appeared to hit Micflikier, bounce to the ice, where Micflikier directed it into the net. Sims was unable to get from the left side of the net to the right side where Micflikier was positioned.

The third period was also scoreless. However there was no shortage of good chances, however both PC's Tyler Sims and UNH's Jeff Pietrasiak were up to the task of keeping their team in the game. Sims robbed Winnik early in the period and late in the period with the help of his defense he snuffed out a series of UNH shots while they were on a late power play. UNH had gotten a break when PC was called for interference late in the period. The power play would carry over into the first overtime. PC had a stellar bid to break the tie in the final minute of regulation when Rheault fired the initial shot, which Pietrasiak stopped and Cody Wild was stopped on the rebound bid.

UNH came out hard in both overtime periods and attempted to end the contest quickly. Sims came up extremely big in the overtimes, stopping 26 shots in the 34 minutes of overtime that was played. PC also had glittering chances. In the first overtime Trevor Ludwig found himself on a breakaway only to be stoned. In the second OT Pierce Norton had a series of shots, the last of which sailed high, and Jon Rheault, after missing a shift found himself ahead of the pack, but had to settle for a hard shot.

Finally completely out of gas the Friars saw the game turn and end in seconds. Trying to push one more attack Rheault went down again. Reports were that he actually had become dehydrated. UNH took the attack to the Friars and when a rebound popped loose Winnik pounced on it and beat Sims with his shot.

For his part Tyler Sims played a game that was shades of some of Chris Terreri's playoff efforts. UNH fired 61 shots at Sims who saved all but two. In particular when PC was clearly out of gas and UNH controlled the bulk of play in overtime it was Sims who came up huge time and again.

With the defeat the Friars find their season has ended. Their hopes of an NCAA bid had slipped away as they fell from home ice. Still when people look back at some future date, this game may very well be pointed to as one of the turning points in PC's return to hockey prominence.

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