In his preseason review of the team the one thing that Coach Army stressed he needed most was the need for his goaltending to give the team a chance to get a feel for the game and to give them a chance to win every night. Right out of the gate his plans for an early goaltending rotation feel apart. During captains practice Ryan Simpson again injured himself and to this point has yet to see any action.
While not to shoulder the whole blame much of PC's early road problems fell on Tyler Sims. Opening night at St Lawrence he was given a 1-0 lead in the second only to cough up the lead a minute and a half later. Next night at Clarkson he surrendered a goal just over 2 minutes into the game and another before the first period ended putting PC back in the position that killed them all last year. They had to try to get their offense in gear while playing from behind. They failed to do so that night losing to highly regarded Clarkson 2-0.
A week later they opened their Hockey East play at Northeastern. Once again PC got off to a 1-0 lead only to let Northeastern tie the score less then a minute later. They regained the lead at the start of the 3rd period only to let NU back in with a power play goal and then lost the game less then a minute into overtime.
Finally in their 4th game of the season the Friars got to play at home. Having struggled to get their offense going on the road the Friars were able to put up 4 scores. However they continually were scoring the goals to get themselves back in the game. Sims once again started in goal and once again he let the Friars slip behind the eight ball, though not all of it was his own doings. In the first period the Friars came out real sluggish having played the Northeastern game on the road the night before while Holy Cross was fresh. Before the game was 5 minutes old the Friars found themselves down 2-0 having given up two power play goals. Early in the second the Friars struck as quickly as the Crusaders had in the first and tie the score back up. That set the pattern for the period. Twice in the period the Crusaders jumped out in front. Twice the Friars came back to tie it.
Still the goaltending did not allow PC to get control of the game. Eventually the game slipped away when Holy Cross converted their third power play of the evening. Any final hopes for a PC comeback were dashed with an open net goal. PC lost the real advantage of the extra attacker when they put the extra attacker on the ice faster then when Sims was within 5 feet of the bench. So while PC pressed the attack in their zone a whistle was blown and the face off brought out to center ice.
Losing 4 straight necessitated falling back to the wild card Coach Army played last season. He again inserted 3rd string goalie Chris Mannix in net. It seemed to light a fire under the team. The benefit was that they got an early lead by virtue of a first period goal by sophomore Greg Collins, saw a questionable UMass goal not allowed when reviewed, and stretched the lead in the opening seconds on the final period. That breathing room allowed them to hold on to a slim lead when UMass followed with a tally seconds later and wait for an opportunity to again strike for a score as the clock was ticking down. Jon Mori made a nice move out of the corner to get in front of the net to score his first collegiate goal.
The following night Mannix was again in net and this time he was repeatedly called upon to keep PC in the game. In the second period he was given a 1-0 lead when Pierce Norton scored his second goal of the year. Mannix had to make many crucial saves as PC was out shot during those 2 periods by a 25 to 17 count. The lead disappeared shortly before the end of the period. In the final period, as they had shown in the Holy Cross game, PC proved they can answer when the other team grabs a lead. Twice the Minutemen grabbed a one goal lead and twice the Friars answered. The second tally came with 6 seconds left and the goalie pulled.
The most disappointing game of the season though was the most recent home game which saw them drop a 5-2 decision to Boston University which was winless to that point. Chris Mannix again started in goal and despite it being clear BU was dominating this game by setting the style, he gave PC a chance to win this game.
PC actually made an early attempt to let the physical Terriers know they would not be pushovers, however their attempt at that landed Trevor Ludwig in the penalty box just 8 seconds into the game. BU got a second power play chance about 5 minutes later, but this time while killing the penalty Jon Cavanagh made the most of an opening and as he came around the net he placed a pin point pass on the fast closing Matt Taormina's stick. Toarmina converted the play for his 3rd goal of the season, which ties him with two other defensemen for the league lead in goals by a defenseman.
The second period proved to be the Friar's undoing. They seemed to have their speed bottled up by the tight checking and trapping of the Terriers. Then fate worked against the Friars when a pair of player ended up playing without their sticks which led to a poor change after PC finally cleared, the puck. The alert BU goalie head manned the puck to a breaking BU player on what amounted to a 4 on 1 break. BU quickly tied the score and with the weight of their attack adding up they found the back of the net two more times.
PC did make a game of it on a nice solo effort by Jon Rheault as he scored the Friar's second short handed goal of the game. However the Terriers again regained the momentum quickly getting the goal back on the same power play and then icing the game on a short handed effort.
So far this season the Friars have been unable to put the team they really want on the ice. They have played the whole season without Ryan Simpson, thus limiting the goaltending choices. They have missed their most dynamic player, Cody Wild who was injured in the second period of the Northeastern game for the past 3 games. They also were missing top play maker Jon Cavanagh for the first 4 games of the season.
During that time PC has regularly played two freshmen defensemen and up to 6 freshmen forwards in each game. At times each of the players have looked quick. While he has not scored any points yet, Joe Lavin has looked solid on defense and it appears only a matter of time before he is able to make his presence felt on the offensive side of the puck. Eric Baier scored a goal in the Holy Cross game and has been a physical presence. To this point none of the freshmen forwards have scored a goal. Kyle MacKinnon looks like he has all the tools and has shown flashes of the speed he was reputed to posses. Austin Mayer the local product, has also shown his speed, however he still has to figure how best to convert his chances into good scoring opportunities. The other freshmen have shown flashes of what is expected of them. However they have also made freshmen mistakes. Kremyr and Farrer have taken 5 minute majors for hitting from behind. Kremyr's was the critical play in the Northeastern loss and Farrer's came early in the Holy Cross game which created the opening for the Crusaders to grab a 2-0 lead. Ian O'Connor took a critical 3rd period minor penalty that led to the winning goal in the Cross game.
At this point last year PC was 2-4-1. They had scored 2 more goals and given up the same number of goals. If they can get Simpson into a game and let him work off the rust, they might actually be able to improve on their defensive numbers when compared to last year. At this point in last season they lost Simpson for the year and thus limited Army's choices for how to handle the goalie situation. Offensively from this point in the season to late January last year the team went into a major offensive funk. If they can instead build on what they have and get the defensemen and freshmen forwards involved they might be able to show a much better offensive game in the coming weeks.
Their immediate problem is the Maine Black Bears. They travel this weekend up to Orono to face off against the 4-2-1 Bears. The Maine losses were both suffered on the road opening weekend in Denver. Their most recent game was a 1-1 tie with Boston College. Maine's biggest strength is its goalie Ben Bishop. The 6'6 giant has a goal per game under 2 and a save per cent of .935. That means PC is going to have to take advantage of their special team opportunities and press to get high quality shots. Maine is like PC in that they did not return much firepower. They are also working 5 freshmen into their lineup on a regular basis. Their big advantage is that they have had several seniors step up and lead the early season success. Bret Tyler and Wes Clark lead the team in scoring with 7 points, Clark has a team leading 4 goals. Maine is scoring less then 2 and a half goals a game which leaves them within range of the struggling Friar offense if Providence can get untracked.
At the moment though the Maine team is also dealing with an off ice incident that might at least distract them. This week Maine has been rocked by another athletic scandal and most likely will not have the services of freshman Tanner House. Maine has had several embarrassing situations, most notably the cupcake hazing incident of their softball team. House got himself into a jam this past weekend when the 21 year old freshmen was summoned for unlawful sexual touching and assault while at a bar. Word is the University of Maine's president had already put on notice the athletic department that the penalty would be doubled if any more problems cropped up.
October Hockey Wrap-Up
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