Some people choose to hit the gym, perhaps
eat a salad instead of a triple bacon cheeseburger
loaded with hot sauce, chili fries and mozzarella
sticks or maybe dive into the books a little harder
during their next semester at school. Others may rather
smile more when seeing a stranger in public, amend
past wrongs or take up a new hobby.
New Year’s resolutions come in
all shapes and sizes, but there was one resolution
that occurred in Providence long before Dick Clark
reunited with his annual Rockin’ Eve Party.
Over the summer, Tim Army took over a floundering
Friar program with the intention of revolutionizing
the product on the ice and the appeal of it away from
Whether people want to believe it or
not, Army’s mission is on the offensive. Providence
holds onto an 8-2-1 Hockey East record heading into
the second portion of the conference schedule, the
same exact mark as that preseason favorite Boston
College. Both squads have a one-point advantage over
UNH for the league lead and a six-point edge on Vermont
and Boston University, which are in a tie for fourth.
With five wins in a row, the Friars
are the hottest team in Hockey East right now; they
haven’t lost a game since two days after Thanksgiving.
The thing is, there's no serious buzz about Providence
in terms of winning the regular season league crown
for the first time in Hockey East history. It's a
history that began in 1984 when – by the way
– Tim Army’s 60 points as a senior for
PC were the most in the conference.
Providence’s championship virginity
is one of the reasons the Friars aren’t being
looked at as a serious contender. Another is that
they have only played five of their 11 league games
against teams that are currently at least .500, and
the Friars are only 2-2-1 against those opponents.
However, those two losses (BC, UVM) came two months
ago while the two wins (Maine, UVM) came in December.
Ask PC senior Torry Gajda, whose 12
goals and 24 points lead his team, why his boys in
black and white are so disrespected, and he’ll
give you an honest answer – on top of a newfound
“It’s been that way since
I’ve been here,” Gajda said. “I
hate to say it, but I’m used to it, and I’m
getting sick of it. Over the last few years, nothing
has been done about it, but this year something is
being done. Because of Coach Army, our whole mindset
is, ‘We’re Providence College, and we’re
the team to beat, not BC, not UNH and not Maine.’
We’re not afraid to play those teams. We’re
not going in there looking for a tie or just hoping
to get a win. We’re going in there trying to
win and expecting to win.”
With 10 of their final 16 games against
the top teams in the league, Gajda and company have
themselves a serious opportunity to back that swagger
up. It all starts Friday with a game against BU at
Agganis – where Providence’s season ended
in the first round of the playoffs last year. Saturday
the Friars shift back to The Coffin for a spotlight
matchup with Boston College.
“It’s obviously a tough
weekend,” Gajda acknowledged. “If we come
out of it with two points, I think it will be a solid
weekend for us. But obviously we’re looking
for four. That’s been our mindset all year to
go after it and go after it every game no matter who
we’re playing. We obviously want to take four
[points], but if we can take a couple points and get
the ball rolling right off the bat, I think that will
definitely be a good start for us.”
The true start to this journey happened
when Army challenged his players not to settle for
mediocrity over the summer. It then took shape with
a strong start against league opposition in October,
which propelled the Friars to the top of the standings
early and has kept them there since. Now, Tim’s
army must prove they can stay there throughout the
intense second-half schedule.
But this is a challenge they are welcoming
with open arms. Why shouldn’t they? Rather than
jockeying for one of the last playoff seeds or the
chance at hosting a first-round playoff series, these
Friars can make history. It appears that, for the
first time in years, Providence will be playing some
meaningful hockey in March.
“We’re going for it,”
Gajda said. “We’re not holding back. We’re
not hoping to get first place, we’re going out
there to try to get it. We’re going after teams,
and I think we’ve got a great shot to get it.”
SEEN AND HEARD IN HOCKEY EAST
Happy Holidays, indeed –
‘Tis the season of family parties,
college football bowl games and college hockey holiday
tournaments. And Hockey East teams were loving their
gifts during tournament time because, in addition
to unwrapping their presents, three teams from HEA
were new owners of some shiny hardware.
Right before Christmas, Providence won
its own Holiday Classic by running away with victories
over Colgate and Sacred Heart. Boston College walked
away from the Wells Fargo Denver Cup with a championship
after outlasting Ferris State and Princeton even without
the services of starting goalie Cory Schneider, who
was playing for the United States in the World Junior
Championship. Backup netminder Joe Pearce was the
recipient of the tournament’s Most Valuable
Player award after stopping 53 of the 57 shots he
faced in the two wins.
But the most impressive performance
in these tournaments came from Vermont sophomore goalie
Joe Fallon, who turned away all 37 shots he faced
during UVM’s championship run in their very
own Catamount Cup. His back-to-back shutouts came
in a 1-0 win over Dartmouth and a 3-0 triumph over
Clarkson in the championship game on New Year’s
Eve. They also brought him to within one career shutout
of Vermont’s all-time record, held by Boston
Bruins prospect Tim Thomas.
“It felt great, especially around
the holidays,” Fallon said. “One of our
goals this year was to win our own tournament, and
it feels good to accomplish a couple goals before
we head into our hard schedule in the second half
of the season in Hockey East.
“The team defense is playing really
well in front of me. They’re getting in front
of the net. I feel that I’m pretty good, technically,
and the break really helped me come out and have a
Though just a sophomore, Fallon now
has nine career shutouts, and he has paid a bit of
attention to the career of the man he is chasing in
the record books.
“Tim Thomas is a really good goalie,
and he is playing really well in the AHL right now.
He was the AHL Goalie of the Month this past December.
It would mean a lot to me [to break the record], and
hopefully I can do it this season.”
Great Weekend Getaway
at New Hampshire (Fri.-Sat.) Ranked fourth in INCH’s
latest Power Rankings, Vermont heads east to
the Whittemore Center this weekend for a pair
of games against UNH, which we have ranked No.
17. The Wildcats have played uncharacteristically
poorly at home of late, with just a 1-2-1 record
in their last four games, while the Catamounts
haven’t lost a road game since a 4-2 decision
at Boston University way back on Nov. 4. That’s
a little misleading, however, as UVM didn’t
leave Burlington in December and have only played
two road gigs since that loss over two months
There: Chances are, it will snow. So bring your
skis, snowboard or toboggan and make the trek
north to one of the states mountains. Favorites
in the area are Loon, Wildcat, Gunstock and
New Jersey Devils haven’t exactly played
stellar hockey for him, but congratulations
to Lou Lamoriello who assumed
the bench job after Larry Robinson resigned.
Lamoriello, the first commissioner in Hockey
East history, is just 3-5 since taking the reigns
following his jump down from the front office
on Dec. 20 for the Devils, who are in third
place in the Eastern Conference’s Atlantic
though the season, it appears that Northeastern
and Merrimack are leading the charge
for the two teams not to qualify for the Hockey
East playoffs. Northeastern’s only win
this season came back on Nov. 11 against UMass,
and the Huskies are just 0-5-3 since then. Merrimack
failed to pick up a win in December as well,
posting an 0-4-2 record during the final month
FRIES AT THE BOTTOM OF THE BAG
• Maine forwards Mike Hamilton
and Wes Clark have been allowed to rejoin the team
after having their indefinite suspensions lifted by
the team. The suspensions were stemming from an off-campus
fight with a member of the Black Bear baseball team
in November. The baseball player was sent to the hospital
for stitches, while Hamilton and Clark each pleaded
no contest to disorderly conduct on Dec. 8. Hamilton
will face an additional four-game suspension for his
role in the fight, while Clark has been fully cleared
• UMass Lowell sophomore
goalie Peter Vetri recorded the first three 40-save
performances of his career in December, but the River
Hawks were 0-3-0 in those games.
• Terrier David Van der Gulik
and Husky Ray Ortiz each made the season debuts last
week after missing the first two months with injuries.
Van der Gulik registered an assist in his first game
back while Ortiz picked up a goal in his second appearance
on the ice.
• Joe Pearce may be a backup
netminder for the Eagles, but he knows a thing or
two about winning individual awards. His performance
in the Denver Cup last week marked the second time
in his career that he was named the Most Valuable
Player of a holiday tournament. In 2003, he received
the honor at the Great Lakes Invitational, which BC
• Getting a tan in December may
be a wonderful thing when you live in Maine, but losing
games isn’t as magical. Thus, the Black Bears
may want to rethink making the trip to the Florida
College Classic, as their win over Northeastern in
the consolation game last Wednesday was just their
first one in their last five contests (0-4-1) in the
Classic. In case you’re wondering, Estero, Florida,
is 1,734 miles south of Orono.
• Vermont’s victories over
Dartmouth and Clarkson in the Catamount Cup mark the
first time since October that the Green and Gold have
won back-to-back games.
• Boston University’s three-goal
third period against Merrimack on Dec. 30 gave the
Terriers a 4-2 win along with their first victory
(1-6-2) when trailing after two periods this season.
Merrimack has now blown third-period leads in its
last three games.
variety of sources were utilized in the compilation
of this report.