January 5, 2006
Resolution – or Revolution – at PC

By Jeff Howe

 Hockey East Notebook

Torry Gajda has a team-leading 24 points for the new-look Friars.

National TV Schedule

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 the rink.

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 solution.

“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.”


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 good weekend.”

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
120x60 - Brand Red

Vermont 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 ago.

While You’re 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 Waterville Valley.

Stick Salute

The 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 Division.

Bench Minor

Halfway 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 of 2005.


• 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 to play.

• 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 also won.

• 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.

A variety of sources were utilized in the compilation of this report.