Try to Get Their Groove Back
With a 1-4-1 record, a four-game winless streak
and a scary Halloween showdown with Boston College on the
horizon, the Providence Friars were staring at the end of
an ornery October. But after tricking BC 5-3 on Tuesday,
things are again looking up in Rhode Island’s capital.
Providence junior Jon Rheault, who has five points
in seven games this season, has been a steady for
the inconsistent Friars.
The Friars returned most of their key pieces
from last year’s overachieving team, including six
players who scored at least 19 points and their starting
goalie in Tyler Sims. With a 17-16-3 record (14-10-3 in
Hockey East), Providence finished in fifth place. Sure,
Providence entered the second half tied for the conference
lead before fading after the New Year, but the foundation
Forced to find the tools to rebuild that foundation
after this season's poor start, coach Tim Army at least
found a place to start after upsetting the Eagles.
“We’ve still got work to do,”
Army said. “We played well, and we beat a very, very
good team so that’s a positive. But we need to continue
to play consistently. We were inconsistent in our first
four games of the year, the non-conference games.
“We played our best 60 minutes of the
year against a very good team and came away with the win,
but now we’ve got to reload and stay focused on the
things we need to do to be a good team.”
One of those areas is the power play unit,
which is playing worse than any in Hockey East right now.
The Friars have scored just four power-play goals in 45
chances this season. Even worse, they have given up two
“I think the biggest thing for us will
be our power play,” Army admitted. “In the beginning,
we really struggled. We’re starting to get more pucks
to the net in the power play, and we’ve scored on
the power play in each of our last three games so that is
coming around. That will springboard our offense and what
we’re able to get five-on-five.”
The offense was a concern for Army heading
into the season. Even with the depth coming back in that
area, he lost leading scorer Torry Gajda. Before the five-goal
outburst against Boston College, Providence was averaging
two goals per game through its first six contests.
“We’re getting numbers to the
net, and I think that is coming around,” Army said.
“The more you put pressure on the net, the more you
put pucks on the net, the more you give yourself percentage-wise
in respect to finishing off those chances. I think guys
are going to finish off those chances once they get a little
more comfortable in scoring situations.”
On the other end of the ice, the Friars have
dealt with the ups and downs of Sims, who worked out to
add muscle in the offseason so he wouldn’t wear down
in the spring. He struggled in the opener against Clarkson
and has sputtered at times in other contests, but has improved
“Like a lot of players, you’ve
got to find a rhythm to your game, and I think [Sims] is
finding his rhythm and getting a little more settled and
comfortable,” Army said. “If you look at his
last three games, he has looked very, very good.”
Moving forward, Providence has to rebound
quickly from its midweek clash at the Heights for a home-and-home
with UMass Friday and Saturday. The challenge to come off
an emotional high to prepare on a short week is difficult,
but Army has his troops ready.
“We’ve worked hard the last two
days,” he said. “You can’t completely
get into the players’ minds at any level and completely
change their thinking. It was a good win, and we’ve
got to enjoy it. But we’ve got to get right back and
ready for Friday. It’s a Tuesday night so classes
are on Wednesday. We’ve got to get right back at it
and get your schoolwork done.
“We had a meeting [Wednesday] and a
good, hard practice. There was no letup. We proceeded like
we would on any Wednesday. I think that tries to bring guys
back to reality that we’ve got to play good hockey.
October wasn’t a tremendously kind month
to the Friars, but that was the case last year as well.
After a 3-3-0 opening month in 2005, Providence went 3-1-1
in Hockey East competition in November – which also
started with a home-and-home against Massachusetts –
before a 5-0-0 mark in December.
SEEN AND HEARD IN HOCKEY EAST
Ortiz flashes the Whitt: UMass
trailed by a goal and was fighting to seize momentum in
a building that historically had been cruel to them, when
a freshman who plays with the flair of a Reggie Bush dropped
every jaw in UNH’s building.
Heading into the Wildcat zone with just Brad
Flaishans to beat, UMass forward Will Ortiz toe-dragged
the defenseman out of his sweater then placed a shot on
goalie Kevin Regan. The puck bounced off the netminder’s
pads to teammate Mark Matheson, who caught Regan out of
position and tied the game at 1-1.
“The only thing that was going through
my head was just trying to get the puck on net,” Ortiz
said with a hint of modesty after his team’s 3-2 win
on Oct. 26. “We needed to get some shots. That’s
what I tried to do. I rushed the puck up, had a chance to
skate, got the shot off and it was a great play by Matheson
to rush the net and score.”
“Some people can do it at full speed,
and a lot of other people can’t,” UMass coach
Don Cahoon said of the toe drag. “It obviously surprised
everybody in the building I think, and maybe even Will that
he toe-dragged him and walked him the way that he did. The
best part of the move was his ability to get the shot off.
It was at the end of a shift, and he was pretty tired.”
Chris Davis, who scored UMass’ second
goal in similarly impressive fashion by fighting off three
UNH skaters for a loose puck in the neutral zone before
beating Regan, said Ortiz may be wowing hockey fans for
quite some time.
“Ortiz a fiery player out there,”
Davis said. “He’s got a lot of speed and a lot
of grit. He’s been creating a lot of turnovers. He’s
been getting in there and getting a lot of shots. He has
gotten some power play time so if he keeps being aggressive
and getting in people’s faces, he’s going to
have some success.”
While this may have been the first time he
has pulled off such a move on a big stage, teammates said
they see it all the time in practice.
“He’s always trying to pull off
moves,” Davis said. “He’s a creative player.
You can learn a little bit from that – trying to be
creative out there with the puck. It’s a good thing
that this team needs.”
Ortiz said it’s just about trying to
have a good time.
“I like to go out there and mess around,”
he said. “I’m enthusiastic out there. I like
to have fun. That’s the way it is. I play this game
to have fun. It’s a competitive sport as well, but
you’ve got to remember you play this game to have
FRIES AT THE BOTTOM OF THE BAG
Great Weekend Getaway
at Boston University (Sat.)
The defending conference champs host this early season’s
flavor of the month in the first marquee matchup on
the league slate thus far. Perfect through six games,
Maine has been tremendous in every area of the game
on its way to the top billing in the country. BU has
only played four times this season with a 2-1-1 record,
but the loss came at home last Friday to a young Lowell
While You’re There: If you’re
from Maine (or anywhere out of state), obtain immediate
Massachusetts residence, register to vote, and check
Deval Patrick on your ballot in the race for the Bay
State governorship Tuesday.
We’re going to bend the rules a bit here to salute someone
outside of the hockey world. Every sports fan felt
a loss when Celtics iconRed
Auerbach passed Saturday.Light
one up for Red this week. He was a pioneer, a champion,
a deep thinker, and a true legend. We could take up
all the space on the Internet to sing his praises,
so we’ll just keep it at that.
The UMass Lowell special teams have just a 33.3
efficiency rate, tied with Brown for the worst mark
in the country. The power play is ninth in Hockey
East (tied for 49th in the nation), successful on
four of 38 chances. The penalty kill is 10th (58th
nationally), giving up 12 power play goals in 31 tries.
• The lights went out at Alfond Arena
with about eight minutes remaining in the second period
of Saturday’s game between Maine and UMass. The teams
went to their respective locker rooms during what turned
out to be a 15-minute delay, then came out to play the rest
of the second period and the first 10 minutes of the third
before another 15-minute break to resurface the ice. When
all was said and done, Maine won 4-1.
• UNH’s Whittemore Center was
missing something last year after the athletic department
pulled the plug on the song “Black Betty” at
hockey games. The NAACP asked the school to can the music
because of its offensive lyrics. The song has made a reappearance
this season, though, but just as an instrumental.
• Maine has stormed out to a 6-0-0 start
and, fittingly, the Black Bears also swiped all three of
Hockey East’s October honors. Michel Léveillé
racked up six goals and five assists to earn Player of the
Month. Ben Bishop backstopped all six wins with a 1.40 goals
against average and .944 save percentage to earn Goaltender
of the Month. And phenom Teddy Purcell recorded five goals
and three assists to be tabbed Rookie of the Month.
• Boston College swept Wisconsin on
the road last weekend with the help of Cory Schneider’s
hefty effort in net. The junior goalie stopped 56 of 57
shots to earn Hockey East Player of the Week recognition.
He also picked up his 10th career shutout with the 3-0 win
• Northeastern gave host Michigan all
it could handle in two games over the weekend. The Huskies
dropped a 4-3 overtime decision Friday before easing past
the Wolverines by a 3-2 margin Saturday. Freshman goalie
Brad Thiessen knocked aside 45 shots in the victory and
shared the conference’s Defensive Player of the Week
Merrimack’s Jim Healey made 67 saves
in two contests last weekend to share the honor with Thiessen.
Merrimack won 4-3 at Providence and then tied Brown 3-3
in North Andover.
• Former UMass forward and current Hershey
Bear Stephen Werner had two fighting majors in AHL action
over the weekend. He challenged Albany's Joe Barnes on Friday
and Albany's Mitch Love on Saturday.
of sources were utilized in the compilation of this report