Is Attaining Intangible Success
When Providence began the season with four
straight losses and a 1-5-1 record through seven games,
it looked like the same old story from a season ago.
That was, of course, until the Friars traveled
to Orono last weekend and swept the Black Bears for the
first time in 22 years. Providence had been outscored by
nine goals in its first seven contests, but knocked out
Maine 6-2 last Friday and 1-0 on Saturday.
Tyler Sims tied the program's career record for shutouts,
Per Hockey East's stark mediocrity this season,
Providence jumped from the league's basement into a five-way
tie for first place after last weekend's play.
Whether or not the Friars can sustain that
momentum – they host UMass Lowell and New Hampshire
this weekend – remains to be seen. But, if there is
a reversal of fortune from last year, it may have everything
to do with Tim Army's new philosophy.
Army, in his third year on the Providence
bench, has been through a roller coaster of yearly game
plans. This one, however, is much more simple. He admits
it's cliché, which fits in perfectly around the New
England sports scene these days, but Army only asks his
team to get better one day at a time.
Last season, on the heels of a surprising
fifth-place finish in the Hockey East regular-season standings
in 2005-06, Army instituted some lofty goals prior to Providence's
first game, a move he now calls a mistake.
"I thought we could achieve a home-ice
berth," Army said. "I thought we should play at
the Garden, and with that, find our way into the NCAA tournament.
Those were some things that I had really stressed from the
get-go. I think those things are understood everywhere every
year. I think you're always trying to achieve that kind
of success, but I think when you put a number on it, when
you put something tangible out there, I think it's good
if your team is ready for it.
"I think it can work to backfire if your
team is not ready for it. I don't think we were necessarily
ready for it with the development of our program at that
point in time. I tried to validate it a little bit and put
something tangible out there to let the guys know how much
confidence we had in them and what we thought they could
achieve. But, I think as we lost some games early in the
year, it turned it sort of into a negative in a sense that
our guys all of a sudden started to question themselves
– where they thought they should be at this level
where maybe we weren't quite at that level. It worked to
I think disrupt our daily rhythm at the expense of trying
to get better every day. I think it's a good thing to do
when your program is at a certain point and you have the
right kind of personnel that can accept those kind of challenges.
But if your team is not at that stage and not quite ready
for that type of approach, it can hinder your development,
and I thought that's what sort of happened last year."
Army couldn't be more right. The Friars returned
much of their talent in Tyler Sims and Jon Rheault, among
others, but they failed spectacularly in trying to repeat
their successes from the previous season. Providence finished
9-15-3 in Hockey East play, good for an eighth seed, and
then got swept – 4-0 and 6-0 – by UNH in the
first round of the playoffs.
"I probably made a mistake with that
last year," Army said. "We had a surprisingly
good year my first year. Last year, we struggled a bit.
We certainly didn't have the success that we expected, and
I kind of put a number on what I expected us to do. It was
really, from my perspective, a way to say to our guys that
I think we're really a good team and that we can compete.
Sometimes, that can make it more difficult. In hindsight,
I don't think we were ready for that.
"[This season], we just stay focused
on trying to get better, keep improving. I like the things
we have. I like our personnel, and we'll see where that
leaves us standing come March."
SEEN AND HEARD IN HOCKEY EAST
Gerbe Suspension: Boston
College junior forward Nathan Gerbe was issued a one-game,
league-mandated suspension last Saturday. He was forced
to sit out the Eagles' 5-2 loss at New Hampshire. According
to a statement issued by Hockey East commissioner Joe Bertagna,
the suspension stemmed from actions from Friday night's
3-3 tie with Merrimack at Conte Forum.
"While a suspension might not have been
forthcoming on [Friday] night's actions alone, this is not
the first time this season that I have been made aware of
inappropriate behavior from Nathan," Bertagna said
in the statement. "Given the fact that he had already
been put on notice, I felt that supplemental discipline
was in order in this instance."
Bertagna would not comment further on the
suspension, saying he would stick to last Saturday's statement.
According to reports, Gerbe was accused of
butt-ending Merrimack players during last Friday's game.
Bertagna told Inside College Hockey last year
he has several ways in which he levies punishments. Depending
on the severity of the incident, Bertagna can make a phone
call, write a private letter of reprimand, a public letter
of reprimand or suspend the guilty party.
Great Weekend Getaway
Boston College at UMass (Fri.)
BC visits Massachusetts Friday night in the only matchup
between nationally-ranked teams in Hockey East action
this weekend. UMass has declared its "Operation
8K" campaign for the game in an attempt to draw
8,000 fans to the Mullins Center, which is fast becoming
one of the great venues to watch a game in Hockey
While You're There: After the game,
head uptown and visit Charlie's, the best bar in town.
Make sure you grab a late-night slice at Antonio's
Director of Athletics Dana Skinner announced in a
release Wednesday the University and the Tsongas Arena
agreed to a two-year extension on their lease that
will run through 2010.
third-period defense has been on the wrong side of
atrocious this season. The Terriers have allowed 16
goals in the final frame, more than any Hockey East
team has given up in the third period this season.
No one else has allowed more goals in any period this
season, though Merrimack has surrendered 16 second-period
goals. Conversely, UNH has given up just 16 goals
FRIES AT THE BOTTOM OF THE BAG
• The Hockey East standings are a bit
cluttered, to say the least, heading into the weekend's
action. New Hampshire, Boston College, Massachusetts, Providence
and Northeastern are tied atop the league with seven points
each. Boston University and Maine each have five points,
and Vermont, UMass Lowell and Merrimack all have three points.
"This year, more than any year than
I've seen, it seems it's the tightest and the closest that
the 10 teams are competitively," Army said. "It
makes for some very interesting logjams in the standings
right now. I think it's highly competitive, the most competitive
it's been, and I only expect it to get more difficult as
we move into the future."
• Boston College and Merrimack wrapped
up their season series last weekend with a 3-3 tie at Conte
Forum. The Eagles took the series, 2-0-1, and they extended
their unbeaten streak over the Warriors to 17 games (14-0-3).
BC also extended its home unbeaten streak over Merrimack
to 20 games (18-0-2).
• Boston University has scored a power-play
goal in eight straight games.
• Vermont hosts BU for a pair this weekend,
which recently has worked out well for the Catamounts, who
are 1-0-3 in their last four home games against BU.
• Maine goalie Ben Bishop lost his first
career 1-0 game when the Black Bears fell to Providence
Saturday at Alfond Arena.
• UMass is finding out how much easier
it is to win when you score a lot. The Minutemen are 37-0-1
in their last 38 contests when scoring four or more goals.
• UMass Lowell recorded back-to-back
ties last weekend, the first time it's done that since Oct.
27-28, 2006. Goalies Carter Hutton (39 saves at UNH) and
Nevin Hamilton (36 against UMass) each posted career highs
in saves over the weekend.
• Matt Jones became the first Merrimack
player to score two goals in a game since Justin Mills scored
twice at BU on Dec. 30, 2005. Jones scored twice in the
3-3 tie with BC Friday. The Warriors have scored three goals
in the final five seconds of a period this season.
• UNH is 4-0-0 against nationally ranked
teams this season but just 1-1-1 against unranked opponents.
The Wildcats have scored three goals in a period in all
five of their wins this season (four times in the third,
once in the second).
• Northeastern is 3-3-1 in Hockey East
play for the first time in 10 years, which is the last time
the Huskies finished with a winning record in conference
• Providence goalie Tyler Sims earned
his third shutout against Maine in his career Saturday night.
He's the only netminder in school history with multiple
shutouts against the Black Bears. It was also Sims' fifth
shutout all-time, tying Mario Proulx's school record.
• Peter Lenes snapped Vermont's 0-for-22
skid with a power-play goal in a 2-1 win at Merrimack Saturday.
A variety of sources were utilized in
the compilation of this report. Jeff Howe can be reached