November 6, 2009

Early signs of hope for PC

by Andrew Merritt

Alex Beaudry was basically a small plug in a very large, very leaky dam last year. Brought in midseason to give the Providence goaltending picture a fresh face, Beaudry was asked to steady a ship that was rocking pretty hard from day one of the 2008-09 season.

He won his first game, a 4-2 victory over UMass-Lowell at home, a day after being officially added to the roster. He’d split the first half of the winter with Kemptville and Gloucester of the Central Junior Hockey League in Ontario, until Providence needed a steady hand in net. He ended up winning his first three games, and picking up a tie in his fourth, but ultimately the new blood wasn’t enough to turn Providence’s runaway train around, and the Friars won just one more time the rest of the year.

But the train is headed in a different direction this year. Beaudry has begun his season in Providence, has spent a few months getting acclimated to college life and the college game, and the Friars are reaping the rewards.

Beaudry was named the conference’s goaltender of the month for October after leading the Friars to a 4-2 record out of the gate, posting a 2.01 goals-against average and a .939 save percentage -- both league bests -- while seeing the second-most shots of any league goalie thus far.

On Saturday, Beaudry was at his best. UMass took a whopping 49 shots on his net, and he turned aside all but one of them to preserve a 2-1 win -- the Friars’ fifth of the season and first in Hockey East. The night before, he gave up five goals to those same Minutemen, though he still made 31 saves in the losing effort.

It’s likely Providence will take a step back at some point. But it seems like a safe bet that it’ll be more of a temporary stumble, not a season-killing slide, and that’s because for the first time in a long time, Providence has its steady goaltending hand.

NEHJ Player of the Week

David Warsofsky, soph., Boston University


The defenseman from Marshfield, Mass., was a presence all over the ice in the Terriers’ 5-4 overtime win over UMass-Lowell Friday night, with two goals including one on the penalty kill, and a plus-4 rating.

Looking Ahead

Boston University at Northeastern, Friday


The two Beanpot foes could both really use a league win – Northeastern more so, since it’s lost the only two Hockey East games it’s played this year. BU is one of five Hockey East teams with one league victory, coming off the split with UMass-Lowell last weekend.

Around Hockey East

Boston College


The Eagles’ loss to Merrimack Sunday was their first since Feb. 15, 2003, ending a 21-game stretch in which they went 17-0-4 against the Warriors … Freshman Pat Mullane (Wallingford, Conn.) picked up his first collegiate point with an assist on Jimmy Hayes’ (Dorchester, Mass.) goal Friday.

Boston University

Colby Cohen’s overtime winner against UMass-Lowell Friday – with its shades of his national title-clinching goal in overtime last spring – ensured the Terriers stayed undefeated in conference games that have gone to overtime since Feb. 21, 2003.

Maine

It’s all about the power play in Orono, where the Black Bears are scoring at a 27.7 percent rate while on the man-advantage, and with 13 in seven contests, they have averaged 1.86 power play goals per game.

UMass

On one hand, the Minutemen’s special teams are off to a great offensive start, leading the league with a 30.6 success rate on the power play. However, UMass also leads the league in penalty minutes – at 17.4 per game, nearly a full minute worse than the next-most penalized team, BU – and with a penalty kill that’s second-to-last in the league with a 75 percent kill rate, the Minutemen are playing with fire.

UMass-Lowell

Finally putting a very happy ending to a tumultuous plot, UMass-Lowell announced an agreement last Friday with the city of Lowell to purchase Tsongas Arena. In the deal, the school takes full ownership of the arena, debt-free, with year-round access to its facilities, while the city has a burden taken off its hands and picks up a piece of university-owned land elsewhere. Two years after the River Hawk program was nearly disbanded because of the arena conflict, now UML has a place it can truly call home, in every sense of the word.

Merrimack

Merrimack’s 5-0 start at home is its best since the 1988-89 season, the year before it joined Hockey East, and it was clinched with Dorchester, Mass., native Mark Dennehy’s first win as a head coach over his alma mater, Boston College.

UNH

It might be time for the Wildcats to find another WCHA team to schedule. With the weekend’s pair of losses at Wisconsin, UNH moved to 2-18 all-time against the Badgers.

Northeastern

It’s still too early to tell if freshman goaltender Chris Rawlings is totally ready for the big time, but the Huskies are making sure he gets his money worth every night – the British Columbia native has made at least 30 saves in four of his five starts this year, and has faced the third-most shots of any goaltender in the league.

Providence

One of the many good signs for this year’s Friar team: They’ve picked up three one-goal wins this season, which matches their entire haul in that crucial category from 2008-09.

Vermont


The Catamounts’ rough start might have something to do with playing four of their first five games on the road. They’ll have a chance to prove that over the next two months, with 11 of their next 14 games to be played in front of friendly crowds at Gutterson Fieldhouse.

Andrew Merritt can be reached at feedback@hockeyjournal.com.