Ah, it feels good to type "rant of the week". It brings me back to the halcyon days of 2001, which was the last time PC actually made it to the Fleetcenter/Gahden and the NCAA tournament. Looking at the Pairwise rankings, it looks like the Friars would make it to the tournament, if the season ended today. The problem is it doesn't, and as 2003 tought us, one month is plenty of time to screw things up. Here is why I'm such a cynical bastard:
Consider the Friar's upcoming schedule. The Friars have yet to play Merrimack (which is probably 4-6 points for the taking) and Boston College (probably 0-3 points right there). They also have two games remaining with UNH, BU, and a very game Vermont. Its looks daunting but with the amount of parity in Hockey East this year, its very much doable.
And then I remember 2003. For those who weren't around, this was the year of the Century Line: Jon DiSalvatore, Peter Fregoe and Devin Rask. PC had one of the more dominant lines in Hockey East and a very good netminder in Nolan Schaefer with Bobby Geopfert spotting him. The Friars hit their stride in February, went undefeated and looked poised to get to the Fleetcenter and earn their way back to the NCAA's.
Of course, that never happened. The Friars won home ice, drew BU in the first round and promptly got swept, completing one of the worst finishes in school history. Two miserable years later, Paul Pooley left for the greener pastures of South Bend, Indiana, Tim Army replaced him and the following year, PC were once again on the cusp of the NCAA's entering February. Again, the bottom dropped out. PC's high point of the season was their crushing of BU at Agganis to the tune of 5-1. A few weeks later, they upset Maine at Alfond. And the season fell apart from there. The "highlights" of this monumental collapse were the last second choke job to Lowell in overtime, a disasterous weekend against Vermont that saw PC pick up one measly point and the soul crushing loss to Merrimack on Senior Night. The Friars went into an unbelievable one year tailspin. The next season was a disaster and it looked like this season might be headed in the same direction. But the Friars put together some strong wins before the Christmas break, it looked like the program might recover. Suddenly, the Friars look good again.
The problem with this team is that they've been totally unpredictable. Only the Friars would follow up a big win against highly ranked UMASS by being shut out by the worst Maine team in recent history. Only the Friars would follow a dramatic OT win against UMass-Lowell with an equally upsetting OT loss the next night. And only Providence College would get blanked by the invincible Wolverines one afternoon and beat the defending national champions the next.
What is a cause for optimism is the fact that Providence is getting plenty of help. UML, UMASS, Northeastern, and even Maine were ranked when Providence beat them. Union was one of the hottest teams in the ECAC until they had to go up to Clarkson this weekend. Speaking of the Golden Knights, they're the number 10 team in the country. And best of all, no matter how the GLI had shook out, the Friars would have played a team under consideration. Michigan has been either #1 or #2 all season. The Spartans regained whatever swagger they lost in Detroit and are currently sitting at #5. Even the Huskies - who didn't play PC - recently took 3 out of 4 from Colorado College. Granted, Holy Cross and Saint Lawrence have been scuffling and Brown has been useless since Yann Danis left. But for once, the Friar's schedule is helping them.
There's a long way to go in this season, but so far, the optimism that accompanied Tim Army taking over as coach has returned somewhat. And that leads me to part 2 of this rant coming up tomorrow.
(yeah, there's a part 2!)
And just for old time's sake, hi Mark!