As the puck dropped Saturday at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence, it marked the return of regular-season action to the Ocean State.
Providence has long been associated with the NCAA Championships, most recently hosting the East Regional last season and the Frozen Four in 2000. But in-season tournament action has been absent from Providence since 1991.
This year’s Dunkin’ Donuts Coffee Pot is the first in-season tourney hosted by the Friars since the long-dead USAir Hockey Classic, which ran for two seasons at Providence’s Schneider Arena (1990, 1991).
Rhode Island isn’t alone in its lack of tournament action at holiday time. Though Boston has the most famous in-season tournament — The Beanpot — it hasn’t hosted a Division I tournament since the mid-70s when the Boston Garden briefly played host to a holiday tournament. UMass-Lowell, about 30 miles north of Boston, hosted two tournaments in the late 90’s — the Governor’s Cup, comprised of four New England state schools, and the City of Lights Tournament at Thanksgiving time.
Northern New England has been more active in hosting with both Vermont and Dartmouth playing hosts to annual tournaments.
Harvard Not Tourney-Savvy
Saturday’s loss for Harvard relegates it to Sunday’s consolation game, a place with which Harvard has become quite familiar. Harvard has never won a first-round game in a holiday tournament (0-7).
In fact, the last time that the Crimson advanced to the finals of an in-season tournament was the 1994 Beanpot. Harvard beat Boston University that year, 4-2, but lost, 2-1 in overtime to Boston College in the final. Since then Harvard has gone 0-14 in semifinal games of in-season tournaments. The Crimson has had some success in the postseason since then, appearing in the ECAC finals in 1994, 2002 and 2003, and winning in ’94 and ’02.
The St. Cloud State power play entered Saturday without much power.
After failing to score on its first two man-advantage chances of the game, the Huskies’ scoreless drought ran to 26 power plays without a goal before Brock Hooton’s score broke the streak and evened the game at two.
The Huskies’ power play appeared to strike again in the third with the score tied at four, but the rebound that was poked home was disallowed for a crease violation. On the season, St. Cloud’s PP is relatively healthy, scoring at a 17 percent clip.
Something Old and Something New
Providence received a nice mix of offense in advancing to the championship. Among the Friars who registered points were three rookies — Bill McCreary, Colin McDonald and Chase Watson — and senior defenseman Stephen Wood.
Watson tied the game at one for Providence with his sixth goal of the year, while McDonald knotted the contest at three and McCreary scored the game-winner. Watson’s contribution was not a surprise (he has 12 points in 15 games), but it was only McCreary’s second tally and McDonald’s third.
“They play a lot,” said Friars’ coach Paul Pooley about his freshmen, “but they still make some mistakes. They’re not rookies [because they play so much], but they are still learning college hockey.”
Wood, meanwhile, collected three points. He posted a pair of assists on Providence’s third and fourth markers, and tied the game at two with his second period goal.
“That’s why we have him on the ice,” said Pooley. “He makes critical offensive plays.”
Wood has six goals and 12 points on the year and has compiled 23 tallies and 71 points in his collegiate career.
Holding On Is Tough To Do
Clarkson, which has lost three in a row, failed to hold onto a third-period lead for the sixth time this season. The Knights are now 4-4-2 when leading after two periods and 1-3-1 when leading after one. Saturday they led 1-0 after 20 minutes, 2-1 after 40 minutes and 3-2 with just over 10 minutes left in the game.
“I don’t know what to attribute it to,” explained Clarkson coach George Roll. “I guess it is confidence. We’ve been in every game, so I can’t be upset with the effort. We just ran out of gas tonight.”
Clarkson, the most penalized team in the ECAC, also struggles when allowing five or more power-play opportunities. In the 13 games when they’ve done so, including this evening, the Knights are 5-6-2. They are 1-1-1 in other contests.
Worth The Wait
This was Providence’s first game since November 25, a 1-1 tie against Brown in the Mayor’s Cup. The Friars were slated to play Boston College on December 6, but the game was postponed due to the blizzard that dumped over two feet of snow on New England. What’s more, Providence had not won since its 7-4 upset of then-No. 2 New Hampshire.