Two Minute’s Hate: Bad moon rising
It’s time for playoff hockey, and that means it’s time to throw rational, fact-driven commentary out the window. We present to you now a positively Orwellian exercise in general dislike: “The Two Minutes’ Hate.”
The Providence Bruins. The Pawtucket Red Sox. The Providence College Friars.
What do these three teams have in common, aside from residing in the most embarrassing state in the union? They’re second rate. They’re lower tier. They’re holding pens where more popular and successful teams banish their castoffs in hopes of protecting the better players from getting exposed to loser stink.
We like to think of Providence as “Amherst South” because they have so much in common. Dark, dank depressing rinks with nary a decent sight line to be had. Two schools whose hockey programs are on eternal “back burner” status because of a bizarre obsession with equally mediocre basketball teams. And finally, two programs that haven’t sniffed a Hockey East championship since Braveheart won for Best Picture.
To address the elephant in the room, we are aware that Providence won the national championship last season. What we have been unable to deduce, however, is just exactly how it was pulled off. The most obvious answer is sorcery. But if we take a closer look at the tournament field at large, and specifically the path Providence took toward the title, the picture becomes clear.
The first thing to take note of is that Providence got to play in Providence despite being the worst at large team in the field, so right off the bat it’s evident something rotten is going on here. Second, Providence got to play Miami (OH) and Denver in their two regional games. We guess Babson was unavailable? Not since the infamous NCAA tournament of 2009 where Vermont drew Yale and Air Force has there been an easier schedule for a non-No.1 seed. Miami (OH) isn’t beating any Hockey East team, even the hopeless also-rans like Providence. Just how many NCHC cupcakes can one team actually get to play? The answer is three. In the Frozen Four, Providence was matched up with Nebraska-Omaha in the semifinal. Omaha is shockingly bad, even by NCHC standards, and Providence had little trouble sending those frauds back into the thick mist of obscurity.
All of this brings us to the national championship game, Providence vs. Boston University. In situations like these, all decent folk can root for is the lesser of two evils; which in this case would be the ice sheet melting and an ancient, kraken-like creature emerging from beneath, pulling both teams into the icy depths for all eternity. Unfortunately we’re not that lucky. However, we did get to witness the Curse of Jack Parker strike from beyond, as BU lost a third period lead when their goalie forgot how to control his body and put the puck in his own net. Providence would go on to win the national championship, and for a couple of days it was real touch-and-go waiting to see if gravity was still a law in this new, dystopian world we lived in.
In last week’s Hockey East quarterfinals, Providence carelessly defeated Merrimack College in two games, sealing their fate for a semifinal date against Lowell. We’re sure Head Coach Nate Leaman tried his best to buck his team up by talking about the upcoming NCAA tournament and explaining that there’s still more hockey to play after Lowell chokes the life out of them at the Boston Garden. Providence has experienced some limited success in the Hockey East tournament, in as much as their bus driver was able to successfully navigate the motor coach to the big city without ending up on the Cape. But given the sorry squad that Providence is bringing to Boston, we kind of feel sorry for Leaman as he tries to juggle an entire roster angling for one of the coveted “healthy scratch” designations.
We’ll start with assistant captain Mark Jankowski, also known as the draft pick that got Jay Feaster fired. Jankowski came to Providence with a heap of expectations on his shoulders as the 21st overall pick in the 2012 NHL draft. The burden was apparently too much for the Dundas, Ontario native, as he devolved into yet another generic, lackluster Providence forward. Amassing only 28-42-70 during his first three forgettable years, Jankowski has picked up the production in his senior season, perhaps finally understanding why Calgary had stopped taking his calls. While it’s too early to say for sure, we doubt the uptick in scoring is going to save Jankowski from an apparent third line fate in the ECHL.
Sophomore defenseman Jake Walman will require surgery and miss the remainder of the season. We never like to see any player injured, and we wish Walman the best in his recovery and hope to see him back on the ice with the Friars next season. We can’t help but wonder, though, if some relief was found in knowing that CJ Smith won’t be barreling down on him this weekend. Not that we blame him, mind you, but for the sake of this young man’s health we’re glad that he’ll be safely watching from the stands as Lowell decimates his teammates with reckless abandon.
We could go through the rest of the Providence Roster and point out the inadequacies and flaws, but we know when to leave a little something on the table. We could discuss Nate Leaman’s endless quest to be seen and respected on the same level of Norm Bazin, but we don’t want to lend his flights of fancy any credence. The fact remains that Lowell is playing its best hockey of the season at the right time, and unfortunately for Providence that means the end of their Hockey East title hopes. After what is sure to be a humiliating defeat, the Friars will do their best to regroup for the NCAA tourney, hoping with all their being that the road to the Frozen Four will be as easy as it was last season. Lowell, on the other hand, will be preparing to win their third Hockey East Tournament Championship in the past four years.
We’ll see you at the Garden.