February 5, 2012 PRINT Bookmark and Share

Schaller's Return Fails to Spark Providence

by Josh Seguin/CHN Reporter

DURHAM, N.H. — On Friday night, the much anticipated return to the lineup of Tim Schaller should have been a spark to the struggling Providence Friars, but the Friars struggled to find any offensive rhythm on the big sheet of the Whittemore Center ice falling to UNH, 3-1.

Schaller a native of Merrimack, N.H., returned to the lineup on Friday night after a month long bout with mononucleosis.

“It was nice to get back out there, especially in front of the home crowd,” said Schaller. “It would have been nice to get a win, as we haven’t defeated UNH since I have been here. I actually thought I was going to be back a bit earlier. At about the three-week mark I thought I was ready and something happened. I was itching to get back out there."

Upon his departure from the lineup Jan. 14, Schaller was leading the Friars in both goals and points with 10 and 14, respectively. On his return on Friday night he scored the only Friar goal in the game, early in the second period where it seemed as though the Friars may just come but it was not meant to be.

After a strong 6-3-1 start by Providence, the Friars have fallen off a bit, going 4-11-1 in their last 16 games. This has to be concerning for first-year head coach Nate Leaman, who inherited a team that hasn’t made the Hockey East playoffs since 2007-08.

Since Schaller left the lineup, the Friars have gone 2-4-0 and have struggled mightily to put pucks into the back of the net, scoring only nine, with four of those in just one game against Massachusetts.

Despite scoring only one goal against UNH on Friday night, the Friars had their chances; sparked seemingly by Schaller’s return. The Friars threw 38 shots at the net but Casey Desmith of UNH made 37 saves against the Friars and Providence seemed to get frustrated with every shot.

Defensively, the Friars played an impressive game in the second and third period. Providence outshot UNH 28-12 in the final 40 minutes and carried much of the play. The slow start for the Friars did them in for the rest of the game but it is not something that is new for the Friars.

“I thought the game was the first period,” said Leaman. “I felt we came out mentally soft and on our heels. It’s the third time we have done that; BC, BU, and now here. We are playing catch-up hockey, it’s tough to come back in somebody else’s building down three early.”

“It has been a problem for us all year long, coming out strong in the first period,” said Schaller.

Going down 3-0 in the first period at the Whittemore Center was the last thing that Providence wanted to do but it is something that they have done a lot recently. In the series against Boston University two weekends ago the Friars got down by an aggregate 7-0 score in the two first periods.

“If we come out strong we can beat anyone in the country,” said Schaller. “We need to start playing better defensively to start the game.”

Playing better defensively to start the game has to be the goal in the coming weeks for the Friars but getting offensive production will have to be another.

“I try to be a spark as much as I can,” said Schaller. “First game back was tough but hopefully I was that spark and I did my job on the ice.”

“Tim had a nice goal tonight,” said Leaman. “He is clearly going to need to be worked back in. I don’t think he had his A game by any means.”

With Providence currently sitting in sixth place, Schaller’s return could not have come at a better time for Providence. Heading into the stretch run Providence sits three points ahead of ninth-place Massachusetts.

“We have a lot of potential,” said Schaller. “We have a lot of good young guys that can really help us out and with a good run hopefully make the playoffs."

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