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Friday, May 13, 2011

The 10 Best Women’s Hockey Games I Witnessed as a PC Student

Honorable mentions
November 16, 2008
– Providence 2, Connecticut 0: PC cashes in on the only seam at either end when Alyse Ruff deposits a 5-on-3 conversion from the porch for a 1-0 edge with 5:57 to go
January 24, 2009 – Providence 2, Boston University 0: Jean O’Neill’s plucky shot block sparks breakout that sets up Katy Beach’s clincher late in the third
November 27, 2009 – Providence 2, Wisconsin 2: Seesaw bout with Mark Johnson’s pupils decided by a trendy Nicole Anderson power play strike
March 6, 2010 – Connecticut 3, Providence 2: PC rallies from initial 3-0 hole, but Huskies hold fort to exorcise their postseason demons
February 6, 2010 – Boston College 4, Providence 2: Danielle Welch outscores Laura Veharanta, 3-2, and Melissa Bizzari tips in another Welch bid for the insurance

10. November 10, 2007: Providence 4, Vermont 2
This generation of Friars had a way of making “Cardiac Kids” the postgame refrain from head coach Bob Deraney. And one month into her career, Alyse Ruff set the tone for what would become her habit of performing CPR with a blade and a biscuit.

After the scrappy, stealthy Vermont Catamounts led 2-0 through 40 minutes, Ruff literally crashed goaltender Kristen Olychuck’s unscheduled party, cutting the lead to 2-1 17 seconds into the third whilst erroneously tumbling into the cage. Two minutes and two seconds later, she tipped in a power play conversion and prompted visiting coach Tim Bothwell to use his timeout.

It only took another five minutes for PC –which received at least one shot on goal from each of its 11 forwards- to complete its profile in persistence. Cherie Hendrickson, who led all forwards with seven SOG, converted a pass from Erin Normore (six shots) for the eventual clincher.

9. January 31, 2008: Providence 4, Boston University 3
In their third year as a varsity program, the pre-Poulin, pre-Wakefield, pre-pennant Terriers had a modest request for their first Hockey East playoff spot, though they showed it in flashy fashion. Holly Lorms and Sarah Appleton struck 52 seconds apart to give BU a 2-0 edge just before the halfway mark of an otherwise evenly matched first period. And it didn’t help the Friars cause to whiff on each of the game’s first two power plays, then went shorthanded themselves 54 ticks into the middle frame.

But 64 seconds after Kelli Doolin’s jailbreak, freshman Jean O’Neill sparked the turnaround, one-timing a centering feed from Mari Pehkonen. O’Neill, a regular Terrier tormentor as her career progressed, would later give PC a 3-2 lead at 1:29 of the third, though BU was holding fort as it continued to kill penalties and test Friars’ keeper Danielle Ciarletta as regularly as PC did Melissa Haber.

On only their second 5-on-4 chance of the night, the Terriers retied the game with 13:18 to spare in the third. But for the rest of the ride, the Friars ran up an edge in the shooting gallery (15-9 in the third) and would finalize the victory on Katy Beach’s end-to-end conversion with 5:51 remaining.

8. February 19, 2011: Providence 3, Vermont 2
When answering an interview in advance of the matchup, PC skipper Bob Deraney was genuinely energized to hear about the stakes in the penultimate game of the regular season. His Friars were one win away from clinching third place, the highest slot still available in the Hockey East playoff bracket. The opposing Catamounts were one loss away from missing the postseason.

“Great,” Deraney said. “The most dangerous people are the most desperate people.”

To start, though, only PC’s incentive was translating on the scoresheet. The Friars pestered celestial Vermont goalie Roxanne Douville with 16 first period shots and finally penetrated her for a 2-0 lead at 1:40 and 9:46 of the second. But Vermont and its veterans, besieged by perennial underachievement, bit back as expected. Junior Chelsea Rapin and seniors Celeste Doucet, Saleah Morrison, and Peggy Wakeham all brushed the scoresheet over two power play conversions to delete the deficit.

But the dramatist Catamounts, a little too late to perk up in their season and in the game, would pay their late fee in the final minute with the notice coming from Rebecca Morse. PC’s rookie blueliner, already with an assist on the day, spooned home the game winner from the slot with 37.8 seconds left.

7. November 21, 2008: Mercyhurst 3, Providence 0
Head coach Bob Deraney, rarely one to take a loss without at least a dollop of despondency, told this author of the almighty Lakers, “I don’t think they can play much better than they did tonight. Unfortunately, they were playing us.”

Even before the legacy of this contest reached hindsight, though, one could tell that by playing a complete game itself, Mercyhurst brought out the best in a rising PC stopper named Genevieve Lacasse. Staring down a strike force of otherworldly countrywomen and another Team Canada goaltending prospect in Hillary Pattenden, the Scarborough Save-ior turned in 51 saves, including 12 on Olympic gold medalist Meghan Agosta.

And for their part, the Skating Friars found the time, space, and energy to thrust 31shots at Pattenden and draw 10 penalties on the Lakers.

6. November 22, 2008: Providence 2, Niagara 2
The fiery Friars were scoreless on each of their first 64 shots in the first 115 minutes and 32 seconds of weekend action, their drought carrying over from a solace-stocked 3-0 loss to Mercyhurst the evening prior.

But once they perked up on a power play, and cut the Purple Eagles’ 2-0 lead on an Erin Normore conversion with 4:28 to spare, order was restored. Less than two minutes after Normore struck, PC drew another power play to end a 106-second shot-free, whistle-free segment. On the advantage, Laura Veharanta tested goaltender Jenni Bauer with a shot that prematurely sold the signal to the goal judge.

As it turned out, play continued even with the flickering light, until Alyse Ruff plunged at the rebound and swiped it into the near post for the equalizer with 1:43 left in regulation.

5. January 21, 2011: Providence 3, Boston College 1
No later than at the halfway mark of her college career was everyone convinced that Genevieve Lacasse would pour a full bottle of White-out all over PC’s goaltending record book and replace the contents with her own entries. But Boston College has all but singlehandedly hastened her pace.

Six weeks before she broke Jana Bugden’s all-time saves lead against these same Eagles in the Hockey East semifinals, Lacasse shook off Kelli Stack’s icebreaking shorthanded breakaway and proceeded to preserve a defiant 3-1 win at Schneider Arena. After PC usurped the lead on a power play strike late in the second and Rebecca Morse’s go-ahead goal 25 seconds into the third, it faced an inevitable reversal from the referee’s gale-forced whistle.

The Eagles, who had dealt with five unanswered penalties over the first 40 minutes, would be granted four unanswered power plays over the final 19:14 of regulation. In that span, they charged up an eye-rubbing 33 pelts on Lacasse, including 14 power play stabs, 11 of which fell between 9:05 and 12:54, when PC committed three infractions and was down two skaters for a full two minutes.

Yet nothing tuned the mesh. And after taking six of the game’s final seven shots, BC let Kate Bacon get away with a cathartic empty netter.

4. February 6, 2009: Providence 3, Northeastern 2 (OT)
The first installment of the Genevieve Lacasse-Florence Schelling rivalry could have gone exclusively to the Dogs. But the Friars, victims of a 1-0 Schelling shutout the preceding October, were just too dogged in their own right.

All but two of PC’s skaters recorded at least one stab at Schelling, amounting to a workload of 56. That’s 10 more than the Swiss Save-ior has dealt with in any other collegiate game, before or since.

And after the Huskies had scraped out a 2-0 lead –their goals sandwiching a washout of an alleged Friar goal that left would-be scorer Alyse Ruff and other PC personnel visibly piqued- the Friars finally cracked the Schelling code on Erin Normore’s power play tally with 9:21 gone in the second.

And before the fundamental details of that goal were ready for disclosure over the PA system, the season-high masses at Schneider Arena –complete with a rare visit from the pep band- exulted in Jean O’Neill’s equalizer at the 9:43 mark.

New game, sort of. Their oomph restored, the Friars continued to besiege Schelling, though she would stop each of the next 30 stabs, including 20 in a scoreless, penalty-free third period.

But in the bite-sized bonus round, one more international VIP, Finnish Flare Mari Pehkonen, seized her long-awaited chance to glow. With one minute left before a shootout, she accepted a feed from Abby Gauthier in the slot and spooned her game-leading eighth shot of the night through the roof to stamp the 3-2 Providence triumph.

3. October 29, 2010: Providence 2, Boston University 2
Providence was the first team to hold phenom Marie-Philip Poulin pointless in a Division I college game. Remember that.

But naturally, the upgraded, defending Hockey East champion Terriers had a few more prominent options to test the 6-2-0 Friars. In her first conference game with BU, New Hampshire transfer Jenn Wakefield treated the Friars no differently than when she was with the Enemy Epitome.

For her fourth and fifth career goals, and seventh and eighth points at PC’s expense she beat Genevieve Lacasse on a bullet from the far outer hash marks and later a chopper from the high slot to turn a 1-0 deficit into a 2-1 lead. And it’s worth noting that defender Catherine Ward, Poulin’s teammate at the Vancouver Olympics, etched an assist on both tallies.

Other than that, though, Lacasse had an answer for the Terriers’ other 40 tries, including all six of Poulin’s, which tied Wakefield for the game lead. Meanwhile the Friars, who took more than half of their 29 total shots (15) in the first period, managed to smuggle an equalizer past the laser-beamed BU defense and rookie stopper Kerrin Sperry. As it happened, it was top gun Kate Bacon inserting her eighth goal of the season, and only nine games in at that.

2. March 5, 2011: Boston College 3, Providence 2 (OT)
All right, the final outcome was less than memorable for Friartownies, but one has to admit it was an exemplary serving of postseason hockey. The blood and sweat of the matchup’s most otherworldly players turned to thick ink on the scoresheet and each team had its turn rebounding from a third period deficit.

PC stopper Genevieve Lacasse stamped a personal record 58 single-game saves, a Hockey East postseason record for most blocks in a tournament game, and surpassed Jana Bugden on PC’s all-time leaderboard for 2,556 upon repelling BC’s 32nd bid of the game. A whopping 10 of those saves held back U.S. Olympian Kelli Stack, who needed two of her understudies to bail her out in regulation.

In an otherwise expectable goaltending duel between the Scarborough Save-ior and BC’s Molly Schaus, another Olympic veteran, a seven-minute, 27-second scoring spree saw rookie Eagles Melissa Bizzari and Taylor Wasylk sandwich strikes by the Friars’ Jen Friedman and Abby Gauthier for first blood and the game’s second equalizer.

And fittingly, in the resultant overtime, the decisive play entailed a one-on-one confrontation between one of the decorated goalies and one of the defiant clutch scorers. On her 11th registered bid of the game, Stack laced the 19th game-winner of her college career through a mousehole and into Lacasse’s cage.

1. November 8, 2009: Providence 2, Northeastern 1 (SO)
Who but PC’s Scarborough Save-ior and Northeastern’s Swiss Save-ior?

The first of only two Women’s Hockey East shootouts at Schneider Arena before the experimental format was repealed last summer remains the longest in league history. Most naturally, it was an arm-wrestling bout between Genevieve Lacasse and Florence Schelling.

After drawing a 1-1 knot in 65 minutes of standard hockey action, the rival netminders pitched two complete shootout shutouts –i.e. six scoreless rounds apiece.

In the top of the seventh, NU’s Danielle Kerr, ironically one of six Huskies not to etch an SOG in regulation or overtime, beat Lacasse low. But PC’s Alyse Ruff retorted with a stroll down Broadway and a trickler that somehow went through Schelling’s narrowing five-hole.

Another six rounds ensued, elevating the likelihood of an unlikely hero ribbon being doled out at day’s end. As it happened, it went to the Friars’ stay-at-home sophomore defender, Christie Jensen, who lacked a regulation goal in 44 career games up to that point.

For her turn in the bottom of the 13th, Jensen took on a Normorean guise as she looped from center ice to the left, then cut back to the middle en route to Schelling’s porch, where she lobbed the game winner into the upper right hand shelf.

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com

Thursday, May 12, 2011

The 10 Best Men’s Hockey Games I Witnessed as a PC Student

10. October 20, 2007: Holy Cross 6, Providence 4
Each team converted three power plays. The Friars closed a 2-0 pothole and deleted three one-goal deficits all within a four-strike second period. And then, Crusaders’ goaltender Ian Dams thwarted PC’s threat to usurp the lead, regained on the strength of Dale Reinhardt’s goal at 2:52 of the third, protected despite a 12-3 shooting edge to Providence in the closing frame, and cemented by Peter Lorinser’s last-second empty netter.

9. February 19, 2011: Boston University 1, Providence 0
On the one hand, the Friars’ discipline was less than commendable, seeing as they drew eight penalties on themselves as opposed to two on the Terriers. On the other hand, Alex Beaudry turned in another trademark irreproachable effort, repelling 13 out of 14 power play shots and 31 out of 32 overall to keep the game competitive for the full length. And Providence equated BU’s output with 32 pelts on opposing stopper Kieran Millan, including three shorthanded tries. The only difference was Millan blinked one time fewer.

8. January 22, 2010: New Hampshire 3, Providence 2 (OT)
After Alex Beaudry withstood all but two of 41 regulation shots, and after his skating mates deleted a 2-0 deficit to force the bonus round, New Hampshire counterpart Brian Foster had his turn repelling a frenzied Friar storm. PC launched three unanswered, but unproductive overtime shots before starting center Phil DeSimone won it for the Wildcats on a fleeting rush to the other end.

7. January 31, 2009: Providence 5, Merrimack 3
It was the last hurrah in a calendar month that momentarily replenished some optimism for the 2008-09 edition of the Tim Army Corps. One evening after tying Boston College, 2-2, before an overflowing home crowd and a NESN television audience, PC issued a balanced attack and set an early tone on the power play to pace itself past the Warriors.

All 18 skaters, save rookie blueliner Danny New, contributed to a bushel of 34 shots. Although, New still had some tangible input with an assist on junior captain John Cavanagh’s goal that made it 2-0 and gave PC a 2-for-2 success rate on the power play.

But on top of that, towering senior pivot Nick Mazzolini and Cavanagh both had a 100 percent connectivity rate, scoring on both of their stabs to help sculpt a 4-0 lead by the time there was 5:44 to spare in the second. Although Merrimack regrouped to wither that difference to 4-3, Mazzolini –already with a goal-assist value pack to his credit- added insurance to his game clincher on a partial breakaway tally with 2:32 left in the third.

That effectively curtained a 4-2-2 January run for the Friars, though they proceeded to go winless for the remainder of the year.

6. December 3, 2010: Providence 3, Maine 3
A regular Chumbawmba theme night from a Providence perspective. They got knocked down, then up again, and ultimately couldn’t be kept down.

The Friars thrice went down by a goal –all owing heavily to the celestial Spencer Abbott, who nailed two and aided the other Black Bear strike. But PC thrice drew a knot, culminating in Chris Rooney’s shorthanded breakaway with 4:50 remaining in regulation.

In the bonus round, goaltender Alex Beaudry dealt with seven Black Bear bids and literally held fort long enough to bar Maine’s Tanner House from converting the walkoff strike. Initial exhilaration from the visiting sector was usurped by the Friar faithful when replays confirmed the buzzer had beaten the biscuit to the mouth.

5. November 17, 2007: New Hampshire 5, Providence 4 (OT)
This one featured three lead changes, double-digit shot counts on both sides in each regulation stanza, and five individual multipoint performances. The post-game three-star custom was not nearly enough to do justice to the sparkling efforts from each party. And, for Providence in particular, neither was Hockey East’s continued refusal to recognize overtime losses as regulation ties.

Ultimately, though, the Friars had the right to feel a little stung as they led a 1-0 edge devolve into a 3-1 deficit and then seized a 4-3 edge on two goals 11 seconds apart midway through the third, only to let it all slip. More than anybody, Pierce Norton had a right to feel gypped after he had given his team two leads.

But PC could not fault itself too much on this night, for a quartet of Wildcats were simply too stubborn to be pushed over the precipice. Visiting stopper Brian Foster did his part with 41 saves –all in regulation- and New Hampshire’s searing forward line of James van Riemsdyk, Thomas Fortney, and Paul Thompson combined for 12 of their team’s 14 points.

4. February 9, 2008: Providence 4, Vermont 3 (OT)
For what it’s worth, the reported attendance at Schneider Arena was 2,121. And as it happened, PC’s No. 21, senior captain Jon Rheault, was the unquestioned man of the night. A first period shorthanded strike to etch a 1-0 lead, followed by an assist on Greg Collins’ goal 62 ticks into the middle frame, pole-vaulted Rheault into the 100-career point club.

After the Catamounts, who had surmounted Rheault’s goal the evening prior en route to a 2-1 win, deleted a 3-1 deficit to force overtime, the captain salvaged his own special night with a delightfully-timed Dalmatian point. With 14 seconds remaining in the sudden-death stanza, he set up shop on the porch and tilted point patroller Matt Taormina’s low rider home for his second walk-off goal in as many months.

3. December 29, 2007: Providence 5, Michigan State 3
Until the 13:18 mark of the second period, the Friars had whiffed on a cumulative 64 shots and been outscored, 7-0, by Great Lakes Invitational staples Michigan and Michigan State in 93:18 of weekend play.

That finally changed when, on a two-on-one break, freshman Kyle MacKinnon let a wrist shot wipe off the cross bar like a skateboarder descending a staircase. The puck plopped into the crease and patiently waited for an incoming Jon Rheault to rake the rebound behind an unprepared Jeff Lerg.

From there, despite falling behind again, 2-1, early in the third, the Friars firestorm’ only accelerated. After a 50-save shutout at the hands of Michigan’s Billy Sauer the day prior, they tested the Spartans nine times in the first, 15 in the second, and a cyclonic 21 in the third. That, combined with a little fatigue from their semifinal game and a general lack of incentive that visibly steamed MSU head coach Rick Comley, was just enough to blow the defending NCAA champion Spartans off their pegs.

In a matter of eight minutes and five seconds, three unanswered goals via John Cavanagh, Rheault, and MacKinnon morphed a 2-1 deficit into a 4-2 lead and paced PC to a 5-3 victory. Fittingly, the nascent MacKinnon tacked on the insurance in the final minute, capping off his second multi-goal game of the month, and second of what would be seven in his career.

2. January 30, 2009: Providence 2, Boston College 2
It would be the only sellout that the House That Lou Built has seen this collegiate generation –for obvious reasons beforehand and for a justified reason thereafter.

Knowing for months that this bout with the defending national champions would be regionally televised on NESN, faces seen everywhere on campus except for the ice house overstocked the student section seeking a morsel of coveted face time. And if they took enough time to look at what the cameras were looking at, they watched a gritty grudge match that saw each team enjoy a momentary lead –BC in the first, PC in the second- before dueling goaltenders Alex Beaudry and John Muse clamped down and drew the final 2-2 knot.

1. February 19, 2010: Providence 5, Boston University 4
Neither party in this card had any cause to sympathize with the other. The host Friars were as few as two losses away from whiffing on a Hockey East playoff spot for the second year in a row. The defending national champion Terriers, ranked No. 19 in the country going into the weekend, needed every invisible point they could scrape out to salvage their hopes for an at-large NCAA tournament bid.

Accordingly and appropriately, the concoction of those storylines produced a back-and-forth, lock-and-load bout. The Terriers struck twice to grab an assertive 2-0 upper hand by 8:45 of the first period, but the Friartownies’ spirits were percolated by the endless physicality that finally broke out in hives at the 9:00 mark. The previously unblemished penalty side of the scoresheet had five entries in the last 11 minutes of the opening frame, though PC failed to hit the board on three power play opportunities.

But starting at 2:14 of the middle frame, the special teams started holding sway. PC’s Kyle MacKinnon struck twice in separate 4-on-4 segments to saw two Terrier leads in half, and it was 3-2 with only 5:50 gone. Less than 14 minutes later, after the eye of the cyclone had passed through the Schneider pond, Matt Bergland gave the Friars their first conversion in seven power plays and a 3-3 tie to take into the final stanza.

The night had only begun. The third period alone saw an incomprehensible 17-16 edge in the shooting gallery for Providence, though BU bouncer Kevin Shattenkirk restored his team’s lead with a carry-over power play bullet just 97 seconds in. But on their eighth twirl, PC’s man-up brigade set up MacKinnon’s hat trick, drawing a 4-4 knot with 14:04 to spare.

From there, it only felt increasingly like the Skating Friars’ fun-sized answer to Game Six of Bruins-Canadiens 2008. The Friars’ nightlong persistence, combined with the Terriers’ incurable disciplinary ailment presaged a first-time and permanent lead for the scrappy home squad.

Lo and behold, during a 5-on-3 segment, with 5:25 to go, the MacKinnon machine fell inches short of the key conversion. He settled for an assist as Aaron Jamnick swooped in the extract the rebound and buried it through a screen of fallen columns, giving Schneider Arena its strongest dose of stimuli in at least two years.

PC was eliminated from playoff contention the following night at Agganis Arena, but it was a refreshing sendoff to the student rooters, who would miss the season’s final two home games due to spring break.

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com

Monday, February 21, 2011

On Hockey

Looking fit for a run again
Redressed Friars set an unmatched tone for playoffs

Within the final 30 days of the regular season, only three Women’s Hockey East games ended with a margin exceeding two goals.

On Jan. 22, the reigning champion Boston University thrashed Vermont, 4-0. Eight days later, the same pack of terrifying Terriers surpassed Connecticut, 4-1.

And then, yesterday, the Friars uncorked a long-absent collection of carbonation, pasting Vermont, 6-1, for a most timely return to the promising persona this team was flaunting throughout October.

With that, and a final regular season record of 21-11-1, PC has concocted its best overall transcript since the 2003-04 season. Anything they pick up in the postseason will automatically make this the Friars’ most fruitful campaign since 2002-03, when they sealed a 24-6-6 run with the inaugural Hockey East pennant in their clutch.

Ironically, in order to match that bushel of 24 wins, they would need to storm their way to another title this year. But head coach Bob Deraney (who when pressed on this topic yesterday once again insisted on counting his team’s exhibition games with McGill University for a gathering of 23 wins) has an even loftier pinnacle in mind.

“We stood here in April and we had a goal of 27 wins,” he said. “We’re four short, as far as I’m concerned, six short overall. And if you think about the NCAA championship game, it’s actually six wins away.

“So we’ve put ourselves in a position that our young ladies have worked extremely hard and dedicated themselves towards, so that now they have a chance to do some things this program has never done before. So it’s really exciting.

“But it’s not done. We know that. We’ve got a lot of work still to do.”

But by the looks of it, there is a not-so-small amount less to do than what this elastic group was facing as recently as two weeks ago. Just in time to enter the postseason on a high note, one Friar after another has either thawed out from a protracted phase of frostbite or continued to fuel her reheated acetylene stick.

In all, 12 skaters touched the scoresheet yesterday, six of them cultivating two points. At least one member of each forward line and each defensive pairing pitched in to the romp.

Most startlingly, not one of those contributions was credited to top gun Kate Bacon, who still sits comfortably atop the team leaderboard with 16-13-29 totals in 33 games. Nor did the team’s most fruitful point patroller, Jen Friedman, augment her aggregation of six goals and 15 assists on the year.

Hardly a one-woman or one-line show, these Friars are. Even with those two puckslingers two out of equation, they still posted their best margin of victory since an identical 6-1 throttling of St. Lawrence in Game No. 3 of the season and composed their best power play performance (2-for-5) since stomping Clarkson, 5-0, in Game 4.

“You can never score enough goals,” said Deraney. “The people you have putting the puck in the net, the more diverse your team is, the harder you are to defend, the more confidence they have.”

For many individuals, there was a cornucopia of confidence to return or reinforce yesterday. With a goal-assist value pack apiece, Corinne Buie –whose entire starting line was held pointless on Saturday- and Abby Gauthier both hit the net for the first time this calendar month. The rookie Buie’s strike made her the fourth Friar to hit double-digits in the goal column this season.

Stay-at-home blueliners Lauren Covell and Leigh Riley each earned a rare helper, Riley’s amounting to Ashley Cottrell’s icebreaker precisely one minute into the game and Covell’s setting up Gauthier’s to make it 3-0 at 3:47 of the second period.

And with the other assist on both Cottrell and Gauthier’s goals, six-foot sophomore Nicole Anderson kindled her first point-scoring streak since the third week of October. On top of that, classmate Jess Cohen smuggled home a power play conversion to conclude the Friars’ four-goal third period salvo and snap her agonizing 19-game goal-less skid.

Meanwhile, after a career-worst six-game hex, co-captain Alyse Ruff has now notched a helper in three of the last four games, all of them PC victories. Fellow formal leader Jean O’Neill once had a five-game freeze going, but has since posted 3-2-5 totals in the past two weekends.

Rookie blueliner Rebecca Morse has a three-game production tear in the works. Senior Amber Yung sprinkled another two assists yesterday for six in this month, a February point total matched only by junior forward Laura Veharanta, who is easily on her most stimulating run since the first half of her freshman season.

“Terrific,” Deraney said of the whole onslaught. “Obviously, Vermont has played extremely well over the last month of the season. They’re very stingy defensively.

“For the last couple of weeks, we’ve been working on goal-scoring and it think this was, not a culmination, but it is a sign that the hard work we’re putting in is starting to transform us into the players and the team I think we’re capable of being.”

Capable of even, say, derailing second-place Boston College in the semifinals (after a quarterfinal bout with Maine, of course) and setting themselves up for a title tilt with the Terriers that ought to equate or eclipse the entertainment value of their 2-2 draw back on Oct. 29?

Four months ago, this team looked like the best possible candidate to crash the presumptive Comm. Ave. block party that is the 2011 Hockey East championship. But now, upon sizing up everyone’s homestretch, that possibility is leaning more towards probability.

“We’re starting to get some continuity,” Deraney said, citing the once-missing health and production across his depth chart.

“That makes me really excited about the possibilities.”

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com

Hockey Log

A merry ending for England

Christina England accepted her routine reserve position well ahead of yesterday’s Senior Day contest, but was nonetheless prepared to improvise in case Father Fortune were to bless her. Namely, were the game to be wrested safely out of reach, she would have the opportunity to close the game for the PC women ahead of minute-munching starter Genevieve Lacasse.

“I kind of heard a rumor that (head coach Bob Deraney) was going to do that,” she said. “Two days ago, Genevieve had kind of secretly, accidentally told me.”

Through two periods, the Friars were safeguarding a 2-0 lead, sculpted within the first five minutes of the opening frame, and leaning on Lacasse to ensure Vermont’s 19-17 lead in the shooting gallery went to waste.

But moments after Lacasse repelled four Catamount power play shots early in the third, PC’s offense erupted like it hadn’t done since the first month of the season. And by the time Corinne Buie had made it 4-0 with 13:29 to spare, assistant coach Karen Thatcher approached England to inform her that her call was imminent.

Four minutes, 20 seconds, three Lacasse saves, and one other Providence goal later, it happened. The Schneider Arena masses drove up the dinning roars as Lacasse joined the round of fist-bumps at the bench and passed on good wishes to England, whose only other relief appearance at home was a five-minute stint in the October 2009 Mayor’s Cup mayhem.

“I’m really happy for her,” said Deraney. “She epitomizes the class and the dignity and respect of our program. I’m glad we were able to do that and the way we did it. It was only fitting that all of our seniors got an opportunity to play in today’s game.”

In nine minutes and nine seconds of crease time yesterday, England would face but two shots, one of which found a home via Catamount power play attacker Celeste Doucet with 2:43 to go. But naturally, that couldn’t do anything to tarnish the Friars’ encouraging postseason prelude.

Nor did it affect what will likely be England’s final transcript in the PC crease. Over four total regular season appearances, she consumed 93 minutes and 57 seconds of play and repelled 28 of 32 shots faced.

Her lone start-to-finish outing and only decision was earlier this season when, in Lacasse’s absence to represent Canada at the MLP Cup, England backstopped a 2-1 road win over Maine Jan. 2.

“That’s cool,” she said, sporting a gratified grin. “A 1-0-0 record is a good way to go out. I don’t have any losses against me, so it’s fine with me.”

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Women's Hockey 3, Vermont 2

Friars sip from last straw
Last-minute strike spoils Catamount comeback

Both teams had already traded turns splashing their respective power play droughts. The visiting Vermont Catamounts had deleted a 2-0 deficit for the first time in all of their 32 regular season games. And after her team had run up an 8-4 lead in the third period shooting gallery, Vermont’s Celeste Doucet was going off for slashing with 5:37 left in regulation.

On the spot, PC head coach Bob Deraney, knowing a radiant break when he sees one, took his team’s one allotted break in the action.

“It was probably going to be the last power play of the game based on the way everything was coming down,” Deraney said. “I wanted to make sure we were rested and we went over what their tendencies are and what we could exploit.

“I thought we had some unbelievable looks on the power play. And, hey, we just have to capitalize. (Because of) the fact that we’re getting those looks more consistently, now we can take the next step and start cashing in on them.”

If nothing else, through their fourth power play onslaught of the day, the Friars repossessed that soapy slab of momentum that was changing sides just a little less often than Brett Favre changes heart. They took seven of the game’s final eight shots on goal, the very last of which found a home courtesy of Rebecca Morse with 37.8 ticks remaining.

Pinching into the high slot, the freshman blueliner absorbed a backhand feed from left winger Laura Veharanta and spooned it over a seated Catamount goaltender Roxanne Douville, spelling the difference in a 3-2 victory at Schneider Arena.

“I was on the boards and somehow we kept it in,” Morse said recalling the clinching play. “Laura took it to the net, she shot, and for some reason, I knew it was going to come at me. I didn’t get it up as high as I wanted to, but luckily it went in.”

As it happened, a little fortune was a prerequisite for both of yesterday’s contesting squads. Douville (33 saves) kept her career-long shutout streak against the Friars alive through a turbulent first period, which saw her repel each of 16 stabs and personally summon 10 out of 20 total whistles.

After killing a carry-over bodychecking penalty to Kate Bacon to commence the middle frame, Providence finally cracked the Catamount rookie’s code at the 1:40 mark. Defender Amber Yung sent Alyse Ruff a breakout feed up the far alley and upon entry into the Vermont zone, the co-captain dished a lateral pass to Nicole Anderson, whose long-range wrister dodged Douville’s trapper.

Eight minutes later, with Saleah Morrison off for her own checking infraction, Bacon deposited her team’s first 5-on-4 strike in 11 chances. Her initial shot dinged off the opposite post but magnetically returned to her twig. With Douville vulnerably lured out of her crease, the slick Bacon curled around the goalie and buried her 16th tally on the year.

Their playoff prospects dissolving before their desperate eyes, the Catamounts perked right up. In the two minutes following Bacon’s goal, they took three unanswered shot attempts and drew a tripping call on Jess Cohen at 11:47. Within 17 seconds, Cohen was joined by Ruff (interference) and Vermont’s Chelsea Rapin slugged home a 5-on-3 conversion at 12:38.

A post-goal scuffle with Friars’ defender Jen Friedman landed Middletown resident Kailey Nash in the bin for roughing, revoking what would have been another 86 seconds of power play time for the Cats. From there through intermission, it was on Douville to answer five unanswered bids.

Vermont would not receive another invitation to test Genevieve Lacasse (21 saves) until they framed the Friars yet again at 4:41 of the third. Two-way grinder Lauren Covell went off for interference and Catamount senior Peggy Wakeham took three successive stabs, the last of which she smuggled in unassisted for the equalizer with 14:28 to play.

“Penalties played into their momentum,” said Deraney. “And I’ve got to tell you, I’m proud of the way our kids played. You can’t control what happened out there regarding the momentum switch. It had nothing to do with us. It had everything to with the breaks of the game. I don’t think Vermont ever took any momentum in this game by themselves.”

But moments after Lacasse neutralized their last assertive swarm of the day, blocking four consecutive shots without any stoppage, the Catamounts –likely a tad drained considering they dressed 14 skaters- effectively spilled the last of their thrust by virtue of Doucet’s penalty.

After that, only Nash got another look at the Scarborough Save-ior while the Friars continued to whittle around Douville, culminating in Morse’s decider.

“(The penalties) played a big part in this game, which they do in every game, really,” said Vermont head coach Tim Bothwell. “I honestly didn’t see that last penalty against us. There was a lot of marginal stuff today. It’s a tough game to referee, but you’ve still got to kill the penalties and they definitely had an effect on the ebb and flow of the game.”

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com