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Wednesday, December 26, 2007

2007 In Review: Women's Hockey

Holding Their Post
From the moment they rang in the New Year, the Friars kept up their limbo trek, going exactly .500 at 7-7-1 leading up to the Hockey East tournament. Despite forging an iffy regular season record of 15-15-4, a 12-6-3 log against conference rivals left them in a fair position to revive their dynasty that had been snapped by Boston College and New Hampshire in 2006.

There, in the most definitive fashion, the fellow titan Wildcats wrested PC’s solo claim to Hockey East regality a little further, bumping the Friars by a 3-1 count before a gleeful Whittemore Center mass. A week later, the repeat HEA champion did not take the Friars –but rather the blossoming Eagles- with them to represent the New England coast in the NCAAs.

End of an era? Much to the collar-tugging nervewrack of the Friar faithful, the proud ice was appearing to exponentially soften for the former three-peat conference champions. The off-season did, after all, mark the loss of a big-help-in-small-pack senior class, namely the 1-2 scoring punch of Kristin Gigliotti and Sonny Watrous and proven goaltender Jana Bugden.

Throw in four blindsided premature departures and the aforementioned disturbances churning in Chestnut Hill and Durham, and popular analytical opinion did begin to express its doubt in Bob Deraney’s ice pack.

For a team theoretically clad in as many question marks as Jim Carrey’s embodiment of The Riddler, it didn’t help the Friars to break in their new skates with a home game-free October. (It wasn’t like Schneider Arena was undergoing renovations like the men’s basketball shrine downtown, or pushing away its tenants in favor of the circus as the Bruins building does every autumn).

By the time PC did light up its home barn for a November 6 tilt with Northeastern, it had swallowed –in chronological order- two ties, two blowout-shutouts at the hands of almighty St. Lawrence and Connecticut, and a compressing 3-2 tip-over of Boston College. A subsequent 5-4 falter in the home opener set things back touch more.

But all in all, through the first half of the present campaign, less has changed for the Friars than the critics had prophesied. Take that either way: for better or worse. They are gripping an appreciable conference record of 4-2-1, but remain stumped on alien conference tenants, making for an overall transcript of 6-8-2.

As they try to recover from their early slides, the Friars’ night-to-night scoresheets are reflecting a down-to-ice team effort. Gigliotti and Watrous’ logical contemporaries –Mari Pehknonen, Sarah Feldman, and Erin Normore, all fresh off healthy 20-plus point campaigns- are not having any individual runaways.

Then again, the once-arid likes of Kelli Doolin, Cherie Hendrickson, and Kathleen Smith have done a flattering share, Smith so much so that she currently leads the team with 13 points. She is immediately trailed by four nine-pointers –one of them a freshman scoring beacon in Alyse Ruff- and three eight-pointers –another frosh, Amber Yung in that clan. At the first-half buzzer, that all amounts to a goal-per-game average of 2.875, a few notches up from last year’s median of 2.875.

Considering the summer criticisms, that data could be taken with a smile, as could junior Danielle Ciarletta’s more or less secure assumption of Budgen’s crease. But the remaining half of the season will offer up plenty of interesting opposing silos –two more BC get-togethers, two with Connecticut, all three UNH games.

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