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Saturday, November 24, 2007

Hockey Log

Normore all about aid these days

She just can’t help herself; but she’s helping her team aplenty, as would come naturally, beyond extensively critical thought, to any Providence College hockey buff.

Two-way connoisseur Erin Normore has not charged up a formal goal since her solo end-to-end touring of the puck and slot shot conversion against New Hampshire in last year’s Hockey East title tilt, one of few Friar highlights immortalized by NESN. With that being the last radiant moment of the 2006-07 season, the rising junior had all rink-going Friar Fanatics leaning on politely smiling tenterhooks and looking her way.

So far, there have been no one-woman shows like that early March gem in the otherwise treacherous depths of Lake Whittemore. Instead, as this edition of the PC Women gels, Normore is spreading a creativity fever throughout her bench.

No single Friar is running away as the top gun through the team’s first 11 games, but Normore’s 0-6-6 transcript has her running away in the race for the distinction of prime playmaker.

Her consistency in the area of mere effort has matched its forecast. She factored into three of PC’s first seven goals over the two ties that kickstarted their campaign. She has stabbed at least one shot on net in each of her last seven outings, beginning with the team’s egg-cracking 3-2 victory at Boston College.

What’s more, during fellow junior Mari Pehkonen’s timeout overseas for the Four Nations Cup, Normore, who evenly spread out 13 goals and 43 points over her first two collegiate years, was assigned to do what she is inclined to do a smattering of times per game anyway: stray from her blue line post and into the attack. After going pointless as a starting center against Northeastern November 6, she was sandwiched between Alyse Ruff and Sarah Feldman on the top line and tapped a helper against both Vermont and Dartmouth.

Her point in the 2-1 falter to the Big Green had initially been credited as her first goal of the campaign, but was retroactively awarded to freshman Jean O’Neill, who had assumed the screening position and chipped Normore’s long-range skipper home.

Even after Pehkonen returned, Normore stuck around upfront for the two-night Ohio State trip, even grinding with Pehkonen on her left side on the starting unit. But it wasn’t as if coach Bob Deraney had any reservations about shuffling her back to the point at the most seemingly random times -power play or no power play.

And what was initially exclusive to the cunning Canadian is now showing up in the likes of Stephanie Morris, who Normore partnered with back on the blue line against Brown, and freshman Amber Yung.

Yung, also a designated defender, has expressed an eerily analogous taste for juggling the puck into the corners and the traffic zone. So far, at the very least, it has earned her three assists of her own.

Quick Feeds: Twelve different Friars charged up a point each –no more, no less- in Saturday’s win. Among that dandy dozen, Stephanie Morris and Jackie Duncan cracked the scoring charts for the first time in 2007-08 with a helper on the game-clincher and last minute game-sealer respectively

Right off the draw that commenced a thirty-second 5-on-3 penalty kill, the Friars were reduced to 5-on-2 in terms of twigs when Sarah Feldman shattered her stick, but nonetheless carried on as the tip of their triangular formation. The cringe-inducing play was ultimately whistled when goaltender Danielle Ciarletta, entirely out of her crease in a kneeling position, tramped Brown’s only shot attempt with her skates

For the second consecutive game, PC’s busiest gunslinger, Kathleen Smith, dispensed a whopping nine shots on net, a team-high on the season matched Saturday by herself and Katy Beach

With the two conversions against Brown, albeit achieved through a laborious twelve whacks, the Providence power play had a multi-goal showing for the first time since the October 19 5-5 tie with Colgate, where both teams capitalized four times

Robert Morris, Sunday’s visitor to Schneider Arena, had Saturday to rest in the Renaissance City after already tipping over Brown 4-2 at Meehan Auditorium on Friday. The Colonials are one of two members of the four-member College Hockey America on the Friars agenda this season (PC visits Niagara over the first weekend of January).

Women's Hockey 5, Brown 2

First period over-Stock bolsters Friars

Mayor’s Cup game victory most decisive this season

Not so long ago, when Nextel was a signature NHL sponsor, the persuasive tagline for its innovative communication system was “Bad things happen when you don’t get through.”

More often than they please, hockey teams will have a night where they are harshly reminded as to how applicable that is to sports. You chip and chip, but don’t beat the goalie, landing yourself in a statistically empty, distressing situation.

The Providence College women’s team has endured plenty of that in some recent excursions, but on Saturday, opening a six game homestand against Brown University, they finally piled up a salvo hot enough to overwhelm opposing goaltender Nicole Stock and pilot them to a 5-2 victory.

As a coincidental token to their now-you’re-clicking performance, the Friars nabbed the Mayor’s Cup, recompensing last year’s loss across town and improving to 4-7-2 all-time in that annual event.

More to the point at hand, though, they exhibited distinctive command of the game from start to finish for the first time this season and whitewashed a bitter pill three-game skid highlighted by failure to crumble Dartmouth and Ohio State’s goaltending garrisons.

This time, Stock withstood PC’s first thirteen stabs, all amassed within the first seven minutes of action, eleven of them unanswered, nine of them spaced out over near-successive power plays. At the peak of that second Brown penalty kill, though, she finally subsided, allowing the Friars to draw first blood in a game for the first time since their October 30 visit to Boston College, when they compressed another jagged stretch.

At 6:39, right point patroller Erin Normore hauled in Rachel Crissy’s feed and whisked a shot off of Stock’s right boot. Cherie Hendrickson, monitoring the backdoor, nimbly buried home the icebreaker on the rebound.

The Bears were allotted their first power play circa the halfway mark of the opening frame, but thrust diddlysquat at PC stopper Danielle Ciarletta and relinquished their final 12 ticks when defender Samantha Stortini went off for body-checking at 11:45.

Moments later, the Friars essentially curtained their first period tempest (20 shots total) with another elaborate conversion. Forwards Katy Beach, Sarah Feldman, and Mari Pehknonen all prodded for the puck off a far-lane face-off before Pekhnonen forwarded it to blueliner Brittany Simpson. Simpson shipped it across to associate Kathleen Smith, who leveled a straightaway slapper over the southpaw Stock’s trapper mitt.

Another Brown advantage via Feldman’s tripping infraction carried over to the middle frame, but so did PC’s gunslinging bonanza. A minute removed from polishing the penalty kill, Stephanie Morris toured the puck through the near corner of the offensive zone, whereupon the stickwork of two Bears had referee Bill Doiran all prepared to write Brown yet another citation.

Instead, Morris pressed forward and managed to toss the puck out into the slot, where receiver Danielle Tangredi flicked it upstairs for a 3-0 Friar edge at 1:12.

Brown’s own strike force, which had mustered a sparse seven shots in the first twenty minutes, thawed out well enough to hit the board at 10:38. A couple of hot potato tap exchanges in the middle of Providence territory was finally settled when Brown’s Maggie Suprey found linemate Nicole Brown open in front. Brown wasted no time chipping the disc upstairs to put the Bears on the board.

But it only took the Friars 84 ticks to retort. Stock let the puck loose after handling a Feldman bid from the left circle only to see Amber Yung vacuum it up in the same vicinity. Yung handed things over to Beach, who zapped a low flying wrister in off the far post.

Yet another carry-over power play effectively invited the Bears back into the game early in the third. On an immediate dump-in, the visitors got the better part of some still soft ice as Hayley Moore managed to drop a feed back to Jenny Cedorchuk, who reeled home a slapper to the left of Ciarletta at 0:23.

Brown subsequently contributed to a dead-even closing frame, which saw ten shots per side, but it was the other Ocean State tenant’s turn to have their grinding efforts eclipsed. Providence stood its ground and finalized the score in the final minute of action.

In a prompt rush off a neutral ice draw, freshman Alyse Ruff, whose hot hand had tapered off as part of last week’s team hex, collected classmate Jackie Duncan’s feed in the slot and zapped home her sixth tally of the season and Duncan’s first collegiate point.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Hockey Log

A rotating torch
Last season, at least part of Tim Army’s, as it were, sophomore slide as the head skipper of the men’s hockey team was his growing core’s inability to mature in accordance with the competition and slate.
The crux of success they call depth was conspicuous by its absence, and the Friars thus went from maybe-just-maybe contenders to a rollover face in the crowd.
Among last year’s sophomores and juniors, the entire roster for that matter, only Jon Rheault and Nick Mazzolini broke the twenty-point plateau through the club’s thirty-six game venture that ended with an infamous 10-0 two-game playoff drowning in UNH’s Lake Whittemore. Rheault’s dozen goals that year, and the thirteen by captain Colin MacDonald, more than doubled everyone else’s output in that column.
Call it panicky, but when the 2007-08 campaign rolled around, the outspoken promoters around Schneider Arena suddenly appeared to call upon the freshmen class to act as the saviors of this scoring scurvy. Ever since, the elder boys, whether they actually took muted exception to those implications or not, have looked to be solving their own troubles.
As one of MacDonald’s succeeding captains, Rheault already has nine points through eleven games. He started off the year side-by-side with co-captain Kyle Laughlin as the breakout leaders, Laughlin going on a meticulously kneaded two-point-per-game stretch through four outings in the latter half of October.
Since then, the likes of Mazzolini, Matt Taormina, and Pierce Norton, all classmates of Laughlin’s have likewise revolutionized their touch. For a time, Taormina made it easy to forget that he is a designated blue-liner, taking over the captains’ post and charging up 4-5-9 totals in a five-game scoring streak, beginning with the waning-second equalizer in the 3-3 tie at Amherst October 27 and ending with a helper on the man who was next in line, Norton, in a 1-0 tipping of Maine November 10.
Since then, Norton has merely run off with back-to-back two-goal games in PC’s two-game stay at home last weekend and drawn a knot with Taormina, who had an uncredited hand in on Norton’s first goal against New Hampshire, for a team-leading 11 points in as many games played.
Final result? Well, right now, as the Friars take their Thanksgiving holiday fastened on the .500 fence and deadlocked with Boston College for fourth place in the lottery-ball Hockey East leaderboard, the class of 2009 has a an aggregate 48 points, compared with a 2006-07 season total of 69.
Army remarked prior to Saturday’s 5-4 OT slip to his playoff nemesis Wildcats that any satisfactory result would do nothing to take back last year’s decisive massacre. What he did yearn for, he said, was to flaunt improvement. The oft-honest stats say he may be on to something.

Quick Feeds: The much-hyped rookie class has gradually begun to hatch itself. Defender Eric Baier tossed in an assist Saturday, while two-way-minded associate Joe Lavin finally broke his goose eggs with two assists on the weekend after coming up empty through his first nine games.

MacDonald, returning to Providence for the first time as a pro, inserted the eventual game-clincher Sunday for the Springfield Falcons in a 3-2 edging of the P-Bruins, precisely six months after he snagged his degree on the same Dunkin Donuts Center platform. In a subsequent Providence Journal interview, the Edmonton Oilers farmhand contentedly noted that a smattering of his not-so-old PC friends were on hand for his homecoming.

In the third minute of Saturday’s marathon with New Hampshire, the Friars had yet another near-miss retroactively reviewed and confirmed by video. Rheault had been bolting down the center alley in an odd-man rush and forwarded a diagonal slide to right wing Greg Collins, whose high-flyer brushed the upper post. The jumpy Friar Fanatics were only briefly allowed to entertain thoughts of claiming the precious upper hand before referee Tom Quinn finalized the initial call, as there was no evidence it had entered the cage.

Women’s goaltender Danielle Ciarletta charged up the Hockey East Defensive Player of the Week title through her aggregate 56 saves in PC’s two-night shortcoming visit to Ohio State. Friday’s dynamic 38 save effort in a 2-1 kick in the teeth was the junior’s best output since she penned an equivalent transcript since a 2-2 tie at New Hampshire last January 28…Ciarletta’s classmate Mari Pehknonen, who had but four days to thaw out her Four Nations Cup jet lag, kept off the scoresheet Friday, but instantly returned to her regular Finnish Flash persona Saturday, potting PC’s only goal on seven shots…Senior defender Kathleen Smith has run away in the area of shots, compiling forty, at least fifteen more than any of her associates, in the Friars’ first ten games…The weekend drop-in to Columbus marked the first two times either Friar team has had their game chaperoned by two referees. A recent declaration from league commissioner Joe Bertagna stated that both the dual-ref system and video replay, already a hit with the men’s team, will be used at random this season before becoming full-time institutions in 2008-09.