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Wednesday, July 16, 2008

On Hockey

New Deraney pact should fuel winning interest

Late last February, when the PC women’s hockey team had a matinee venture to Boston College uprooted from a Sunday to the preceding Friday, the same day their male counterparts were to visit the Eagles as well as host a traveling community reception, men’s skipper Tim Army insisted it was sheer coincidence. “(The women’s team is) an entirely different entity from what we are,” he plainly explained.

Maybe so, but the way athletic director Bob Driscoll has been exercising his powerful pen, he likes having all of his Schneider Arena employees on the same page. Like Army six days before him, women’s skipper Bob Deraney has just been locked in to remain at his post through at least the lucky year 2013, as was declared Tuesday.

On the Friars’ longevity leaderboard, this will mean Deraney’s run tying the ornate 14-year reign of John Marchetti (1980-94), which was underlined by five conference championships and a runaway overall record of 262-69-15. Deraney, whose all-time transcript in his first nine years here reads 173-113-35 with four conference titles, is far from likely to regenerate the same statistical supremacy that the Friars enjoyed under Marchetti, who left the program with a Cyclopean lifetime winning percentage of .779. The pool these days both within and without the league has simply picked up too much competitive volume.

But now that Deraney’s project plan has likewise extended, he and his staff have no less than five additional seasons to recapture, reinstall, and reseal the contender’s caliber that defined an earlier sect of his reign. Though they were tangibly within tasting distance of another Hockey East title –and therefore another spontaneous passport to the NCAA bracket- the Friars’ shaky track records of the last two years, especially on the nonconference front, have docked their points with the pollsters. PC has always safely finished above the .500 equator in their conference slate and has given New Hampshire a decent fright during judgment week. But ever since the dramatic changing of the guard between 2005 and 2006, the Wildcats’ new wave citadel hasn’t budged.

With Meredith Roth and Amy Quinlan –both members of Deraney’s first official recruiting class back in 2000- having now delved deep into their new careers as assistant coaches and recruiters, there rests a new hope that the Friars can reverse the reversal. Both Roth and Quinlan partook in Deraney’s first three of four uninterrupted league championships, overlapping between the ECAC exodus and the dawn of the WHEA. And within the last two years, they’ve been latched on to Deraney’s replenished cabinet in partial hopes of upholding and reincarnating that winning legacy.

Recent correspondences with Roth had her labeling the forthcoming rookie class as the first one she played a substantial role in conglomerating, though she wasn’t completely sidelined in the midst of inviting the new faces of last season. As it happened, the graduating class of 2011 was the most noticeably productive pack of frosh since the class of 2008 –the last class to have helped put fresh numerals on the Hockey East banner hanging over the visitor’s net. And so, all in all, the likes of Alyse Ruff, Jean O’Neill, and Amber Yung –splitting an aggregate 51 points last season- have backed Deraney’s proclamation from last summer, “Our future is very bright.” For what it’s worth, a few sturdy beams blossomed.

When the first sect of a now ten-member class of 2012 was confirmed in December, Deraney dared to compare it to the one class that ended all four of its seasons with a little group hardware. The new blood slated for this autumn is highlighted by St. Mary’s of Lynn beacon Abby Gauthier, her high school’s runaway all-time point scoring leader who has been fastened to the Friars since mid-November.

Uncannily enough, Gauthier had been perched in a near-perfect middle between the PC and UNH campuses (Lynn lies 46 miles away from Durham 46, 51 from Providence). In other words, if given the chance, she could have just been another savory additive to Brian McCloskey’s undeniable block of proficient puckslingers.

Instead, Gauthier will be relied on to smoothly carry over her influential graphite to the lately lesser-rich Friars. For that particular maneuver, Deraney and Co. may rightly holler in the name of Friar Puck, “Yoicks, and away!”

Of course, Gauthier and her classmates will have to deliver just what they promise. And they will need hardcore fostering from their elders and instructors.

For the moment, the best proclamation Providence can make is sheer potential. That’s at least good enough for Driscoll to make sure Deraney sees the full run of both Gauthier’s class and the class after that, who nobody’s even met yet.

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