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Saturday, November 15, 2008

Hockey Log

Ice storm watch via Friars, Huskies
Deraney foresees gritty confrontation

Last season is last season, expect for when the present is so rigid and protracted that it clutches the past in one fist, the future in the other, and accordingly injects its consistent influence.

That’s how the puck spins in the Battle for Southern New England. Typically, when the PC and Connecticut women lock twigs, hard noses and hard feelings slosh from end to end like a choppy, monsoon-driven river.

Hence the candidate for quote of the week straight from Friars’ coach Bob Deraney, offering a general prophesy concerning tomorrow afternoon’s meeting at Schneider Arena: “It’s gonna be a very physical, hard-fought, ugly hockey game.”

Deraney didn’t refer back to any previous get-together in particular. Not even the Friars’ head-turning, shellshocking, 5-1 triumph in the 2008 Hockey East semifinals, which was carried out on UConn ice, no less, and likely pierced the Huskies’ NCAA tournament bubble.

Implicitly, the spirit of the rivalry is safe without extra zesty circumstances like that. Nevertheless, there is some cause to believe that the visiting Huskies will be vying to make an early statement whilst serving a mini-dish of eye-for-eye justice in the House That Lou Built.

“They’re definitely gonna come in hard, especially coming off the loss from last year,” said PC senior defender Erin Normore, who charged up a goal and assist in that revolutionary game. “So we’re just gonna come out, work hard, play our game, and hopefully come out with a win.”

The Friars (5-5-1 overall; 2-2-1 Hockey East) and Huskies (6-4-2 overall; 3-2-0 Hockey East) alike may indeed need to subsist, in part, on a not-so-negligible dose of hope. Time and again, the explosively molecular mix of elements have broken the surface in this matchup.

Over all four of their get-togethers last season, neither team allotted the other more than 30 shots on an individual night.

“Both teams play shutdown defense and there are some talented kids on both sides who can score goals,” Deraney observed. “Dominque Thibault and Amy Hollstein are both dangerous. Their goaltending, whether it’s (Brittany) Wilson or Alexandra Garcia, they’re both very good."

Already, through 12 total contests, Thibault has a 12-7-19 scoring transcript to top the UConn charts. She and Hollstein (8-6-14) sandwich Michelle Binning (9-7-16) to formulate a trinity of point-plus-per-game Huskies.

The more likely starter Wilson already bears a decent 4-2-1 log, 2.22 GAA (precisely the same as Garcia’s), and .904 save percentage. She will counter either a certifiably sharp rookie in Genevieve Lacasse or a not-so-problematic veteran in Danielle Ciarletta and will be personally confronted by a Providence strike force that is steadily heightening its nightly output on the scoresheet.

“We’ll have our work cut out for us to score,” Deraney observed. “But in turn I think that the way we’re playing pretty good defense, if we can get to them early, they’re a different team. If they can get a hold of us, they can win a one-goal game."

From where Deraney’s stands, part of this year’s incentive is not to let his team procrastinate in propping up its half of the parity. Over their first two meetings last season, the Huskies made Zamboni brooms of the Friars through 5-0 and 3-0 finals at Freitas Ice Forum.

It wasn’t until the third regular season encounter and the spontaneous playoff rumble that Providence tuned the back of Wilson’s cage. When they did, though, they clicked copiously and in effect cultivated two key wins.

Those discrepancies in upshots couldn’t be plainer to the Friars’ skipper.

“If we get ahead of them, they’ll have to take chances and if they do that, they’re not their best,” said Deraney. “So our goal will be to try to score early and stay on top. If we do that, we’ll have a lot of success.

“If we don’t, then it’s going to be a knock-down, dragged-out, sixty-minute battle.”

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com

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