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Monday, November 10, 2008

On Hockey

Future may be sooner than expected
PC women rookies already dazzling

As his immediate past grows gradually less immediate, more protracted, and more cyclically scratchy, Friars head coach Bob Deraney is accordingly more inclined to embrace the present and future.

Only now, though, are there jutting signs that could verify his teeth-gritting optimism that the program he has now held charge of for a decade can renew its contender’s club membership of yesteryear.

“We’ve gone through a cycle of champions where you’re almost at the pinnacle and, what happens is, kids don’t want to come because you’re too good and they want to go where they can play right away. So, all of a sudden, you don’t get those players,” Deraney explained shortly before the commencement of this season, referring to the four-year banner sweep (2002-05) and the still-lingering hangover that has plagued him since.

“But I think now we’re back on the up-cycle,” he concluded.

Fast-forward to the Friars’ return trip to campus after sweeping the Robert Morris Colonials via 3-1 and 5-2 triumphs over the weekend. The individual high spots are their most abundant yet, especially amongst those who have yet to thrash through a final exam on the Divine Campus.

Laura Veharanta –whose goal-assist discrepancy is slightly shadowing that of sophomore Alyse Ruff- slugged home her second career clincher in Friday’s victory, then sprinkled two more in Saturday’s first period tempest to abolish initial 1-0 and 2-1 Colonial leads.

Veharanta’s statistical leadership credentials after the fact: a runaway 10 goals, 12 points, seven power play strikes, and 44 shots on net in a mere 11 games.

Ashley Cottrell, who scraped out a helper on Veharanta’s winning strike Friday, followed up with a playmaker hat trick Saturday. Her weekend outburst doubled her season total to eight points and helped her draw a tie with senior Erin Normore for a team-best seven assists.

Kate Bacon’s goal-assist value pack Friday and assist in Game 2 inflated her overall output to 2-3-5 in nine games played.

The aforementioned Normore joined her understudies in the multi-point club, pitching in a characteristic pair of assists in Game 1 and a somewhat less characteristic twosome of firsthand conversions on Saturday. Normore’s goals, both third period strikes which were assisted by captain Brittany Simpson, served to obligingly enhance a 3-2 lead spotted 35 seconds into the middle frame by Ruff –yet another two-pointer on Saturday’s scoresheet thanks to her assistance on Veharanta’s second goal.

Additionally, subtracting a pair of empty netters, records of all of the Friars’ connections on the weekend went the distance and credited two helpers, a subtle testament to enduring, methodical, proficient puck movement.

Then there was the backstop, Genevieve Lacasse, arguably the foremost surprise in this year’s frosh crop. Despite senior Danielle Ciarletta’s valiant Superglue showing that salvaged an invaluable point against Boston University the weekend prior, Lacasse was reinstated if only for continuous balance in the goalies’ guild –easily PC’s most stable entity all season as it has yet to authorize more than three opposing strikes in a single game.

As it happened, the rookie had her turn facing a wrathful rally-minded opponent in Friday’s third period. Like the Terriers before them, the Colonials heaved 18 shots at the Providence cage in the closing frame, the last eight of them unanswered.

And just like BU, the Colonials finally inflicted a dent on the final stab. Only they still had a 2-1 deficit to surmount, and the deficit would upgrade thanks to Bacon’s gravy goal a mere 42 seconds after Jacki Gibson had put the host on the board.

Lacasse took on a rare second consecutive assignment Saturday and initially hitched to grant a few early RMU leads. But upon taking a score of Veharanta (aka Friars) 2, Colonials 2 to the second sheet, Lacasse uncompromisingly fused her borders, pushed away 18 more lashes, and boosted her overall transcript to 4-3-0.

Granted, Lacasse will likely continue to more or less balance the rucksack with Ciarletta, but the fact is no rookie crease custodian has garnered this much so early in this program since Jana Bugden in 2002-03.

Nor have the Friars established popular credibility since they were given primordial accolades in the form of a #9 national ranking in the preseason polls. No telling if they will have pole-vaulted back onto the scene by the time USCHO and the like revise their opinions tonight, but Deraney can comfortably remind himself that he has a fresh certificate of momentum good enough for the immediate future.

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com

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