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Wednesday, December 3, 2008

On Hockey

Lacasse is the runaway nucleus now
PC’s doing something right, and it’s largely in net

The time may have come for hockey to institute a set of criteria for a goaltender’s answer to the Gordie Howe Hat Trick, an unofficial accolade bestowed upon any multifaceted skater who brushes the scoresheet in the form of at least one goal, one assist, and one fighting major.

Let’s call it, say, the Patrick Roy Hat Trick. The core requirements: a shutout, an assist, and a two-minute minor.

For PC’s radiant rookie Genevieve Lacasse, it appears high time she received recognition of such a degree. Last Saturday, she neutralized the whole of a 21-shot firestorm at the hands of Brown University -14 of those shots spaced over five power plays, one of which was her doing through a tripping infraction at 3:54- then proceeded to push away 16 more stabs and assist on Katy Beach’s goal towards a 1-0 triumph at Meehan Auditorium.

Lacasse can be absolved, if not acclaimed, for blissful ignorance. Having only labored in the Friars crease for three months now, she likely didn’t feel the same trend-bucking task pressure that her elder teammates were. If the early Brown barrage signified ominous reminders of the notion that the Mayor’s Cup uncompromisingly switches recipients each year, Lacasse dismissed it with the same poise she has demonstrated en route to six wins and four tough-to-blame-for losses.

“She’s played terrific for us and that covers a lot of weaknesses,” said head coach Bob Deraney.

It was only eight evenings and one start prior that Lacasse confronted another brimful bushel of opposing ammo, when mighty Mercyhurst discharged 25 shots in the second period alone. And the two sandwiching frames that night were only facile by fanciful comparison. By the time the horn solidified a 3-0 defeat, Lacasse had done her part in the form of a 51 save dolphin show.

And this coming only five days after she had swallowed 30 bids by Connecticut to prop up a chronic zilch-nada deadlock until her praetorian guards gave her a break in the third, ultimately stamping a cathartic 2-0 win for Lacasse’s first career shutout.

A fraternal step-by-step twin of that game unfolded in the tip-over of Brown last Saturday. And by night’s end, Lacasse’s overall save percentage of .950 and GAA of 1.72 both rated second in Hockey East only to another early bloomer –Florence Schelling of Northeastern. (Incidentally, the Friars and Huskies alike are still getting reliable output from their incumbent crease custodians –Danielle Ciarletta and Leah Sulyma, respectively.)

Though Deraney was apt to commend his PK quartet –or, in a few brief cases, trinity- for doing their part in the initial tempest last Saturday, Lacasse was, by sheer nature, the last judge when the biscuit hovered within the net’s tasting range. This has been the case perhaps a tad too frequently for comfort since Lacasse’s debut two months ago. Over ten total appearances, she has yet to confront any fewer than 27 shots on a given night.

Yet, at the same time, she has yet to authorize more than three goals or nail fewer than 25 saves on a given night.

One dollop of trivial gravy to add to the budding Lacasse-Jana Bugden parallels: by setting up Beach’s decider, Lacasse is the first PC netminder to charge up a helper since Bugden collaborated with Erin Normore to set up Kathleen Smith in the 2006 Hockey East semifinal.

But even without her teammates fluffing her pillows –or, in the latest case, her helping herself- Lacasse has upheld the Friars’ viability and granted them the chance to regularly rework tension into exhilaration. Providence finished the month of November with a brittle GF-GA difference of 16-11 over seven games. But the more vital transcript reads 4-1-2, amounting to an improved 7-6-2 overall record on the year.

“The things you learn from playing tight games are invaluable,” said Deraney. “The fact that you can beat a terrific UConn team, 2-0, beat Brown, 1-0, and get comfortable playing in such small margin games like that pays dividends down the road.

“You win championships with defense, and the fact that we’re getting comfortable with that shows the mental toughness that you need to go into the playoffs. And I’m not just talking about the Hockey East playoffs. I’m talking about the NCAA tournament.”

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com

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