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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Yale 2, Women's Hockey 1 (OT)

Friars feel Yale-ment again
Report based on Gametracker

New Haven, Conn.- Howser giveth and Howser taketh away.

They like their hosts taking a tantalizing pace to thaw out after three-plus weeks free of game action, the Friars yesterday initially nursed a brittle 1-0 lead, planted at 3:26 of the second period while Yale’s top gun Crysti Howser was incarcerated for hooking.

But upon failing to stock up any additional support while goaltender Genevieve Lacasse stared down on a snowballing frequency of stabs in her area, they ultimately paid in the form of watching Howser & Friends jet off in a torrent of triumph. Merely fourteen seconds into a bonus round made possible by a third period power play conversion, Howser deposited her team-best 11th goal of the season on her team-leading seventh registered stab on the day, granting the Bulldogs a 2-1 triumph at Ingalls Rink.

The structural and sequential parallels between yesterday’s fall-from-ahead misadventure and the previous convergence of these programs at Schneider Arena were unnerving and unwelcoming from a Friartown viewpoint. Providence had, just as they did on December 6 of last year, slit a not-so-catastrophic wound on a team perennially eclipsed by their ECAC superiors (Dartmouth, Harvard, St. Lawrence) and subsequently authorized a Yale comeback, effectively spilling another pair of invisible, but vital, nonconference points.

A substantially shorthanded Yale bench –restricted yesterday to merely 10 strikers and 5 blueliners- did nothing to fetter the home team in an arm wrestling match between Lacasse (34 saves) and Jackee Snikeris (26 saves). The Bulldogs rate of scoring chances only accelerated as time pressed on.

Although, through the opening frame, a previously laser-beamed defense that had allotted the opposition no more than 21 shots in each of its last four games prior the break gave out to let the Friars discharged 13 SOG in the first period. But Snikeris, who would improve herself to 4-3-0 and has now allowed a shallow 15 goals in seven starts, didn’t budge and her praetorian guards made a jutting contribution by confining the PC power play to one shot over its first two unanswered opportunities.

But at 3:01 of the middle frame, not long after Lacasse had neutralized a five-shot sugar rush on the Bulldogs’ part, Howser’s infraction granted the Friars a third 5-on-4 sequence. Within precisely 25 seconds, the acetylene Laura Veharanta recovered her reliable touch to convert a setup by Ashley Cottrell and Erin Normore –who each earned their 10th helper on the year.

So the most radiant Friars from Part I of the season were back, if only for a one-shot splash. And the radiant rookie Lacasse kept firm at her post even while Yale pulled ahead in the shooting gallery, upgrading their bushel of stabs from eight in the first period to a cumulative 23 after forty minutes.

But PC’s pleasantly unblemished discipline fizzled in the wee minutes of the third, granting the Bulldogs its first power play at 0:43 (Christie Jensen going off for obstruction hooking) and second at 5:12 (Stephanie Morris flagged for roughing).

Lacasse’s skating quartet of penalty killers, not unlike the one before Snikeris in a previous stretch, stifled the bulk of Yale’s power play onslaught, blocking two shots and turning three wide in each PK sequence. The stopper herself needed to deal with but three bids.

But that third swing fell with a table-turning vengeance, senior forward Maggie Westfal thrusting home teammate point patroller Heather Grant’s soapy rebound to draw a 1-1 knot with 13:02 to spare in regulation.

The Friars, whose offensive output slimmed from 13 opening frame shots to an aggregate 13 over the latter two periods, went numb over one last power play of their own. Veharanta saw her solitary PP bid blocked while the Bulldogs spotted a pair of far-between shorthanded hacks at Lacasse.

Those ominous implications over the momentum translated smoothly into a blink-long overtime, where Howser –who last season assisted on classmate Carry Resor’s tiebreaker in Yale’s first program victory on the Divine Campus- polished this one off firsthand.

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com

Monday, December 29, 2008

Hockey Log

Yung deviates normal itinerary
Wrapping up USA holiday camp while mates visit Yale

For once, Finnish Flare Mari Pehkonen is not required –indeed, not authorized, per a U22 age limit- to donate another block of her time and aptitude to her homeland program. She’d otherwise be in Germany once more for the annual MLP Cup tournament (nee European Air Canada Cup).

Coincidentally, on tomorrow’s matinee visit to Yale, PC shall mark a perfect attendance milestone for another senior –Erin Normore, who as of her first shift on the day will have offered up her all-encompassing services in each of 125 career opportunities during her distinguished stay on the Divine Campus.

Hardly an auspicious time for yet another Friar to briefly pull her blades off an intercollegiate ice surface. But, as the can’t-be-perfect universe of elements dictates, Normore’s stylistic understudy, sophomore Amber Yung, is in the midst of USA Hockey’s Minnesota-based holiday camp, which will culminate Wednesday morning.

Yung, who devoted a worthwhile sliver of her summer regimen to the U22 Select series versus Team Canada, was one of 58 icers penciled in to the age-equal camp, conducted in part by former Friar player and coach Jackie Barto.

Intermingled with a smattering of established international gems, increasingly usual suspects, and sheer newbies, Yung is toiling with Team Red, opposite three Hockey East cohabitants in BC’s Meghan Fardelmann and New Hampshire’s Kacey Bellamy and Sam Faber.

The Reds and Blues (who roster the likes of Karen Thatcher) will wrap up their five-day regimen of practices and scrimmages when they face one another off at 8:15 CST Wednesday morning, after which Yung is expected to return here and rev up for next week’s Cornell series. Team White consists strictly of the U18 team fostering for the forthcoming World Championships.

In the meantime, Yung’s voluntary absence immobilizes her own bid for a Normore-like presence record with the Friars after 53 consecutive games played. This leaves classmate Alyse Ruff and frosh Ashley Cottrell, Jennifer Friedman, Christie Jensen, and Laura Veharanta as the only other perfect attendees active in the program.

As he did last month while junior Colleen Martin was recuperating from a temporary ailment, head coach Bohb Deraney will most likely reel Normore back to the blue line, though the two-way connoisseur has long established that she can comfortably take a forward assignment once the defense’s numerical constraints let up once more.

Fence-ridden and defense-minded
The Bulldogs, 5-6-0 overall and 3-4-0 against ECAC rivals, have concocted an even 27-27 overall scoring differential in their first 11 games on the season, amounting to a game-by-game median of 2.45 red lights on each end.

The Friars, though they offered hints of an escalating offensive production rate before they went on their long hiatus, currently boast an average of 2.53 GF per game while authorizing a slim 1.82 GA.

Projecting tomorrow’s goaltending card is one of the more constricted calls on the schedule. PC’s dynamic duo of Genevieve Lacasse and Danielle Ciarletta and Yale’s youthful pairing of Jackee Snikeris and Genny Ladiges are all nurturing supra-.900 save percentages. Although, the Bulldogs have apportioned their work load most evenly, with each stopper seeing action in six games and Ladiges holding the upper hand in the GA department, 14-13.

Quick Feeds: Yale was one of the late bloomers in commencing their 2008-09 schedule –their season opener fell on Oct. 25 at New Hampshire- in large part owing to the extensive offseason renovations to Ingalls Rink. As a result, today will merely mark Date #12 on their 34-game season schedule. They will cram the remaining 22 outings, all but two of them ECAC games, within the first 52 days of 2009…The Friars and Bulldogs are two of only four teams –opposite UNH and Quinnipiac- between the two eastern conferences who have yet to grant a shorthanded goal to the opposition…Senior Cristi Howser is on relatively stable pace to claim Yale’s scoring title for the fourth time, topping the charts with 10 goals and 16 points to date…Tomorrow’s 3:00 showdown can be followed via Gametracker through either club’s website or through an audio or videocast courtesy Yale’s home page.

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Hockey Log: Sunday Edition

Imagine a “Cup Championship Series”

The man who, come about midday January 20, will be the new “decider” has spoken up about it. So maybe now, more than ever, Division I football’s Bowl Championship system will undergo sincere consideration for refinement effective about a year from now. Major League Baseball cooperatively perked up its ears when Senator Mitchell of Maine took a stand against steroids, did it not?

Or the system may just retain its rigidity and resist change of any sort.

Come what may, perhaps it’s high time hockey devotees offered up their holiday gratitude that the authorities in their collegiate game do not brandish the same financial means, ironically unquenched avarice, and disregard for public opinion of their pigskin cousins.

Otherwise, if, hypothetically, the latest national polls (disseminated on December 15) froze in place through championship weekend, we could have been facing this itinerary come April.

Disclaimer: Yes, the BCS is so disorderly that they don’t even assign teams in even general accordance with their final rank. In unreal reality, the committee would know where to put these teams based on the upshots of conference championships, etc.

Additionally, any and every one of these events’ names is subject to smothering sponsorship (e.g. the Bickford’s Grill Cup presented by CCM/RBK).

National championship – Rotating sites (This year at Verizon Center – Washington, D.C.)
2009 Matchup: #1 Notre Dame vs. #2 Miami (Ohio)
Two years ago, the gridiron selection committee wouldn’t have it when the peerless Michigan-Ohio State rivalry had a statistically apt chance to spontaneously rekindle six weeks after their prescheduled get-together. For them, it’s strictly nonconference only, whether followers like it or not.

But here, heck, Maine arm wrestled New Hampshire through overtime en route to the national crown a decade ago. And six years later, four WCHA tenants converged in April wondering where the fifth participant was and whether they needed treatment for uncontrollable déjà vu. All that considered, these two out-of-the-blue powerhouses who have made the better rungs of the CCHA look like the CCCP have each earned their right to square off for the title, whether followers like it or not.

Hockeytown University Classic – Joe Louis Arena – Detroit
2009 Matchup: #3 Boston University vs. #4 Minnesota
Take it from someone who spent a four-year block of his boyhood on the outskirts of Detroit: College Hockey at “The Joe” is fairly addictive to local puckheads. And the “season” only stretches from the Great Lakes Invitational to the CCHA Championship. One more twirl between two randomly selected programs would surely be an embraced excuse to break out the Joe College mascot –a skating graduate complete with a cap, gown, and 1970s goalie mask- one more time.

Speaking of the 70s, here’s how one justifies the intraleague matchup for the title game, beyond sticking to proper poll positions. Who doesn’t want a chance to revisit the rivalry that stirred the famous Frozen Four Bloodbath of 1976? We’ll still have one holdover in Professor Parker, who claimed a MacInnes Cup of cheer in the 2002 GLI in his last voyage to Detroit. And Michigan’s hockey mansion will make for perfect neutral grounds between visitors from its two sandwiching puck-centric regions.

Bay State Cup – DCU Center – Worcester, Mass.
2009 Matchup: #5 Denver vs. #6 Northeastern
Hey, we’re realistic. The Garden, what with its NHL and NBA tenants, the Beanpot, the HEA championship, high school events, etc., would likely be a tad too strained to host a championship event year in and year out. Plus, disgruntled Denver fans may perceive a bit of an unfair advantage in favor of this Beanpot staple. So this event is happily settled on a genuinely neutral pond.

Cabin Cup – Xcel Energy Center – St. Paul
2009 Matchup: #7 Boston College vs. #8 Princeton

The self-proclaimed State of Hockey can do better than this newfangled “Minnesota College Hockey Showcase,” which merely convenes the state’s four WCHA inhabitants and, despite the rigid dreaminess of Commissioner Bruce McLeod, can’t duplicate the Beanpot. Here’s their chance. Not to mention, here’s a chance for BC junior defenseman Carl Sneep –a proud gem plucked out of Brainerd High- and Princeton sophomore Matt Godlewski –hailing from Elk River- to clash on the site of thei distinguished state high school championship contests.

Olympic Village Classic – Herb Brooks Arena – Lake Placid, N.Y.
2009 Matchup: #9/10 Colorado College vs. #10/9 Cornell
First issue to resolve: who wears white? Do you base it on a coin toss between the participating clubs or the dictating poll panels? (USCHO favors the Tigers by an ice chip; USA Today is siding with the Big Red). Cornell’s Ithaca campus sits but a roughly three-hour drive southwest of the historic Olympic barn, but there are inherent Miracle memories in CC’s participation. After all, that seem of Soviet slayers was initially assembled at the late Broadmoor World Arena in Colorado Springs, ex-home of Tiger hockey. Everyone’s a sentimental winner in this arrangement.

Mile High Melee – Pepsi Center – Denver
2009 Matchup: #11/12 Air Force vs. #12/11 Michigan
Same pregame bump as the Lake Placid tangle. And once you’ve hurdled over that, there’s no escaping at least a few grunts of home ice advantage in favor of the Falcons. Then again, the Wolverines have utitlized Yost in past regional tournaments to stamp facile tickets to the Frozen Four. Regardless, to paraphrase Rihanna, shut up and drive to Denver, fans.

Coffee Pot – Dunkin Donuts Center
2009 Matchup: #13 Vermont vs. #14 Wisconsin

Hey, Friar Puck’s not utilizing this facility or tournament name anymore, so why not have at it, NCAA? As for the game itself, you’re looking at one team that merely missed out on Sweet 16 membership in 2008 on account of Boston College zapping them in the Hockey East final, in effect swiping the requisite automatic bid. On the visiting end, you have a program that mysteriously followed five of its conference cohabitants to the dance and hosted its own regional –even though it brandished a losing record and missed out on the WCHA Final Five. One will skate off with a fun-size piece of hardware. Catamount fans, in particular, ought to be salivating right here.

Buckeye State Cup – Nationwide Arena – Columbus, Ohio
2009 Matchup: #15/14 New Hampshire vs. #16/15 Nebraska-Omaha

It is still fairly perplexing that the 2005 Frozen Four was held at the former Value City Arena as opposed to the slightly larger, more posh shrine to the NHL Blue Jackets. But this way, Columbus hockey fans will finally get a firsthand feel for post-season action, let alone with firsthand championship implications.

Quick Feeds: PC women’s assistant coach Amy Quinlan will serve as Team USA’s video coordinator at the seond annual U18 World Championships, answering to head coach Mark Johnson, Jan. 5-11 in Fussen, Germany…New Englanders privileged enough to own or track down a TV set carrying Versus for last week’s Bruins-Devils tussle must have taken note of the jutting presence of former Friar and P-Bruins captain Jay Leach in the New Jersey lineup. After he had whittled off slivers of credit for two games in Boston three seasons ago and two in Tampa last season, the bruiser has seen action in 15 of the Devils’ last 19 ventures, garnering roughly 15 minutes of ice time per night, a cumulative +4 rating, and 21 PIM…Happy birthday to a former BU parent and soon-to-be UNH parent, Ray Bourque…This author’s picks for the out-of-market game of the week: two honorable mentions in recent polls in UMass-Lowell and Minnesota-Duluth seek to upgrade their respective national postures in Day 1 of the newfangled Shillelagh Tournament –infamously transplated from Tampa to suburban Chicago late last summer. In the women’s spectrum, BU vies to retain its first-half luster with a two-night visit to the similarly hungry Ohio State program.

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com