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Sunday, December 20, 2009

Women's Hockey mid-season player reports

Nicole Anderson- While not quite an instant hit, the rookie Anderson has bolted out of the left corner to make her towering stature and supreme wingspan an overwhelming power play mace. In all, she has slugged home nine goals, six of them during 5-on-4 segments and nearly all of them executed in a fashion that pays homage to Phil Esposito and Ryan Smyth. Also, other than classmate Jessie Vella, who has played but five games and scored on each of her two shots, Anderson boasts a team-best .196 accuracy rate.

Kate Bacon- Still thawing out after two separate bouts of injury sidelined her for a total of seven games, Bacon finally tuned the mesh for the first time this season at Boston College just before the break. Part II of the season might make a better measuring pole for the progressing sophomore.

Jess Cohen- A stimulating October (six points in her first six games) has rapidly given way to a rut of frustration (two points in her last 13 games). In her four most recent outings, she has not so much as recorded a shot on goal. While head coach Bob Deraney insists that the break is somewhat untimely for the team, some individuals could use the respite for psychological retooling. The rookie Cohen would be definitely one of them.

Ashley Cottrell- She’s putting the puck in the net. She’s making plays. She’s blocking shots and getting right back up from it. She bears one of the team’s better plus/minus ratings. She’s victorious at the face-off dot more often than not. What more can be asked of this sizzling sophomore that she hasn’t been doing already?

Lauren Covell- A defensive convert from forward, Covell has pitched in a pleasantly surprising five points so far, although they’ve been coming at a slightly lesser rate than they were in October.

Jackie Duncan- Continuing her career-long bout with off-and-on ailments, Duncan missed the first 12 games and has since taken her time thawing out through seven appearances. Like most of her associates in both the grinders’ department and the fresh-off-the-sideline committee, Duncan’s second half task is to adopt consistent health and help to deepen the Friars’ charts by sculpting a formidable fourth line.

Christina England- The junior stopper finally got a slurp of regular season NCAA action, even if it was only four minutes and 48 seconds worth of firefighting duty in the Mayor’s Cup. What can she do? Genevieve Lacasse is just playing up to her lofty standards.

Jennifer Friedman- The data doesn’t lie. Friedman bears the lone positive plus/minus (+4) amongst all of her blue line peers and, behind Amber Yung, is the most regular point-based puckslinger with 32 registered shots, including 13 on the power play. Although, those shots have been a tad less frequent of late than they were in October.

Abby Gauthier- On a team that has only recently perked up its offense, Gauthier is still one of the less frequent shooters and scorers and, more frightfully, is enduring a minus-7 rating. In the last two games before her well-timed respite, she found herself linked up with senior grinders Jackie Duncan and Pam McDevitt. No telling who she’ll be working with on the other side of the 2010 ball-drop, but she can consider everything a fresh start.

Emily Groth- Only one appearance so far, chiefly owing to a prolonged injury, so there really isn’t much yet to gauge on the rookie’s progress. Expect her to be worked in at least periodically when other personnel need a breather.

Christie Jensen- If nothing else, Jensen could stand to spruce up her minus-8 rating. She has pitched in a little more in the attacking zone, taking 20 shots and scoring two assists to already exceed her freshman totals. But she needs to attend to her day job on the home front, first and foremost.

Genevieve Lacasse- Her stats aren’t as sparkling as they were during her rookie season, but Lacasse has responded favorably to the extra demand that comes with having one unripe backup as opposed to the three backups she had last season –one of whom was a senior. The Scarborough Save-ior has played in all but 9:48 of the total crease time and has battled through eight overtime periods and six shootouts. The more she keeps PC afloat every night, the more minutes she is going to consume.

Colleen Martin- The defensive captain was rather adventurous at the start of the year, and it seemed to work to a benefit. Through her first seven games, she dropped 15 shots on goal –and not all of them were from her blue line perch- pitched in a goal and three assists, had a plus-2 rating, and the team was a satisfactory 3-2-2, with only one regulation loss. Since Thanksgiving, Martin has regained a little of that touch with another two helpers, but not before a cold spell that coincided with a uncharacteristic plus/minus plunge and a nearly-winless November for the team.

Pam McDevitt- The senior Southie’s stick has slept all through the first half, landing but four shots on net in 18 games. Given that she now has, at best, two full months left to work with in her career, it will be interesting to see if McDevitt gets a boost from the emotional sparkplug.

Jean O’Neill- Not unlike the team in general, O’Neill would like to return to the type of game she was submitting in the first three weeks of the season. She bolted right out for five points in as many games, but has since sprinkled an identical five markers over the last 14 ventures. But this too should be mentioned: amongst all of PC’s game day mainstays, O’Neill has a team-low three minor penalties.

Arianna Rigano- Rigano has already surpassed her 2008-09 output, virtually fastened permanent membership in the top six half of the depth chart, leads the team with 63 shots on goal, and is tied with Friedman in the plus/minus category. Still, there’s room for improvement. If she can continue to shoot with as much frequency but with some added accuracy, that plus/minus will climb higher, and so too might the Friars’ viability.

Leigh Riley- The junior defender is right on the even fence under the plus/minus heading and has generally hovered right around that radius for the better part of the season. It’s a number certainly better than what most of her teammates have been achieving, but it could stand to escalate.

Alyse Ruff- The durable Ruff has adjusted nicely to her added responsibilities as a center –especially on the power play, where five of her 10 points have been cultivated thus far. But she is still on pace to finish with about the same scoring totals as in her freshman and sophomore years rather than excel that output. Therefore, Ruff –especially being a veteran anchor on a still quite youthful scoring brigade- should vie to tune up her productivity rate a notch or two in the second half.

Bre Schwarz- No goals, no assists, not even a shot on net in 14 appearances. For lack of a gentler assessment, somebody has a few holiday wishes/New Year’s resolutions to make before Part II of the season.

Laura Veharanta- Veharanta’s case of Deadened Stick Syndrome seemed to carry all the over from about last Groundhog Day to Halloween. Since then, though, she has rapidly reignited. The sophomore winger has planted seven points in her last 10 games and in an active six-game scoring streak has had a hand in five power play goals. Friartownies naturally hope the December deceleration doesn’t refreeze her game.

Jessie Vella- Right from her long-delayed debut –which was pushed off for 14 games due to injury- Vella has made an encouraging impression with a 2-2-4 transcript in just five appearances. If she can come back to start Part II and continue with her venturesome playmaking tendencies and fire a little more at the net, it might go a long way towards the continued revival of PC’s long-middleweight offense.

Amber Yung- The junior defender is showing a little more of her freshman self, already with seven total points, including four assists and 20 shots on net charged up on the power play. Now if only she, like so many of her mates, can do something to elevate that negative-5 plus/minus rating…

Saturday, December 12, 2009

On Hockey

Cottrell hardly hampered
Gutsy forward’s effort helps salvage a point

Chestnut Hill, Mass.- Alarmingly confined to crutches for the first half of the week after a bang-bang succession of blocked shots yanked her out of action in last Saturday’s visit to New Hampshire, Ashley Cottrell clouded any remnants of bruises in last night’s 2-2 tie/1-0 shootout loss to Boston College.

By night’s end, the sophomore center’s transcript read mostly like the conventional Cottrell who has anchored most every plus sign in the first half of the Friars’ 2009-10 campaign. For starters, she along with linemates Laura Veharanta and Nicole Anderson collaborated on yet another power play goal –the fourth time that entire trinity has had a hand in the same scoring play since they were assembled six games ago.

That goal, potted at 9:03 of the first period, drew first blood in the game and granted Cottrell point No. 21 on the year, thus equating her total output in 36 games as a frosh. At this rate, by the close of the regular season, she figures to charge up at least 37 points.

Later on, in midst of a third period power play with a 2-1 advantage at hand, Cottrell thrust three successive shots at BC stopper Corrine Boyles without letting the goalie summon a whistle at any point in between. The only little thing missing there, of course, was a conversion that might have wrested the game entirely from the Eagles’ reach.

Which brings us to the other moderate drawback. After BC knotted things up and spilled the game over to a shootout, Cottrell could not come through the way she ordinarily does –like, for instance, when she salvaged home ice for the 2009 playoffs by scorching Molly Schaus last February during the Friars’ previous visit to Conte Forum.

Last night, the radiant rookie Boyles snuffed Cottrell, and then did likewise to Veharanta and Alyse Ruff, enough for Allie Thunstrom’s one-on-one netter to grant Boston the extra point and full claim to first place in the Hockey East standings for Christmas break.

If Friartownies are still looking for a little more positive perspective, it may as well be noted that Boyles and Co. have mastered the shootout even more than PC, which is now a decent 4-2 in the lightning round this season when you combine conference and interleague action. The Eagles, meanwhile, have played in four league shootouts this season and have grabbed the bonus booty every time. Their last three shootout wins have been 1-0 decisions and Boyles has blocked all six attempts she has dealt with.

That aside, it would not be so precarious to bet that the Friars got the invaluable single point last night, in part, because their most consistent player was available and did not submit to any sores in her legs. Cottrell totaled four shots on net in regulation, all of them on power plays, and won 14 out of her 27 face-offs. Her line combined for 11 of PC’s 23 regulation stabs at Boyles.

With the assist on Anderson’s icebreaker, she appeared on the scoresheet for the sixteenth time in 19 opportunities and the eighth in her last nine. The only time she has been held pointless in that stretch was last week, when she missed roughly half of the game in the aftermath of the Courtney Birchard mini-bombardment.

Theoretically, the no-excuse Friars could have gotten along just as fine last night had Cottrell been advised to sit out and/or opted to take precautionary leave and miss a full game for the first time in her college career. But given the sequence of last night’s outcome, there would have been no guarantees.

A mere 33 seconds after Anderson’s goal –which was, after all, executed in a way only Anderson, Cottrell, and Veharanta seem to know how to do together- PC swiftly augmented its lead to 2-0 courtesy of Kate Bacon (assists: Colleen Martin and Jessie Vella). The Eagles gave nothing up afterward and ultimately deleted the deficit en route to their virtual victory after the five-on-five ice chips settled.

Under other circumstances, Friars’ head coach Bob Deraney would have taken no discomfort in simply summoning someone along the lines of Ruff or O’Neill or even Vella to plug the void on his top power play unit. But what if the new threesome didn’t gel fast enough? What if they didn’t get that momentum-swinging conversion? What if PC didn’t have that point-salvaging cushion at hand when the Eagles perked up in the third period?

Besides, Cottrell’s output on the year is still twice what any of her mates have kindled. Well, not technically, seeing as Anderson upped her point total to 11 last night, but the point is still explanatory.

Likewise, last night’s shootout point should be well taken on the Friars’ part. They will now hit their three-week respite with a 5-7-7 overall record, concomitant with a 4-3-4 conference transcript and 14 points for third place on the WHEA leaderboard.

Maybe they would have had the same result without Cottrell –in which case the obvious sentiment would have been, “Well, at least it was just one game, and she has a good three weeks to recover.” Or, maybe they would not have.

But, for lack of a fresher sine qua non, what’s done is done for Part I of the season. Cottrell is pretty well the team’s first half MVP for her peerless consistency and, as was displayed last night, her determination.

And as a whole, the Friars will have a welcome fresh sheet awaiting them 21 days from now.

And maybe by then, as has already been hinted in recent weeks, the reliable likes of Cottrell will be more prominent in the Andersons, Bacons, Ruffs, Veharantas, Vellas, etc.

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com

Friday, December 11, 2009

On Hockey

PC, BC to cross mirroring paths

How ironically fitting that, in parallel with the climactic academic avalanche about to hit most every college campus by way of semester exams, the Providence and Boston College women’s hockey team’s will engage in one of their toughest and weightiest games of the year right before they can settle in to a much-needed respite.

To brush off the obvious points first, tonight’s engagement at the Conte Forum (7:00 p.m. face-off) pits two statistical underachievers showing hints that their groove has returned and naturally poised to earn themselves a stocking-stuffing statement before the December deceleration takes effect.

“I kind of wish the break wasn’t coming because I think we’re starting to really catch our stride,” said Friars head coach Bob Deraney, his team hoping to prop up the momentum they garnered from last Saturday’s groundbreaking road triumph over New Hampshire, a win that stopped the residual bleeding from an iffy 1-3-4 November.

“The added rest will be good,” Deraney granted. “But before that, we’ve got a terrific Boston College team to play with two more valuable points in the league at stake.”

Actually, there is a little extra cream packed into those two valuable points. With BC’s 4-0 loss Tuesday to the Wildcats –indubitably a partial product of New Hampshire’s frustration from Saturday and, in turn, a surefire motivator for the Eagles going forward– a full or partial claim to first place in Hockey East is at stake tonight.

This shall be the last meeting between any two Hockey East cohabitants until UNH and Northeastern meet up at Fenway Park on January 8. And right now, the Huskies are alone atop the standings with 15 points. The Eagles follow with 14 and the Friars, along with the now-idled Wildcats and BU Terriers, are within hooking distance with 13.

So that means, a win for BC pole-vaults them over Northeastern for sole possession of the top seed until everyone returns to action. A regulation win for Providence will knot the Friars and Huskies, whereas a PC shootout triumph would result in a three-way knot.

Whatever the upshot, tonight’s prevailing party will welcome the refreshing swig of victory and hit the break with the comfortable assurance of being in one of the first-round bye slots to start the more intense phase of the Hockey East pennant race.

Adding to the prospective pleasure, the Friars and Eagles alike have gotten by on a diet comprised heavily of table scraps in the first half of their respective campaigns. They have each won four league games in regulation and tied another three –BC winning all three subsequent shootouts, PC winning two. Meanwhile they have struggled, at best, to tip the scale their way during interleague action, each with only one nonconference win to speak of and the Friars currently bearing a few honorable mention votes in the national polls.

And for all of the home ice they have been allotted early and often, both teams have failed to build easy collateral. The Friars are 4-5-3 at Schneider Arena, the Eagles 4-6-3 at Conte Forum.

But beneath all that is the perfectly logical explanation that both teams are still waiting for the glue to freeze on their repaired rosters and for consistency to follow without any further interruption.

The Eagles, with only 17 skaters available even in times of perfect health, have subsisted primarily on the work of senior striker Allie Thunstrom the same way the Friars have had but one standout in Ashley Cottrell. Thunstrom is the lone Eagle with double-digit points (13) through 18 games while Cottrell, in the same time frame, leads her mates with 20 points, doubling the output of the three runners-up in Nicole Anderson, Jean O’Neill, and Alyse Ruff.

In terms of making up ground, BC is a few strides behind Providence. In particular, they currently rank dead-last in league offense with a 1.72 goals-per-game median. Likewise, their power play needs more sprucing up given its 8.7 percent success rate.

Still, assessing his opponent in terms that he could just as easily apply to his own pupils, Deraney said, “One thing I know for sure is they’re much better than their record shows. They’re very talented.

“Allie Thunstrom has tremendous speed and can be a real game-breaker, and we’re going to have our hands full with (Mary Restuccia and Danielle Welch) who did a terrific job last year as freshmen, now sophomores with a year of experience under their belt. Corinne Boyles has played extremely well for them in goal. So they pose a lot of challenges and a lot of obstacles that we’re going to have to overcome.”

The Eagles have indeed flaunted a little flare here and there, most notably a week ago when they bumped Northeastern in overtime, 3-2. But that aside, since mid-November, they have been a vinegary 1-4-1, all four of those losses coming against nationally ranked teams.

That sounds a little like somebody you would know from the around here, does it not? Before the Lake Whittemore Revolution, the Friars went 1-3-2 in an endless string of engagements with national heavyweights last month. Many of those contests were tied or, at worst, lost in passably dignified fashion.

“Obviously, we want to put a winning streak together” said Deraney. “We’re going to have an opportunity to put up back-to-back wins for the first time since opening weekend (home sweep of Maine).

“We’ve been playing very good hockey,” he continued, citing all of the close shaves from recent weeks. “(Last) Saturday we were very consistent and that’s we’re looking for on Friday. We’re looking to put together another sound, strong 60 minutes offensively, defensively, and on special teams.”

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Hockey Log

Going smoothly with the flow
Deraney: Rigano “typifies” PC women’s progression

Coaxing a comment on an individual player out of Bob Deraney is about as daunting a dare as an effort to smuggle more than one puck behind the back of Northeastern savior Florence Schelling in a single game.

To that point, when asked to assess the rapid improvement of senior forward Arianna Rigano –a second-year Friar who had converted from the Division III powerhouse Saint Anselm two summers ago- the skipper’s initial offer was as follows:

“I’ve been pleased with our entire team and the progress we’ve made from last spring to this (past) summer to where we are right now,” he said. “I think Anna typifies the improvement of every one of our players from last year to this year.

“I feel very good, not just for Anna, but for all of the players that are experiencing success right now.”

Rigano’s success runs chiefly along the lines of gritting her teeth through a year’s worth of baptism by dry ice, accordingly modifying her game over the summer, and returning to a spontaneous surplus of opportunity with an overwhelming handful of injured teammates.

In her “rookie” year in the Division I ranks, Rigano pitched in four points through 18 consecutive appearances, then sat out for 10 of the remaining 18 games. She was a healthy scratch the day the Friars’ playoff run ended with a 3-1 semifinal loss to tournament host New Hampshire.

About one human pregnancy later, PC made its return to the oft-dreaded Lake Whittemore last Saturday, granting Rigano her first opportunity to play in the heralded barn only about a half hour west of her old striding grounds in Manchester.

Suffice it to say, she made the most of it, assisting on freshman Jessie Vella’s icebreaker with 8:32 gone in the opening period, then thrusting in the eventual game-winner 92 seconds later. It made for her second multi-point show on the year –the other being a two-goal trick at St. Lawrence on October 10- and upped her 2009-10 transcript to four goals and three helpers in 18 games.

“I definitely think I’ve grown,” Rigano said. “Last year, I had to get used to the intensity and stuff like that, so I think this year I’m playing more than last year, and it’s definitely helped. My teammates always help me, too.”

For the first five weeks (10 games) of action this season, Rigano was paired with established scorer Alyse Ruff and promising rookie Jess Cohen. Together, the three never combined for any fewer than seven shots on goal per game. Most nights, that total was more along the lines of 10 or 11 stabs.

More recently, with a full roster finally feasible and a few experimental shuffles on the lines, Rigano has been seen posted with Ruff and Jean O’Neill, who in the wee stages of their respective careers once supplemented the celebrated PRO Line with Finnish Flare Mari Pehkonen. In last Saturday’s 4-1 triumph, the starting trinity pitched in eight of PC’s 21 shots and accumulated a goal and four assists.

But Deraney has also made a habit of deviating what he pencils in on the game sheet. Accordingly, Rigano has also seen substantial ice time with the likes of Vella and Kate Bacon, who combined for a decent five shots and a plus-5 rating Saturday.

Rigano is still the runaway team-leader with 63 SOG, a proliferating upgrade from the 36 she landed all last year which also places her in a two-way tie for seventh in the league with radiant Wildcat Kelly Paton –whom the Friars held scoreless in Saturday’s win. On top of that, she is one of only three PC skaters currently with a positive plus/minus rating.

“She’s finally made the adjustment,” said Deraney, finally consenting to pinpoint some of Rigano’s specifics. “But it’s a credit to her hard work this summer and how much she improved as an athlete and it’s to see that hard work paying off for her.

“She’s a big part of our offense and has become one of our big penalty killers. She’s always wanted to be a Division I hockey player. Last year she had that aspiration met. And now she wants to be a real good Division I hockey player, and she’s starting to meet that expectation.”

More poll presence
One day after resurfacing just below the Top 10 leaderboard from USCHO.com, the Friars garnered five honorable mention votes to rejoin the mix in the USA Today poll. Meanwhile, conference cohabitant Boston University was tugged down into the same not-quite mix with three votes and Connecticut ascended to the No. 10 slot, below No. 9 Northeastern and fourth-ranked New Hampshire.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Hockey Log

Vella makes a triple crown for rookie class

Yesterday afternoon, Friars’ forward Jessie Vella laid claim to the WHEA’s weekly top rookie garland, giving her sorority its fourth such honor in 10 opportunities this season. Her mini-victory follows two crowns for Jess Cohen in October and one taken by newfound power play connoisseur Nicole Anderson in mid-November.

No other institution has had more than two weekly honorees in the frosh category this season. And between the three forwards, who constitute 15 percent of PC’s active skaters, the frosh have now supplied 32.5 percent (14 out of 43) of the team’s goals.

“I think that our class is a strong, hard-working group of people,” Vella said yesterday upon being enlightened to her award. “And if we really come together, we’re going to do some amazing things. We’re a really good bunch of kids, the whole team in general.”

Until her belated debut on November 20 versus Northeastern, Vella had been confined to the sidelines by a residual spring soccer injury and her team had been confined to no more than 17 skaters, though more often 15 or 16, for the first dozen games of the season. Once cleared, she made a simultaneous debut with fellow frosh Emily Groth at center and senior Jackie Duncan assuming the left wing.

That line made no ripples that particular evening, but since then, Vella has linked with sophomores Kate Bacon and Abby Gauthier and extracted three points in as many ventures. The token she received yesterday from Boss Bertagna’s office is a direct reward for nailing two goals on as many shots and notching a team-best plus-3 rating in Saturday’s icebreaking 4-1 overthrow of New Hampshire.

“When I was coming back, it was really frustrating because you basically have to start all over again,” she said. “But to be able to come back and make a difference like that feels really good. Now I’ve got to just keep up my hard work.”

As best four games can tell, Vella is none too far off the mark from her spot-on Sonny Watrous pace in the Ontario-based Provincial Women’s League last season. She pitched in a cool 34 points in as many games during her final college prep campaign with the Durham Junior Lightning. A duplicate act with the Friars would go a long way towards supplementing an offense now within tasting distance of consistently acceptable productivity.

More importantly, though, her mere presence and instant impact are helping to supplement a depth chart that is just grateful to be finally void of personnel cavities.

“She’s been playing very well for us, and you could see it coming in practice,” said head coach Bob Deraney. “We’ve talked about getting some continuity in our lineup. We don’t have a lot of players, so when a couple of players are out, it tends to hurt our continuity. She’s been a very important piece of the puzzle and we’ve needed to get that piece into the puzzle in order for it to work the way it’s supposed to.”

Quick feeds: Top gun Ashley Cottrell, whose seven-game point streak was halted in Saturday’s win, is facing another speedbump after letting back-to-back shots from UNH blueliner Courtney Birchard biff her lower body in the second period. Her status for Friday’s visit to Boston College is currently ambiguous. Cottrell still holds the Friars’ best plus/minus with a plus-4 rating…The Friars have led after the second period in all five of their wins this season…PC scooped up one honorable mention vote in yesterday’s revised USCHO top ten poll, thus resurfacing their name on the national landscape after a seven-week absence…New Hampshire will drop in on BC, the Friars’ Friday opponent, tonight (7:00 face-off). With Northeastern idled until New Year’s, a win will tuck the Eagles into first place in the league…Providence is currently the league’s best road draw, having averaged 387 spectators at their first six away games. Over four conference road games, they have played before a median of 442 fans.

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com

Monday, November 30, 2009

On Hockey

Half done, but not nearly finished

Half-full or half-empty? Technically, there is no real difference.

For the PC women’s hockey team, the sine qua non is that they have consumed precisely half of their 34-game regular season slate, have concocted an iffy 4-7-6 overall record, have enough cause to believe that thicker ice lies ahead, and have the patent task of making sure those better days happen.

Were 17 games crammed within a window of 58 days a bit more than a long-shorthanded squadron could handle? Perhaps so, but no one could have planned around that.

Regardless, in their first five games with the maximum allotment of 18 skaters, the Friars have, on the one hand, reinvigorated their scoring touch for a cumulative 15 goals after charging up 24 in their previous 12 outings. That’s a full letter-grade improvement from an even two strikes per game to three.

On their other hand, their record in the latter half of this dying month was 1-3-1. As a whole, they were 1-3-4 in November.

“I’d say we’re inconsistent at best,” said head coach Bob Deraney after Saturday night’s 4-1 falter against Wisconsin. “Some days we look terrific and other days we look like a bunch of individuals who just started playing hockey for the first time.

“I’d like to think that continuity will come now that we’re totally healthy for the first time for a decent stretch. I expect us to continue to get better and start to play a consistent brand of hockey, which we haven’t done.”

As if scrambling to gel a sorority laced with new, wounded, and newly recovered personnel were not enough of a trial, nine of the Friars’ first 17 ventures –including each of the last six- have been against nationally ranked opponents. A 1-5-3 transcript in that situation is not doing them any favors in terms of garnering national recognition, which they will sorely need by March to bolster their shot at a to the NCAA tournament.

Then again, consider the oft-dignified fashion in which they have tussled with the certified heavyweights:

· October 9: Lost a 3-2 overtime decision at Clarkson only after deleting 1-0 and 2-1 deficits in regulation.

· October 10: Kept within hooking distance of nemesis St. Lawrence and salvaged an invisible yet invaluable nonconference point after Ashley Cottrell inserted the tying goal with 1:30 to spare in the third period.

· October 31: Deraney proclaimed “It’s nice to have our team back,” in spite of the 3-1 home slippage versus Boston University. For that particular moment, it was certainly enough to rinse away the vinegar from a foul 5-1 loss to Brown six days prior.

· November 8: The Genevieve Lacasse-Florence Schelling rivalry all but maxed out its entertainment budget as the Friars mustered a 1-1 regulation tie, then nabbed the bonus point in a 2-1, 13-round shootout triumph.

· November 14: Rather than seek seclusion in the wake of a penalty-induced 5-1 deficit through the second intermission, the Friars bit back en route to an eventual 5-3 shortcoming at BU, the first hint that the strike force finally had the ammo import it had pined for since Day 1.

· November 15: Spilling over from the previous game, the Friars erupt for a cathartic 6-2 lashing of the Terriers at Schneider Arena, thus halting a month-long, 0-4-4 hex.

· November 20: Sculpted a startling 3-0 lead against Schelling and the Hub Huskies in the first 15 minutes, but paid back once the Swiss Save-ior regained her identity and her revamped teammates scorched Lacasse en route to a 4-3 final.

· November 27: Warded off the defending NCAA champion Wisconsin Badgers long enough to savor a brief 1-0 lead and ultimately draw a 2-2 knot courtesy of Nicole Anderson’s power play strike with 5:29 remaining.

· November 28: Take Two from the evening prior as Providence withstood a 16-0 shooting deficit in the first period, knotted things up 1-1 late in the second, and held up until the rabid Wisconsin offense mustered a three-goal outburst within the final 2:59 of action.

“I think in a lot of our games against ranked teams, we’ve played extremely well,” said team captain Colleen Martin. “We lost to Clarkson late in overtime and that game could have gone either way, too. We hang in there, we’re a great team, and we’re going to get back to our winning ways.”

If that happens, PC can still make a substantial impression on the pollsters. Assuming the leaderboard generally holds up, there could be as many as about 7-to-10 more bouts with ranked adversaries, starting with a day trip to No. 4 New Hampshire this Saturday.

After that, there will be a two-game visit from No. 6 Cornell in early January, followed by a home-and-home with UNH, a January 30 venture to No. 10 Harvard and another encounter with Northeastern.

And the hockey gods know that Boston College –on tap for December 11, January 23, and January 24- could very well pop back on the radar at any time.

However, one luxury the Friars will be far less able to bank on is the comfort of Schneider Arena, where they have already played 12 games and gone 4-5-3. Eleven of their remaining 17 games will be conducted elsewhere, including the last two of the calendar year.

“It’s not as bad as it seems,” Deraney said, noting that after a post-New Year’s excursion to Minnesota, they will actually have six of their remaining 13 games on the Divine Campus. “I think we’re a good team on the road and we’re excited about what’s ahead of us.”

To make good of what’s ahead, PC will need more players to follow the example of slick sophomore Ashley Cottrell, who bears a runaway team lead with 20 points. After Cottrell and Anderson (10 and 8 goals respectively), no Friar has any more than four strikes to her credit. And only three individuals (Cottrell, Jennifer Friedman, and Arianna Rigano) are in the black under the plus/minus heading.

But with the full roster and the rather merciful December deceleration not too far ahead, Deraney ought to have more time, breath, and sanity to freeze his runny line chart. A good first step to consistent results is a consistent arrangement in personnel.

Most recently, especially with the revivals on offense, on the power play, and in such leaned-on individuals as Jean O’Neill and Laura Veharanta, they have flaunted most every hint of improvement outside of the win column.

“Right now, we’re doing some good things,” said Martin. “If we keep working hard, the bounces are going to come our way and we’re going to start winning games.

“We’re a hard-working team and we’re talented, so as long as we’re finally glued, we’ll be fine.”

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Women's Hockey 2, Wisconsin 2

Friars tame, tie mighty Badgers

Given that it has now happened in each of three consecutive games, the idealized attacking style coproduced by Nicole Anderson, Ashley Cottrell, and Laura Veharanta has cemented its position as a trademark technique for the Friars’ power play.

And the magnitude of every goal they polish off is only escalating its magnitude by the night. Last night, whilst glared upon by a 2-1 deficit, the crafty threesome were deployed the moment Wisconsin forward Breann Frykas was jailed for bodychecking Kate Bacon with 5:46 to spare in the third period.

Within 17 seconds of the subsequent face-off, Veharanta and Cottrell –yet again- cycled the puck deep in the far alley of the offensive zone while Anderson, inexplicably drawing next-to-no attention in spite of her superior six-foot stature, halted right in front of the opposite post. It was there that she absorbed Cottrell’s feed, lassoed her own rebound, and beat Badger stopper Becca Ruegsegger on an assertive, in-your-face wrister.

“If you’re going to be a good team, you need to score on the power play,” said Friars’ head coach Bob Deraney. “That’s really what it comes down to. It’s not so much that one play that we do. It’s the terrific reads that they’re making, taking what the penalty killers are giving us. That’s why we’re being successful right now.

“And, hey, that was the same play on the first goal where it went when they took the down-low away and (Jessie) Vella found Jean (O’Neill) on the backdoor that way.

“I’m encouraged by our power play for sure. It gives you a chance every night, just like it did tonight.”

With their two conversions, the resurgent PC power play has now pounced eight times over their last four games (22 cumulative opportunities) after connecting but seven times in their first 12 outings. And it ultimately spelled the difference last night as they stamped a 2-2 tie against the defending NCAA champions, who in the game’s latter stretches had created a major imbalance in ice shavings between the attacking zones but could not run off on the scoreboard.

Leading up to Frykas’ fatal infraction, the Badgers had run up a 15-3 lead in the third period shooting gallery alone. In the game as a whole, they finished with a 36-15 advantage, including all four registered stabs in the five-minute bonus round.

The point was, though, that they could only sculpt a one-goal lead out of all that fell from their rubber blizzard. Other than Mallory Deluce’s go-ahead strike at 9:27, which she carried out by thrusting a low-rider out of the far corner and in off of goaltender Genevieve Lacasse’s leg, the Scarborough Save-ior saw everything and handled everything.

Not to mention, her skating mates pitched in to chalk up five blocked shots and guide another five Badger bids wide of the net during the closing frame. By night’s end, Wisconsin had seen 37 of its 73 attempted shots never even reach Lacasse’s estate.

“I thought we did a great job in front of the net,” Deraney said. “Our D-zone coverage was extremely good tonight.”

It needed to be. The Friars had received a written invitation to really bust the doors on the dusk of Black Friday, receiving the game’s first three power plays within the first 15 minutes of the opening frame, followed by a shorthanded penalty shot awarded to Arianna Rigano at 18:17 (she would be foiled).

But apart from O’Neill’s connection at the 2:20 mark, they could not keep up the ignition and ultimately took the modest 1-0 lead into the first intermission.

“We scored the first goal and I thought we sat back again,” said Deraney. “We need to work on trying to create some separation instead of being happy with one-goal leads. That’s not good enough at this level, especially against a team like Wisconsin.”

The Badgers knotted things up, 1-1, at 4:24 of the second during a delayed Providence penalty when blueliner Geena Prough –a junior transfer out of Mercyhurst College- thrust home a backhander from the near circle-top and through a forest of red and white bodies. And after the Friars failed to pull back ahead on another power play around the halfway mark –even with five attempted shots, one of which hit the pipe- all of the whistles soon began to sing sweet melodies for the Madisonites.

In particular, in the seventh minute of the third period, Veharanta (tripping) and Jennifer Friedman (interference) went off in a matter of 33 seconds, granting a goal-starved Wisconsin power play an 87-second 5-on-3 segment.

But within that taxing stretch, Lacasse blocked three shots, her teammates blocked another three, and the net felt nothing.

“Bend, don’t break,” Deraney said with contentment. “I thought we played terrific defense. Yeah, they got some shots, but really when it came to quality shots, we kept them to the perimeter. They can get as many shots as they want. Our goalie is good enough at stopping perimeter shots.”

Tonight’s rematch at Schneider Arena thus promises a pair of teams insisting on unfinished business.

“They’re going to dial it up a notch, and we’re going to have to elevate our game too,” Deraney predicts. “It’s an exciting test for us.”

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com

Hockey Log

Vella taking the initiative
Rookie nabs first point, creates more chances

She still has not registered a shot on net. She has not taken, never mind won, any face-offs. Meanwhile, she has two minor penalties in as many appearances on the year.

Yet Friars’ freshman Jessie Vella has done better than to plead for slack and patience. Rather, and especially in last night’s stimulating 2-2 draw with Wisconsin, she has made some not-so-negligible good out of her challenges.

Only a week removed from making her belated college debut after nursing a soccer-related injury last spring, Vella was assigned to the left wing on last night’s first power play, which happened a mere 67 seconds into the game when the Badgers were flagged for too many players.

Working with the more seasoned and more proven Jean O’Neill and Alyse Ruff, Vella would take part in all of a 73-second power play swarm in the Wisconsin zone without so much as a whistle in the middle.

The play culminated with Vella absorbing a feed from Amber Yung out of the parallel point and handing it over to O’Neill, who tilted it into the rooftop to grant the Friars the early lead and Vella her first collegiate assist.

Later on, in the middle frame, Vella twice came within tasting distance of another helper. In the eighth minute, she extracted the puck from a scrum in the far corner and forwarded it to Kate Bacon, who churned into the slot before having her slapper swallowed by goaltender Becca Ruegsegger.

One shift later, Vella handed a feed right to hot-handed Nicole Anderson on the front porch, though Anderson’s shot would be foiled.

“She’s a very bright hockey player and that’s why we recruited her,” said head coach Bob Deraney. “There are obviously some things that she needs to improve upon, but her hockey savvy and her hockey IQ is very high, and that’s what allows her to compete even though she hasn’t played a lot of games so far.”

“That’s what’s encouraging about our team. We’re becoming a team of smart hockey players and when you do that, it always gives you a chance no matter who you play against. Obviously, Wisconsin is a very talented team and the reason we were successful tonight was because we matched their intelligence.”

Second generation of Kranz
With her team’s visit, Wisconsin senior forward Emily Kranz has had her first chance to skate on her sister’s old grinding grounds. Former Friars’ defender Jennifer Kranz, now an assistant coach at St. Cloud State, played 104 games between 1998 and 2002, capping her career with an ECAC championship and graduating on the eve of the program’s breakaway to the newfangled Hockey East conference.

The younger Kranz –whose clan hails from Waukesha, Wis., the same town that produced 2005 PC alumna Mara Amrhein- opted to stay close to home and to reap from the gold mines of the WCHA. In three completed seasons, she has indulged in two NCAA titles and ventured to another national title game with the Badgers in 2008.

Still, she said of the excursion to the Divine Campus, “It was really meaningful. It’s great to see (Jennifer’s) campus, see where she spent her four years.

“I was interested in coming (to school) out here, but I’m from Wisconsin, so that was my top choice.”

Kranz is the second of three PC relatives the Friars are slated to encounter this season. They have already tangled with Erica Farrer, the Brown freshman whose brother Ben is a junior forward with the Tim Army Corps. And next week, the New Hampshire Wildcats shall lie in wait, along with rookie forward Katie Kleinendorst, whose father, Kurt, starred at PC under Lou Lamoriello in the early 1980s.

Shootout summary
Following the overtime buzzer that cemented last night’s 2-2 final, an exhibition shootout stretched through four rounds, culminating in Ruff’s virtual clincher for a 2-1 decision. Wisconsin’s Stefanie McKeough had scored to lead things off by beating Genevieve Lacasse blocker-side, but the likes of Brooke Ammerman, Geena Prough, and Kelly Nash would all be foiled. PC’s Laura Veharanta and Jess Cohen both missed on their bids while second shooter Ashley Cottrell let her shot trickle through the airtight five-hole of Ruegsegger.

Quick feeds: O’Neill’s goal last night upped her season scoring transcript to 3-6-9, one point better than what she mustered in 31 games last season. Likewise, with an assist, Yung has a 1-6-7 log on the year after collecting a mere six points (all assists) in 2008-09…The Friars are now 2-2-4 when scoring first, 0-2-1 when leading after the first period, and 0-3-4 when tied after the second…Audio streaming for tonight’s game may be picked up via the Friars’ official website.

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Hockey Log

Groth, Vella break in
Last off the IR, two frosh make debut

Friars’ head coach Bob Deraney ended up crafting quite a regular “Can’t wait any longer” line to round out last night’s depth chart. He took senior Jackie Duncan, one week removed from her belated season debut, and partnered her with rookies Emily Groth and Jess Vella, both of whom were likewise injured prior to the season and kept to the sidelines through last week owing more to an already-full roster than to their own game-ready condition.

With Groth assuming the center, flanked by Vella on the left and Duncan to her right, the line only got around to taking one face-off, which Groth lost to Northeastern’s Rachel Llanes at 1:50 of the first period. Mere seconds after that neutral zone draw, Duncan took the unit’s only registered shot of the game. And later, at the halfway mark of the period, Vella took PC’s first penalty (holding), going off simultaneously with the Huskies’ Julia Marty (hooking) when the two tangled in the near corner of the offensive zone.

Other than that, there was nothing else to pull out from the database, especially as the game intensified and their shift frequency decelerated. But, given their circumstances, the recovering and recapturing trinity made a satisfactory impression on the skipper. (Perhaps most importantly, all three players completed the night with an even plus/minus rate.)

“I was very happy with them,” said Deraney. “For the amount of time they played and for a first college game, I thought they did a good job. That’s a good Northeastern team, No. 9 in the nation, and I thought they did a nice job (against them).”

Cottrell keeps cooking
First-line center Ashley Cottrell, who will journey up to New Hampshire as a Hockey East All-Star tomorrow, grabbed a goal-assist value pack for her second consecutive multi-point game. She now has a 4-6-10 transcript to speak of in an active five-game point streak and a team best 10-8-18 log on the year.

Both Cottrell –who also won 16 out of her 26 face-offs- and new leftside linemate Nicole Anderson picked up their fourth respective power play goals last night while right wing supplement Laura Veharanta has collected a helper in each of her last two outings.

A little closer to Earth
The marquee goaltending card of Genevieve Lacasse and Florence Schelling took some conspicuous dents last night. Lacasse, who repelled 25 out of 29 shots faced, saw her save percentage dip from .920 to .916 and her goals-against average nudge up from 2.10 to 2.23 in a matter of 60 minutes. In the same time span, Schelling resisted 24 stabs but had her save percentage docked from .970 to .964 while her GAA was swollen from 0.81 to 0.99 as she endured just her second multi-goal game of the year. Ironically, though, both of those were winning efforts, the other being a 3-2 triumph at Boston College on October 13.

Wohfeiler a real winner
Northeastern junior Alyssa Wohfeiler notched her third game-clinching goal last night, thus tying her with teammate Lindsey Berman and Newport County native Kailey Nash of Vermont for the league’s distinction of clutch capstone.

Quick feeds: Jess Cohen’s icebreaker early in the opening stanza was her first goal since October 17 against Syracuse and quickly halted a four-game point drought…PC remains winless when tied after two periods, having dropped to 0-3-3 in that scenario. They are also, uncannily enough, 0-2-0 when leading after the first 20 minutes…For the first time in 10 games, the opposition had a better disciplinary record than the Friars. Providence was cited for seven minor offenses last night while Northeastern was flagged on five occasions…Five of Northeastern’s six freshman forwards picked up a point last night, including Danielle Kerr’s first overall (an assist on classmate Casey Pickett’s goal midway through the second)…Forwards Pam McDevitt and Bre Schwarz were healthy scratches in favor of Groth and Vella. Alyse Ruff filled McDevitt’s customary role of drilling backup goaltender Christina England during the second phase of the pregame warmup…The Friars will round out the month of November and the first half of their regular season next weekend with a two-night home set versus Wisconsin (Friday and Saturday, both 7 p.m. face-offs). The defending NCAA champion Badgers, who are missing head coach Mark Johnson and five valuable players attending to Olympic duties, are 8-4-1 going into tonight’s tussle with St. Cloud State, their last engagement before they venture out east.

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com

Northeastern 4, Women's Hockey 3

Friars get goals, then get gouged
Healthy lead turns to deflating loss
Last night’s unscheduled promotional theme: Grand Larceny Extravaganza, with a twist.
First, the Friars ravaged the reputation of Northeastern’s Florence Schelling, potting three goals on nine shots against the nation’s statistically regal goaltender before the game was 13 minutes old.
Then, the visiting Huskies responsively dished out a little eye-for-eye justice, scorching Genevieve Lacasse to ultimately nab a 4-3 edge early in the third.
And in the climactic chapter, with Lacasse benched and a six-pack attack churning in her neighborhood, the redeemed Schelling laid down a firm exclamation mark as Jean O’Neill thrust a feed from behind the net to Laura Veharanta, who had enough of an open net when she nudged at the puck, but not when Schelling slid to her right and swallowed it, halting play with 49.6 seconds to spare.
Northeastern held up and cemented the 4-3 victory at Schneider Arena, thus robbing the Friars of sole claim to first place in the Hockey East standings. With their empty wallet and Boston College’s 4-3 shootout triumph at Vermont, they have actually descended to third on the league leaderboard at 5-4-1.
“It’s the toughest (loss) of the year –for me it is, and I think it is for our team too,” said head coach Bob Deraney. “How often have we had a three-goal lead against a really good team? Not very often, so it’s kind of unchartered territory for our team. It’s as hard to play with a lead as it is to play down a goal, so it’s a learning experience.”
Coming in, the Friars had mustered a mere four first period strikes in 14 games on the year. Schelling had similarly authorized three in her 11 preceding starts.
But PC was coming off an assertive four-goal third period outburst in Sunday’s 6-2 thrashing of Boston University. And they got right down to reheating their leftovers, mollifying the Swiss Save-ior, and sculpting a startling 3-0 edge in a matter of seven minutes.
To start, Kate Bacon settled a fugitive puck just to the right of the slot and watched as Jess Cohen tilted her low-riding wrister to the left of Schelling at 4:33.
Precisely three minutes later, and 19 seconds into their first power play, Veharanta, Ashley Cottrell, and Nicole Anderson collaborated on a play visually identical to Anderson’s last of three strikes on Sunday. The former two set things up in the far alley while Anderson waited along the near post to nimbly bury the biscuit behind an unwary Schelling.
Summoned back to duty for a 4-on-3 segment with 10:18 gone, the power play converted once more when Cottrell absorbed Amber Yung’s shipment down the far lane and spooned a bad angle bid that dripped home at the 11:28 mark.
“It’s nice to see our power play clicking,” granted Deraney, who has seen his pupils capitalize six times in their last three games after going arid in the previous three. “If you’re going to be a good team you need to score on the special teams.”
Almost immediately afterward, though, things began to steadily balance back Northeastern’s way. The Friars took back-to-back penalties, starting just 28 seconds after Cottrell had connected, which amounted to 3:49 of uninterrupted shorthanded play.
They got through that tribulation unscathed, but the Huskies pounced on their third power play with just 1:37 to spare, Kristi Kehoe keenly vacuuming Katy Applin’s rebound and roofing it over Lacasse’s blocker.
Northeastern threatened without hesitation to commence the second, virtually matching the Friars’ tone-setting sugar rush that started the opening frame. And while Schelling reassembled her normal persona, stopping all of the nine shots she faced in the period, her mates recompensed her previous errors to draw a 3-3 knot by the 17:47 mark.
Rookie Casey Pickett, one of the many puckslinging pups who are finally beginning to ripen their twigs for the Huskies, sawed the difference to 3-2 at 10:41 when she piloted an end-to-end rush and thrust home an innocent-looking floater from the right circle-top. Seven minutes later, classmate Kelly Wallace nailed the equalizer from around the same hot spot.
Providence spilled a carry-over power play opportunity in the third, and 72 seconds after Julia Marty’s jailbreak, Rachel Llanes and Alyssa Wohlfeiler carried out a two-on-one to the left of Lacasse. Lacasse draped her full self around the post and got her boot on Llanes’ wide-angle stab. But with a gaping goal-mouth at her disposal, Wohlfeiler shoveled home the rebound.
PC’s desperation in the remaining 17 minutes translated to 13 shot attempts, only seven of which actually reached Schelling’s clutch. O’Neill briefly stimulated the home congregants when she hustled for a shorthanded breakaway in the sixteenth minute and Alyse Ruff nearly had a last-ditch bid right on Schelling’s porch before the buzzer, but her palms were by then too sweaty to get a grip on the puck.
And that was that.
“The fact that we could get three goals on (Schelling) is monumental in itself,” Deraney said. “But give Northeastern credit. They never let up, they chipped away, and in the end they made one more play than we did.”
Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Hockey Log

Cottrell the PC women’s idealized attacker

Ashley Cottrell has been barred from only three out of 14 scoresheets thus far in her sophomore season. Less than two weeks ago, when the laser-beamed Northeastern Huskies and their regal netminder Florence Schelling thoroughly curbed everybody else, Cottrell slipped home an unassisted goal that proved ever-so-vital by the time the Friars walked off with a shootout win.

Providence collectively reignited last weekend, charging up nine goals and 12 assists between 11 individuals in their split series with Boston University. But even before that cathartic flare-up, Cottrell already had the swagger everyone else was pining to pick up. After all, she had participated in each of PC’s three goals in the two preceding games.

With a firsthand strike at Agganis Arena last Saturday and a 1-3-4 transcript on Sunday, she spiked her hot streak to a 3-5-8 showing in her last four games and morphed her season totals to 9-7-16. Right along with her, the team accelerated from having scored but nine goals in their previous seven ventures to potting nine in just two swirls.

“It’s really refreshing to know that we’re starting to execute more and get the job done,” she said. “I think it’s just us not getting frustrated with (our past performances), working through all the hard times, and knowing that eventually things will come out in our favor.”

In a sense, the Friars have been in need of an intense offensive rejuvenation for the entirety of this collegiate generation, not just during these recent weeks where they went 0-3-4 with a shallow nine-goal output to speak of. All signs –namely her atypically consistent presence on the board since opening night- point to Cottrell anchoring that resurgence.

Consider this: with 16 points through 14 games –which makes her the lone Hockey Easterner outside of New Hampshire with a point-per-game median better than 1- she is on pace to score roughly 38 by the end of the 34-game regular season. That alone would amount to the richest single-season feat by a Skating Friar since Kristin Gigliotti put up a 17-21-38 log in 2006-07.

And just individually, that would be mere ice chips shy of doubling Cottrell’s 21-point performance as a rookie.

“My confidence last year wasn’t as high as it is this year,” she said. “I think now I’m more comfortable playing at the college level, and my teammates are helping me out a lot. We’re getting along really well and starting to get to know each other (as players) on the ice.”

In terms of goal output, no one in the PC program has broken 20 since Sonny Watrous (21), Karen Thatcher (25), and Rush Zimmermann (26) all did it in 2004-05. At the rate she is going, Cottrell ought to finish with at least 21 strikes, not counting anything she might muster in postseason action.

Already, Cottrell has surpassed the five goals she charged up in 2008-09. She has thrust 35 shots on goal and connected a rewarding 25.7 percent of the time. As a frosh, she was one of the less frequent shooters in the PC stick rack (73 SOG) and had but a 6.85 percent accuracy to speak of.

Lately, though, she has been a bit more like the Cottrell that PC head coach Bob Deraney saw firsthand at the inaugural U18 World Championships in 2008. That version of Cottrell balanced her goal-assist distribution for a 5-5-10 showing in five tournament games en route to gold for the Americans. She similarly concocted 56 goals and 61 helpers in her final U19 campaign with Detroit Little Caesars.

And now, albeit a year late, she has brought that balance to the college game.

“It’s something me and (Deraney) have been working on, because last year I didn’t shoot the puck as much as I should have,” she said. “I guess it’s been working out.”

In perking up her own twig, Cottrell has not needed to compromise any of her already-established assets either. Her playmaker persona sprung back to life on Sunday when she assisted on all three of radiant rookie and new linemate Nicole Anderson’s goals. At the dot, she has won 196 out of 356 face-offs for a passable .551 winning percentage.

Additionally, just as she ended the 2008-09 campaign with the best plus/minus (plus-9) amongst all PC forwards, she again leads her fellow frontliners in that department with a plus-4. (Naturally, as a whole, the Friars could stand to buck up their aggregate minus-1 rating, but that can be remedied with nothing more than a regular outpouring of offense.)

Cottrell and Co. will vie to build on their renewed viability tomorrow night against none other than Schelling, the league’s testiest walking, talking Shooter Tutor. Afterwards, Cottrell will take brief leave –opposite teammates Genevieve Lacasse and Amber Yung- to New Hampshire, hoping to embolden her international credentials as a Hockey East All-Star versus the U.S. Olympic squad.

“It’ll be a really fun chance to see how we rank up against Olympians,” she said. “It’s just a time to go out there, give them some competition, and get them ready for the Olympics.”

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com

Monday, November 16, 2009

On Hockey

Right on target
PC women reignite offense, halt winless spell

Yesterday afternoon, Leigh Riley donned formal game day attire for the 75th time in her career, and for nearly the full breadth of her tenure with the Friars, she has accepted the role of a publicity peasant that so often comes with being a defensive specialist.

Her scoring transcript through 74 games: zero firsthand strikes and four helpers, none of those having fallen at any point this season.

Meanwhile, PC was at best tantalizing its followers having just notched a three-goal game for the first time in eight tries in Saturday’s 5-3 loss at Boston University. Prior to the weekend action, they were riding a 0-3-4 slump with a cumulative nine goals to speak of in those seven games.

Then, with yesterday’s match deadlocked at 1-1 in the wee stages of the second period, Riley stood unguarded along the near point, all but clamoring for a feed from Arianna Rigano. Rigano let her shipment zip out of the far corner with relative ease to Riley, who nimbly leveled a one-timer past the trapper of BU goaltender Alissa Fromkin at the 2:45 mark.

“It’s just nice to see her shoot the puck and not just dump it into the corner,” said head coach Bob Deraney. “It’s confidence and working hard at her game. I think that’s fruits of her labor in her three years of being committed to becoming the best player she can be, and I think she saw some results today, so I’m really happy for her.”

In retrospect, one could take Riley’s milestone play as the Friars’ second offensive foreshock, the first being their two-goal third period effort to at least compress the abysmal bleeding of Saturday’s loss. But a cathartic avalanche was yet to come.

It happened between the fifth and eighth minute of the closing frame. Only 12 ticks after Melissa Tetreau retied everything at two-apiece, Nicole Anderson restored the advantage on her second strike of the day.

Thirty-six additional seconds and suddenly Providence was on a power play, BU striker Jillian Kirchner having been cited for cross-checking Jean O’Neill to the right of Fromkin’s cage.

Ten more seconds and the towering rookie Anderson had rounded out her first collegiate hat trick. And so, in a matter of 58 seconds, the Friars had spilled a brittle 2-1 edge, only to hurriedly push ahead by two –their first multi-goal advantage since they topped Colgate, 4-1, one month ago to this date.

By day’s end, they were 6-2 victors, having piled on four unanswered goals to spell the difference and only requiring a modest seven shots on net to pull it off. By the time of the game’s semi-climax, the Terriers were feverishly piling a rubber blizzard on Genevieve Lacasse, only to see their shots grated to manageable morsels by the PC defense and to have the Scarborough Save-ior slow them down by summoning whistle after whistle.

In the latter 40 minutes yesterday, BU owned the shooting gallery, 37-15, but were outscored, 5-1, in that space. In other words, they inherited the Friars’ old skates for at least one day.

Uncannily, PC had run up an identical 19-7 shooting advantage in Saturday’s third period. It was the last of 12 periods during their eight-game winless hex where they charged up at least 10 registered stabs, but never scored more than one goal at a time.

“You don’t get instantaneous gratification,” Deraney said. “I think our kids have worked extremely hard at becoming better shooters and smarter shooters. Yesterday and today is just a dividend of how hard you have to work in front of the net, but also how smart you have to be in front of the net.”

Anderson ultimately personified the attacking zone street smarts better than anyone yesterday, when she connected on three of her four shots (translation: 75 percent connectivity) and, with a 3-1-4 scoring transcript, doubled her totals on the year to 6-2-8.

Less than five minutes after the Friars fell behind, 1-0, around the halfway mark of the first period, she cut down the near alley while linemate Ashley Cottrell toured the puck along the other lane and convinced Fromkin to nudge all the way around the far post. Parked right on the distracted Fromkin’s back porch, Anderson swatted Cottrell’s pass home for the equalizer.

Later, in the third, Anderson was again within brushing distance of Fromkin when she batted in another Cottrell set-up for the eventual winner. In another minute, she supplied an insurance strike –and her third power play connection on the year- simply by hovering around the near post while Cottrell and Laura Veharanta set things up on the other side and waiting to slug the puck in once it arrived.

“When you’ve got a young lady that size (six-foot-even), with that type of reach, you want her to be close to the net,” said Deraney. “As long as you stay off the goalie and in a good position in the slot, a big person like that is going to get a lot of terrific opportunities just from standing still because of that reach. I think she’s learning what it takes to score at this level.”

So, too, are countless other members of the PC Skating Sorority. In all, eight individual Friars touched yesterday’s scoresheet, with a four-point performance each for Anderson and Cottrell. And the points are being spread amongst all positions and all lines. Even Jackie Duncan, two games into her belated start after a prolonged injury, nabbed an assist on Alyse Ruff’s door-slammer with 1:18 to spare.

Between their two games on the weekend, the Friars lit it up nine times, matching their whole output in the previous seven games and improving their goals-per-game from a 2 to 2.29 median.

Not to mention, they finally polished off a regulation win and responsively salvaged their viability in the upper half of the Hockey East standings. This morning, they stand tied with Northeastern (11 points apiece) for first place.

“Obviously you love to win, but it really comes down to playing well,” said Deraney. “And (on Saturday), we didn’t play very well, especially in the first two periods, and then we really played well in the third. And what I’m excited about is that we put together four really good, quality periods.”

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com