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Friday, January 16, 2009

Hockey Log

Nash coming home with Catamounts

Lately, the University of Vermont has been the lone Hockey East institution to entice any proficient puck locals beyond Rhode Island boundaries. The men’s sector just graduated backup goalie and Cranston resident Jeff Hill last spring, and now the women’s program rosters a Newport County native in defender Kailey Nash.

Nash fostered through the full length of her high school career with the predominantly male Middletown Islanders from 2003-07 before she hopped over the western border for a post-grad campaign at the Taft School. She joins PC transfer Brittany Nelson and head coach Tim Bothwell –a Brown alumnus- as a fellow Ocean State connection in the Catamounts’ den.

And come tomorrow’s start to the Catamounts’ two-day stay at Schneider Arena (face-off at 2 p.m.), she will be the first female Rhode Islander to engage in an intercollegiate tussle here since Lauren Florio of North Providence gave her final stick salute in 2007.

By far the least vertically privileged of any Catamounts with a gymnast’s measurement of 5-foot-1, Nash compensates through a bobcat-like tenacity that has allotted her regular ice time in all of 22 possible games up to this point. “She is a tough competitor whose ability to win puck battles goes way beyond her modest stature,” Bothwell commends on the program’s web site.

Granted, though, Nash’s resolve has yet to substantially shapeshift Vermont’s perennially modest track record. She like all of her mates, new and seasoned, sits below the poverty line under the plus/minus heading (-12) and has partaken in but four wins out of 22 tries.

Collectively, Vermont rates last in Hockey East in the way of overall scoring (37 goals for), defense (94 goals against), and both ends of the special teams department (11.4% power play efficiency, 74.8% penalty kill). And Nash, along with six teammates and Maine’s Abby Barton, constitutes the cellar’s linoleum in terms of plus/minus.

But Nash’s individual progression has flickered in spurts, as most recently evidenced by her first collegiate goal against Connecticut two weeks ago (coupling that with a pair of assists to her season total) and her latest assignment on the depth chart. In the Catamounts’ five games since returning from the holiday respite, she has been inserted on the right side of the second unit with sophomore Peggy Wakeham, Vermont’s most offensively venturesome backliner bearing a 4-7-11 scoring transcript.

And among UVM’s eight rostered defenders, Nash has discharged the second most shots on net (24) behind Wakeham’s corps-leading 43.

Penchants for travel
Only one of the Catamounts’ five wins –one of those being a technical tie/shootout triumph at Maine- have been cultivated at the Gutterson Fieldhouse, when they nipped Boston University, 3-2, on December 5. Since then, though, UVM has sputtered on a carry-over six game skid, surrendering a cumulative 32-5 scoring deficit in that span.

Vermont had started its 2008-09 road slate a decent 3-2, all three wins nonconference and both losses against fellow Hockey Easterners. They have since lost seven of eight road ventures.

They will vie to rekindle the original October sparks through this weekend’s drop-in on the Friars, which will seal a six-game road stretch to kickstart their calendar year. PC, conversely, gets to hang about here through next Saturday for Part I of a home-and-home bout with BU and will vie to perk up their iffy 4-5-1 home log.

Quick Feeds: Opposite their fellow bottom-feeders from Maine, the Catamounts are one of two WHEA teams yet to convert a shorthanded goal this season. The Friars and New Hampshire are the only teams yet to surrender one…Each of the Friars’ last four twig-locks with Vermont have been decided by two goals or fewer after their first six as Hockey East cohabitants wound up a PC runaway of a three-plus discrepancy…Online video streaming will be offered for Sunday’s game…The Friars formally confirmed the NLI signings of forwards Jessica Cohen and Jessica Vella late Wednesday. Both are slated to hop on board this autumn.

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com

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