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Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Hockey Log

Deraney mixes gripes with gratefulness

Providence College women’s hockey coach Bob Deraney commenced a brief media conference yesterday afternoon by first detouring to his cell phone to assess the last of any new paper-based (or, really, electro-screen-based) remnants from the bittersweet split of his team’s weekend series with Connecticut.

USA Today, which had perched his program in the #9 slot prior to the first face-off in October but since kept them out of sincere consideration, had at least replenished their recognition with an honorable mention in its most freshly revised poll.

“Looks like we got eight votes for the Top 10, UConn’s (ranked number) 9,” the coach thought aloud.

Indeed. So by at least keeping one telling stride ahead of the Huskies for about the first 110 minutes of playing time over the weekend, the Friars have at least whittled their way back to a fraction of the limelight.

Connecticut, meanwhile, slid down a slot as penance for stalling their powerful gun rack throughout Saturday’s 5-1 Providence triumph and the better part of Sunday’s rematch.

That aside, Deraney, like one who has just finished savoring an extravagantly scrumptious free sample at Shaw’s, now thirsts over what more he and his pupils could have had. What more they would have/could have garnered for this week had they not tripped from ahead en route to an epic 2-1 overtime loss on Sunday.

“It was kind of the opposite of Saturday, when they hit the crossbar a couple of times, had some chances to score, and they didn’t,” he reflected. “We had the same opportunities at their place on Sunday where we had some great opportunities to make it 1-0, maybe even 3-0 early on. We hit a post, had a couple of crease plays. But, to our credit, we didn’t let that get to us. We ended up going into the second period and scored the first goal.

“I think we were playing like we knew we were good instead of playing like we should have been proving that we’re a good team. We just got too loose in the third period against a team that’s not going to relent. If you give them too many opportunities, they’re gonna score. And that gave them momentum. We just gave them too much life and we beat ourselves. That’s why it’s so disappointing, because there could have been more points for us.”

And then there was the spilled potential for a comparatively jutting stature in the W-L column. Until cross-coastal action resumes on Friday, the five established bigwigs in the league have 10 conference wins apiece. Hack off the final 10 minutes of Sunday’s affair, or at least branch out a little more of Saturday’s comfy command, and PC would be standing out with 11 wins whilst restricting the Huskies to nine.

Not to mention, they would also be coiled with New Hampshire for the regal spot in the standings right about now.

But, Deraney added, “You have to kind of peel it away and look at those shootout win totals. There are only two of those teams who have 10 legitimate wins –us and Boston College.”

I.e. the Wildcats and Huskies have each needed a case of one-on-ones, Boston University three, to claim the full two-point package, which is of no extra benefit on the national landscape anyway.

“In our league, it comes down to losses, in my opinion,” said Deraney. “That’s another thing that really hurt about Sunday. (A win) would have kept us one loss less than UNH with still two games to play against them. So even though it seems like we’re only one win behind, I think we’re really two points behind. We made it a little bit tougher on ourselves because we couldn’t close the game on Sunday.”

Officially guaranteed at least one extra game after Game #34 on their pre-arranged 2008-09 itinerary, the Friars –if all goes according to Deraney’s plan- vow only to whet their craving for growth in these climactic three weeks. Weeks that shall package six games’ worth of titanic tune-ups.

“I’m glad to learn this lesson now,” Deraney concluded. “Because, say we went 7-1 in our last eight and go into the playoffs thinking we’re good, playing like we’re good, and putting in the kind of effort we did on Sunday where it’s one-and-done. That’s the lesson we need to take out of this week. You gotta play shutdown defense all the time. You can’t create separation with your opponent. You have to keep them off the board.

“As far as I’m concerned, we’re fighting to get home ice and to get a bye. We want to win the league and at least get a bye in that first round. It’ll probably come down to the last game of the regular season.”

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com

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