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Monday, March 2, 2009

Hockey Log

Masters of muzzling
Lacasse, PC women’s defense suffocate Husky offense

Reached for an eat-and-run paced interview following her team’s 3-0 Hockey East quarterfinal falter Saturday, Connecticut skipper Heather Linstad gave maximum props to the Friars’ new go-to stopper, Genevieve Lacasse.

“I think she’s had a great year,” said Linstad, who has now seen her offense all but stifled to the core in each of four WHEA postseason twig-locks with PC, losing all four by an aggregate 18-2 goal differential. “I think she’s up for rookie of the year and should be, but certainly she was one of the top goalies in the league this year.”

The Huskies –defined by such Cyclopean scorers as Dominique Thibault, Michelle Binning, Amy Hollstein, and Monique Weber- inserted an even 100 strikes during their 35-game run in 2008-09, a feat equated only by Boston College along this coast. Yet they whiffed on 116 of 119 cumulative stabs in four confrontations with Lacasse.

Thibault, the league’s second busiest puckslinger (172 shots on net) behind New Hampshire’s Jenn Wakefield (179), threw 23 total shots at Lacasse this season. The only one to go through was a third period power play equalizer in UConn’s 2-1 OT triumph on February 1.

Tritter, the decider in that tussle at Freitas Ice Forum, missed her six other swings.

And Hollstein, who pitched in a power play conversion the day prior in a 5-1 Providence victory, was otherwise stifled on 11 other tries and didn’t get a single registered stab under her belt on Saturday.

“I had a shutout against them before in November –the first of my career,” said Lacasse, recalling her 30-save feat in the teams’ initial confrontation on November 16, a 2-0 triumph decided on Alyse Ruff’s 5-on-3 conversion with a mere six minutes to spare.

“It gave me a lot of confidence knowing that and knowing that it was possible to do it again. I knew (going in) not to be intimidated by Thibault and those other big names.”

Nor would she have to work up the heaviest of sweats over the course of the game itself. After charging up no fewer than 30 SOG in each regular season confrontation, UConn discharged a grand total of 47 attempts, though a mere 18 reached touching distance of Lacasse.

Another 10 of their tries were channeled wide while Lacasse’s praetorian guards stepped up to block 19 –including one late bid by starting centerpiece Michelle Binning that Amber Yung stuffed up in the high slot, drawing fiery praise from head coach Bob Deraney.

In other words, PC’s collective band of skaters notched one more save on the day than their designated stopper.

And only once were Lacasse’s services needed on the penalty kill. Sami Evelyn unleashed a straightaway point blast on the Huskies’ only full-length power play at the 11:11 mark of the opening frame, and that was it. The Friars took merely two more penalties –both in the second period- and held the opposing strike force at bay until an eventual UConn infraction amounted to 4-on-4 segments.

Cleanest noses
The Friars and Huskies entered and exited Saturday’s swing with the league’s two best disciplinary records. UConn, which amassed 10 penalty minutes, barely stayed in first place of that category with a season average of 11.1 minutes per game. Providence paid a mere three minor trips to the bin, slimming their PIM median from 11.5 to 11.3.

Plus signs
Four Friars –Ashley Cottrell, Colleen Martin, Mari Pehkonen, and Laura Veharanta- all stamped a +2 rating Saturday while another seven –Kate Bacon, Jennifer Friedman, Erin Normore, Leigh Riley, Ruff, Brittany Simpson, and Yung- were a +1. Cottrell and Martin remain tied for the team lead amongst skaters at +10 (Lacasse is tops at +12) and with Normore having tipped the scale on a previously even rating, 16 of PC’s 23 active skaters stand in the black.

Conflicted crowds
Saturday’s afternoon engagement at Schneider Arena, which drew a reported audience of 286, was outdrawn by an overlapping women’s basketball home finale (372 viewers) and the men’s lacrosse team’s home opener (510). “I guarantee that if those two events weren’t going on we would have had an even bigger crowd,” Deraney told Pete Souris of the Hockey East P.R. office for an online audio featurette. “But the building was still electric. It was pretty loud.”

Quick Feeds: As of Saturday’s semifinal excursion to UNH, Simpson will have played her 141st career game, surpassing 2005 graduate Hilary Greaves and tying 2003 alum Melanie Ruzzi for third on the program’s all-time iron leaderboard. Simpson only trails Normore (141) and 2006 alumna Katelyn Laffin (143)…PC bested the Huskies, 35-30, at the face-off dot Saturday and has outdrawn the opposition in all but one of its last nine games…A total of nine pucks fluttered out of bounds in Saturday’s contest –three in each period.

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com

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