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Thursday, March 26, 2009

Women's Hockey Writer's Choice Awards

Proficiency and pride coalesced for Lacasse
Rookie goaltender a runaway MVP choice

Given the inherently superior gutsiness in goaltending, just how surprised should Friartownies be with the flattering superficial makeover Genevieve Lacasse took on about the halfway mark of her first season in a collegiate crease?

While her new fan base was just getting to know her through October and November, Lacasse’s face mask silently conveyed a “Country First” ideal. That is, she did not appear ready to slacken her Canadian pride and purge the red Maple Leaf/Anonymous Skater emblem sported by all of the Bastion of Hockey’s international ambassadors.

Perfectly understood, when you really think about it. Any deviation from that patriotic get-up might incur the wrath of Don Cherry or something.

And yet, it wasn’t long before Lacasse was sporting a minimalist monochrome lid. And not much longer thereafter did that ambiguity give way to a gaudy display of Providence pride: a black background with the Rhode Island State House front-and-center and flanked by the city skyline, action portraits of her predecessors on the side flaps, and inspirational quotations on the back.

The new look is just another telling testament to Lacasse’s ardent commitment to the Friars, though her stats delivered the same message from her October 4 debut onward: a 15-11-1 record, .933 save percentage, and 1.94 goals-against median.

And so, when the 2008-09 installment of PC’s Skating Sorority convenes one more time for the program’s awards ceremony, the Hockey East Rookie of the Year and ITECH Goaltending Champion ought to magnetically haul in the program’s MVP crown.

Lacasse maneuvered around three incumbent keepers en route to consuming 76.5% of the season’s total crease time and bolstering the Friars’ lone element of consistent stability. While the strike force charged up a cumulative 86 goals on the year, Lacasse authorized a mere 54 in 29 appearances. As a whole, the goalie guild averaged a mere 2.12 goals-against, just slivers below the offensive median of 2.36 goals-for.

Lacasse’s personal game log included six shutouts, eleven one-goal decisions (five of them victories and discounting empty netters), the team’s lone shootout victory, 10 bushels of 30-plus saves, and only three goal counts of four-plus.

Simply put, she more than verified the adage of a goaltender “giving them a chance to win.” On a jutting number of occasions, she forced them to win.

Elsewhere, Lacasse’s creasemates and classmates round out the rest of the Free Press’ informal picks for the 2008-09 women’s hockey awards scroll, properly underlining PC’s strongest position of the past year and sustaining the still-merely-professed promise of wholesale talent replenishment:

Most Improved Player- Still not a full-timer on the game day roster until after the Christmas respite, freshman forward Abby Gauthier swiftly cemented that area and proceeded to up her scoring transcript from a 2-1-3 to a 3-7-10. While her collection of registered shots (23) is significantly shallow compared to the majority of her associates, she discharged 10 of them within the final month of the season whilst complementing a handy grind line with the likes of Katy Beach and Jean O’Neill. And this after she had notched mere six SOG in her first 15 ventures.

One other noteworthy change from the younger stages of the season: Gauthier paid five trips to the penalty box in her first 11 games. She retained a perfectly pristine disciplinary record in the next 22, never so much as being tabbed to serve a bench minor.

Unsung Hero- Forgive the apparent forecast of a 2007 rerun. But the fact is that Lacasse –like Jana Bugden before her- backboned the Friars from start to finish. Yet she occasionally flaunted her humanity, too. And in those events senior stopper Danielle Ciarletta –like Lauren Florio in the not-too-distant former days- was raring to keep the ice in the crease solid. Admittedly, her data wasn’t nearly as dazzling –especially her 2-5-2 record. But when Ciarletta was on duty, the Friars only inserted 16 goals, three strides below her 19 goals-against.

Better cushioning on the scoreboard beyond her control would have indubitably given Ciarletta a more palatable transcript to go with that not-so-shabby .905 save percentage and 2.33 GAA.

Seventh Player- For nearly the full second half of the season, freshman defender Jennifer Friedman linked up with team captain Brittany Simpson to formulate an inseparable starting unit.

Friedman never really followed up on a curious scoring outburst from the thick of January, but over the final 16 games, the understudy fed off the seasoned Simpson to –if nothing else- unveil more of her home base tenacity, both during 5-on-5 and shorthanded segments.

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com

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