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Saturday, May 2, 2009

On Hockey

A most genial gesture
Schwarz’s peers give her props via MIP ballot

Breanna Schwarz, together with a whopping nine fellow rookies, donned formal game time attire for the PC women’s hockey team last September 28 for the numerically unrestricted preseason exhibition versus the Brampton Junior Thunder. That steamy afternoon, she linked up with classmate Christie Jensen on the fourth defensive pair (again, overly brimful rosters are OK for these time-honored scrimmages) and notched a not-so-shabby +1 rate as part of a 4-1 triumph.

As far as the 2008-09 Friars’ cumulative stats are concerned, however, that little tangible achievement is ultimately as good as a sprinkling of snowflakes dropping onto supra-freezing temperature grounds. And Schwarz, out of respect for the program’s future planning layout, accepted a redshirt run for the duration of the meaningful 36-game run while 23 of her associates lapped up countless gobs of ice time and another, sophomore goaltender Christina England, at least saw a smattering of action in warm-ups.

Of all the core requirements this institution may have in the way of psychological and human spirit studies, none need be devoted to the personal hardship that comes with that type of pact. It’s a pact of patience and prudence. It is a practically unrivaled test of the hockey heart.

So it is a tad flooring, but quite fitting when you think about it, that Schwarz departed the Providence Courtyard by Marriot last night with a claim to PC’s 2009 Most Improved Player Award. Only interior witnesses who caught a day-by-day look at her progress in practice this past year could have possibly detected Schwarz’s unique worth. Naturally, those witnesses were her peers.

Strictly speaking, to term this twist of events a slice of poetic justice is a stretch. But it was, if you will, a complimentary complement. Schwarz nobly contained any carbonated frustration she may have felt over a five-month grind that only permitted her to don an orange jersey with no name or number on the back. In doing so, she proved never to forget the Skating Friar emblem on the front of that sweater and those that the others wore –complete with surnames and numerals- on weekends.

In return, as was divulged last night, Schwarz’s teammates most tellingly proved that they never forgot about her. As a result, the circle that spoke the Three Musketeers’ rustic tagline was rounded out.

You don’t ordinarily see an opportunity pop up like this. On Schwarz’s individual part and the Friars’ collective part, it was an opportunity to reiterate the game’s untouchable “team first” dogma. And they all pounced on it as though it were a vulnerable rebound inclined to end a vital overtime affair.

Granted, apart from her latest accolade, Schwarz hasn’t done much to knead a true identity for PC buffs to consider. But so far, this token of tolerance and conscientiousness is just a reflection of her collegiate prep resume.

Leading up to her commitment, the Portland, Ore. native had shuffled from the opposite coast to play under Friar alumna Christa Talbot at Williston Northampton in Easthampton, Mass. There, she nabbed similar MIP accolades as a freshman in 2005 and proceeded to sport the “C” as a junior and senior. At this time a year ago, she was being termed the “most sportsmanlike” athlete in the school’s hockey, lacrosse, and crew programs.

Looks like the background of a regular Portland Pygmalion, does it not? Or a distant descendent of Lady Byng. Or, if nothing else, just another epitome of hockey humility. (Quick sidetrack: similar values were rewarded in the form of senior grinder Steph Morris winning the Coaches’ Award and the statistically eclipsed rookie Abby Gauthier being termed the Seventh Player winner.)

It is pretty much foregone that Schwarz will be training to be a regular on the active roster when she and her returning teammates reconvene in September. Her input will be craved on a defensive corps that figures to have no more than one spare body at any given time. And her award can function as an effective mental launching pad for her genuine collegiate debut and beyond.

An on-ice translation of the character traits she has exhibited up to this point would certainly be well-received. She does not seem inclined to spill many minutes worth of ice time over into the penalty box and ought to feel plenty comfortable evoking her certified leadership flair even with as many as 18 slightly or densely more experienced teammates sharing bench space with her.

After all, they along with six outgoing seniors each thought well enough of her to ensure Schwarz did something worthy of a computable term in the spotlight –not to mention, the papers- before the curtain formally closed on her rookie year. Their move symbolically completed their team and the team’s season.

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com

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