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Saturday, July 18, 2009

On Hockey

Lacasse faces another hard shot
Invited back to Canada camp, PC stopper at worst earns more practice


On the whole, the ultimate prognosis here is quite favorable for all parties concerned in the women’s wing of Schneider Arena.

Late Thursday, when Team Canada condensed its pool of U22 goaltending candidates for the 2009-2010 season from eight to five, PC’s own Genevieve Lacasse was among those left still standing. This means a passport back to Calgary next month for another arduous week consisting of practicing and scrimmaging amongst a split Canadian squad (and a band of Swedish guests), with the home girls vying for a spot in the annual three-game U.S. series and next winter’s MLP Cup.

The other skate drops on her, however, in the quite literal asterisk that sits next to the rising sophomore’s name on the roll call. Officially, Lacasse has been designated as a free agent of sorts, assigned to stand in for the tandems of both the Red and White squads, which means she will see sparse action in practice to stay limber and be promoted on an emergency basis should one of the two stoppers from either squad go down.

Furthermore, both Harvard’s Christina Kessler and Wilfred Laurier’s (CIS) Liz Knox, who occupied each of last season’s U22 roster spots, are in the mix again. So, too, is Mercyhurst’s Hillary Pattenden, whom Lacasse couldn’t quite outduel in a half-full, 50-save, 3-0 loss on campus last November.

With all that in consideration, she is assuming an underdog posture and will likely need a miraculous twist induced with the aid of a rabbit’s foot to play on to any international competition in 2009-2010.

But still, regardless of her fate once the week (August 6-14) is up, she will have garnered another coat of worthwhile seasoning after yet again taking time to serve as a walking, talking Shooter Tutor for Canada’s best young puckslingers. At that rate, she has no cause to lose her touch after a sparkling, sharpening rookie campaign complete with 1670 minutes played, 756 cumulative saves, 13 individual bushels of at least opposing 30 shots, and a hugful of hardware in the end.

The way she withstood the yearlong barrage hereby described, and the way she has extended her offseason occupations like this, Lacasse doesn’t cease to impress. And with each development of concern to her this offseason, it just grows exponentially ironic that Lacasse went out of her way last winter to purge her Team Canada-themed mask in favor of one depicting the Providence skyline and mini-murals of the program’s past.

But it should be gently reiterated that this pool is like Puckworld –the world’s most densely competitive pond. And the Scarborough Save-ior needn’t go far for a cautionary reminder.

Freshly graduated two-way connoisseur Erin Normore, who a few months ago outhustled Lacasse in the unofficial race for Team MVP, had been invited to this exact same festival prior to her junior year, but the internal competition was as far as she went. No U.S. series, no Air Canada/MLP Cup, and no invitations back to the same camp in the subsequent two years. Instead, Normore merely got to return to the Divine Campus and not only play in every intercollegiate game possible, but also, on a gamely basis, put in at least one trademark end-to-end expedition with the puck.

And heck, this year, New Hampshire Wildcats’ scoring beacon Kelly Paton didn’t so much as clear the initial hurdle at May’s conditioning camp. Poor Paton can only look forward to spending the length of her junior year serving as an offensive nucleus for the Cats’ drive for a fifth Hockey East crown.

If Lacasse is indeed one of the three goalies filtered out of the mix before the end of next month, it simply means that the Friars can take comfort in her consistent availability. Not to mention, she will be accompanied to Calgary by a grand total of 26 fellow U.S. collegians, four of them fellow Hockey Easterners, and another 10 of whom she should be staring down in the interleague portion of the coming season.

Then again, there is no need to pronounce the race over before the cue-to-go gun is blown. So, as of right now, Lacasse is officially juggling with an opportunity to match an achievement of one of her celestial predecessors, Jana Bugden.

Amidst her sophomore year in 2003-04, Bugden did claim a roster spot for the Air Canada Cup, where she happened to engage in a showdown with a Swiss national team backstopped by a 13-year-old phenom named Florence Schelling –now Lacasse’s contemporary rival from Northeastern. And after all, she only had to miss two starts with the Friars, who between victories by Amy Thomas and Amy Quinlan swept Maine in her absence.

Naturally, the other benefit would be the chance to briefly complement last year’s clash of a red Maple Leaf helmet and Skating Friar sweater with the combination of a Rhode Island State House helmet and red Maple Leaf jersey. That’s what one might call proud dual citizenship.

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com

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