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Friday, September 18, 2009

On Hockey

Representing the team
Yung, like PC women, yearning for kinder stats

Here’s an ice chip of trivia for what the NESN Bruins’ broadcast team might like to term a “Twisted But True Fact.” Who –amongst her fellow blueliners- joined Amber Yung in the red with an identical minus-3 finish last season?

Answer: now-former captain Brittany Simpson, whose final transcript was conspicuously hurt by one forgettable 5-1 falter last February versus Boston College, wherein she lost four points in the plus/minus category. If not for that, she most likely would have been on the plus-side with reasonable facility.

Similarly, Yung had been a plus-1 at the time of the December deceleration, but then returned to hit a personal rough spot for the first few weeks of 2009. A pair of minus-2 outings at Cornell and Dartmouth and a minus-1 against Vermont, all interspersed with recorded “even” performances, rapidly docked her to a minus-4. Afterwards, she at least stopped the bleeding for the remaining six weeks, ultimately moving up one rung to finish at minus-3.

On an individual basis, the junior Yung’s compensation for her efforts has been particularly telling as to what still sits atop the Friars’ priority checklist. Within Hockey East play, she has stamped a plus-2 rating two years running, much the same way her team continuously concocts a nice, supra-.500 conference record but cannot quite make the same claim when it comes to interleague action. And it does not require much analytical thinking to conclude that Yung’s data, not unlike the Friars’ overall record, would be more gratifying if they tuned the opposing mesh a little more regularly.

Up through the halfway mark of her PC career, Yung’s durability and reliability have been pretty much on the same par as a Simpson or an Erin Normore. Through 72 possible games, she has had but one absence from the line chart, which was due to an invitation to a holiday camp with the U.S. U22 team keeping her away from an excursion to Yale prior New Year’s.

When she has been in the lineup, Yung is one of the team’s more imposing authorities at 5-foot-10 and has been one of the more outstandingly plucky shot-blockers in the lineup. And at least for a while, chiefly over the course of her freshman year, she bore another resemblance to Normore through a venturesome habit of singlehandedly touring the puck into the deeper portions of the attacking zone.

That year, she totaled 68 registered shots, plus 13 assists for 15 points –although those, to some extent, arrived in bunches, including two playmaker hat tricks. Last year, as the Friars’ collective output receded from 100 to 86 goals, her own numbers lessened to only 48 shots, along with six helpers and no goals to call her own.

Back on the home front, Yung’s plus/minus rollercoaster has followed about the same course in each of her first two seasons with the Friars. In 2007-08, she went as high as a plus-3 at various points from November through January, but ultimately slipped to a negative-2 in the end. And like her sophomore year, she didn’t have much company in the red, but remarkably, she was joined by none other than top gun Kathleen Smith, who finished at minus-1.

And again, that final figure was bumped primarily by two minus-3 nights and a shortage of better-than-plus-1 opportunities to cancel that out.

If this really does reflect the weakest link of the Providence defense coming into the 2009-10 campaign, then there is little on that CD requiring a Windex treatment. Rather, a more appropriate focus would be to see about inflating a few more skaters to pluses and double-digit pluses like one will find in scoping last year’s Boston College and New Hampshire stats sheet.

And that can come, quite simply, as a product of a little more offensive productivity across the lineup. As far as the Friars are concerned, while it is not inherently detrimental to grant the driver’s seat to defensive ideals, the offense could stand to assume the front passenger’s spot rather than the back row.

For Yung’s part, and for the blue line bunch as a whole, this means dropping more pucks on net the same way she did as a freshman, if not recharging her former audacity to skate it down there herself when need be. What to ask of the point patrollers, though, may depend on what kind of forward crew they have to work with and if everyone can get comfortable with aggressive, head-spinning puck movement. They may ultimately need to do little more than clog up the opposition’s clearing path and sustain pressure.

Regardless, Yung ought to know the itch to “get rewarded” as well as any other Friar, especially now that she is one of the defensive elders. Cue her hunt for a better winning formula.

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com