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Monday, September 21, 2009

On Hockey

Big task in small package
In first follow-up year, Lacasse has little to alter, a lot to maintain

Fifty weeks ago at this time, there were no convincing hints that Genevieve Lacasse was revving up a ride to fast VIP status in the PC women’s hockey program, let alone the WHEA.

All she had done up to that point was succeed senior Danielle Ciarletta for Part II of a season-opening two-game set with Ohio State, ostensibly to keep the abundance of goalies fresh and try to turn the Friars’ luck after a 2-1 falter the night prior.

Instead, after turning away 32 stabs even in a 3-2 loss, the then-rookie would start each of the next two outings. And if her claim to top dibs in the crease hadn’t solidified by that point, it certainly was before she had polished off her first term at Providence. After her lone instance of missing the full length of two consecutive games, she won six of her next seven starts throughout November and early December. The lone loss in that time frame was a valiant 51-save dolphin show versus almighty Mercyhurst.

From there, Lacasse deftly proceeded to charge up a season that inevitably rehashed visions of Jana Bugden and Sara DeCosta, snagging both top rookie and top goaltending accolades at the Hockey East awards banquet to go with a collection of stupefying statistics.

Her cumulative bushel of 756 saves already has her perched at 10th all-time on the Friars’ career leaderboard. In terms of a single season, those 756 are exceeded only by DeCosta, who thrice exceeded 760 during her tenure here.

And if, hypothetically, she were to duplicate that output in the coming year, or just haul in a comparatively light 430, Lacasse would instantly leap-frog six of her predecessors and sit in the No. 3 slot behind DeCosta and Bugden before she even fulfills her Development of Western Civ. requirement.

A Friartownie could get historically giddy over that and add that 2007 New Hampshire alum Melissa Bourdon, after all, swept the league’s golden goalie prize in all four of her years, backstopping two championships in the latter two.

In all likelihood, assuming she does not stray too far from her celestial path, Lacasse should repeat that accolade with reasonable facility given that Boston College’s Molly Schaus is on Olympic leave and the reliable custodians at New Hampshire and Northeastern will likely be working in strict 50-50 tandem.

Naturally, though, she ought to be breaking in her sophomore pads knowing what to expect and knowing what is expected of her –not that that surfaced as a harrowing problem at any time all last year. If anything, the only cause for concern would be her potential inability to wipe her mind clean of her sparkling rookie stats and to drop a veil over her mental trophy case.

Then again, over the course of last year, the unsung second nature pressure had to already be building up on an exponential basis, yet it only surfaced problematically for little spurts at a time. Namely, in the first three weeks after the December deceleration, during which Lacasse was forked out of two games at Cornell and Dartmouth and endured another forgettable home outing versus Vermont.

Afterwards, though, she restored and bridled her game and would allow but 19 goals over her final 11 appearances on the season. Ultimately, that brief fit of negative energy left only a medium dent at worst.

And if converting negative energy is, in fact, a direct part of a winning formula, then Lacasse may want to draw up a healthy way of recalling her summer shortcomings. One of five stoppers to survive Part I of the Canadian U22 team’s selection camp in May, she returned two months later to find herself assigned as a two-billed alternate behind the tandems of both the red and white teams in July. By the time Part II was up, she was, not so shockingly, among those rooted out. (Ironically, the other goalie failing to make that second cut was Mercyhurst’s Hillary Pattenden, the opposing half of that classic card back in November.)

The at least temporary loss for Lacasse is a first-class blessing for the Friars. Now she is a lock to devote the full breadth of her sophomore year to intercollegiate affairs with no MLP Cup to keep in the back of her mind for the first half, and subsequently try to recover from afterward.

Under different circumstances, it would have been solely up to a still box-fresh junior in Christina England to plug in X-number of games. And after the fact, there would be a good chance that Lacasse’s performance would at least mildly flaunt the effects of jet lag the same way it often did to Finnish Flare Mari Pehkonen the last three seasons.

Nothing to worry about on that front; plus Lacasse cannot be blamed if she packs extra determination to start enhancing her international caliber for future reference.

In the shorter run, though, she is tasked with propping up a collegiate program still vying to enhance its national caliber. For her part, the only glitches to address will be seeking a more rewarding start –which is a matter of concern for the entire team anyway- and never losing her touch to the point where it spills invaluable points in the standings and polls.

Beyond that, an upgrade in all-around support from her praetorian guards –defender and forward alike- will be in order the most.

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com