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Friday, October 9, 2009

Hockey Log

Knights bear a sharp lance in Thibault
PC women to face ex-Husky in Clarkson sweater

By default, senior scorer Dominique Thibault’s unusually late transfer from Connecticut to Clarkson will still hardly amount to an escape from Hockey East affairs until around Halloween. The Golden Knights’ first eight intercollegiate engagements of the season are against WHEA tenants, continuing tonight with a drop-in by the Friars (7 p.m. face-off) and tomorrow from none other than the Storrs Skating Sorority.

For their part, PC will thus provide the prelude to the expectably anticipated old-friend-new-uni drama. Tonight will be all about rekindling a healthy rivalry between a face and a crest. And, much like it commonly was when she was a Husky, it will be largely about neutralizing the nucleus of the opposition –Thibault.

"Thibault’s a great player,” said PC team captain Colleen Martin. “Whatever school she plays at, she’s still going to be the great, dominant player that she is. So we just have to bring our game and work period by period, shift by shift."

Up to this point, the Friars’ approach has worked gratifyingly well in confronting the acetylene twig that earned Thibault 112 points in 99 games with the Huskies, plus a Hockey East Player of the Year garland in 2008.

Versus PC, Thibault has charged up four goals and five assists in 11 meetings, seven of which were Friar triumphs. That includes two goal-assist value packs, but also five thorough goose-eggs, including two shutouts by Genevieve Lacasse last season.

To date, her only formal strike at Lacasse’s expense was a vital equalizer midway through the third period Feb. 1 last season at Freitas Ice Forum, when host UConn deleted a long-standing 1-0 deficit and ultimately tipped the scale in overtime.

Other than that, Lacasse has dealt with 23 Thibault bids in four formal encounters and turned away 22 of them. Additionally, she must have faced countless others over the summer at Team Canada’s U22 camp.

Still, a new supporting cast is likely to alter the picture –for easier or tougher. PC skipper Bob Deraney pointed to the Golden Knights’ new top two center punch of Thibault and senior captain Britney Selina (113 career points in 109 games) as a reprise of the Huskies’ one-time Cyclopean duo of Thibault and 2008 graduate Jaclyn Hawkins.

"They’re a very talented team and we’re going to have our work cut out for us," he acknowledged. "Any time you go up to play Clarkson and St. Lawrence, it’s always a tough road trip, whether it’s a men’s or women’s game. They’re a formidable foe, but we’re looking forward to the challenge."

Clarkson, uniquely coached by the husband-wife tandem of Shannon and Matt Desrosiers, is vying to resurge from a barely supra-.500 showing (16-14-6) in the couple’s first campaign, which came only after program patriarch Rick Seeley had amassed two 20-plus win runs in three tries. In 2008-09, they put forth altogether commendable data on defense with a collective 1.94 goals-against average (third in the ECAC), but were more in the middle of the league leaderboard when it came to scoring with a nightly 2.61 median and roughly 30.6 shots per game.

Already this season, they are on the heels of outscoring Boston College, 6-2, in a matter of two twig-locks and thrusting a cumulative 75 registered shots over 125 minutes of action. Thibault personally pitched in 15 of those shots for an even 20 percent of the team output and logged a 1-2-3 scoring transcript in last Friday’s 5-1 mismatch, which factored heavily into the Eagles’ plunge out of the national Top 10 and the previously unranked Knights’ ascension to No. 7.

Early as it may be, an impression is an impression, and now PC –which has not garnered a genuine ranking since January of 2006 and has been long-plagued by destructive jitters when confronting ranked competition- is keen on reversing the roles. That applies both to tonight’s confrontation at Cheel Arena, and tomorrow afternoon’s shuffle over to Appleton Arena, where the fifth-ranked St. Lawrence Saints shall await.

"They’re definitely statement games, especially with these teams, especially at the beginning of our season," said Martin, assessing the magnitude of the weekend. "Hopefully we play our best and we come out on top, but I think that this will definitely have an impact on the rest of our season."

Quick feeds: Tonight will be PC’s first showdown with the Golden Knights since they dropped a 4-2 upshot at Cheel Arena on Nov. 6, 2005. In its "modern era," the seven-year-old Clarkson program is 1-0-1 all-time versus the Friars…The Friars will take part in three Skating Strides Against Breast Cancer games in January. The New Hampshire installment will be conducted on Saturday, Jan. 16, and both the Friars and Boston College Eagles will host their respective chapters as part of a home-and-home set Jan. 23-24…Contrary to their showings overall and at home, the Friars have made more sturdy first impressions on the road in recent years. Under Deraney, they are 6-3-1 (and 24-8-1 all-time) in road openers.

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com