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Saturday, October 3, 2009

Women's Hockey 4, Maine 0

First Night Festivities
Friars thoroughly whitewash Black Bears to start season

Apart from a Hockey East championship banner and concomitant passport to the NCAA tournament, one other element has been conspicuously lacking in PC’s Skating Sorority since the 2004-05 season: a 1-0 start to the schedule.

For the moment, at least the latter of those jutting jinxes is officially passé thanks to last night’s 4-0 triumph over Maine before an encouraged opening night mass of 170 at Schneider Arena and a confident coach who was quick to assign his tangible gains to the middle row of the minivan.

When reminded that his program –regardless of however many moral winning streaks they may have sparked in past Octobers- had not drawn a genuine “W” to start the year in over a full collegiate generation, Bob Deraney offered a sarcastic, albeit polite, “thanks.”

“I don’t even know about that, because every year is a different year,” he continued. “We may have not won our first game the last couple of years, but it’s not about the win, it’s about how you play, and I thought we played really well tonight. We played smart, we really had a couple of times where we needed to have a gut check, and we answered that call. We learned a lot about ourselves tonight and I like what I see. I think the kids do too.”

Both contesting squads took time to kick up their full energy flow, amounting to a scoreless first period with a 7-3 shot count favoring the Friars. But in the latter 40 minutes, Providence asserted itself with 11 of 15 skaters garnering at least one shot on net and seven of them ultimately touching the scoresheet.

It began at the 4:35 mark of the middle frame, with freshman winger Jess Cohen settling down a feed from defender Lauren Covell in the near face-off circle after a hectic swarm filled with wide near-misses and a few non-calls (in Deraney’s fervent opinion, at least). Once in comfortable control of the disk, Cohen wasted little time snapping it home low to the left of Maine stopper Candace Currier (21 saves).

To their credit, the Black Bears confined the Friars to a somewhat shallow 25 shots on the whole night, a sound follow-through on an implicit vow to make their collection of shots-against a prime candidate for a spot on ABC’s Biggest Loser. Not to mention, PC is continuing to press forward while missing a full forward line due to a horrid injury bug.

All that aside, the middle frame proved an effective period to collect insurance, which Providence did in amassing 12 registered stabs, three of which would go through via Cohen, Ashley Cottrell at 16:25, and Jean O’Neill on a four-on-four breakaway with only 20.5 seconds till intermission.

“We’re hoping that tomorrow, we will put Abby Gauthier and Kate Bacon into the lineup for the first time this year,” Deraney noted. “That’ll be a real nice shot in the arm, but the way we played today, I think that will just add to our depth.

“Our kids played their hearts out today. We only had three lines and three sets of D, and if you watched us, you would have thought we had a full complement, so that’s a credit to how hard our kids played out there tonight.”

Maine assumed control of the shooting gallery for the third (9-6), and threatened early on a carry-over penalty to Alyse Ruff that overlapped with Laura Veharanta’s checking call at 0:35, amounting to 55 seconds worth of 5-on-3.

Nothing doing, though. Providence goaltender Genevieve Lacasse (19 saves, seventh career shutout) only dealt with one shot during that penalty kill, and within four minutes of Veharanta’s release, Cohen set up linemate Arianna Rigano for a tumbling conversion at 6:22, ultimately finalizing the 4-0 difference.

And so, the “Glory Days” –both in the statistical sense and in the sense of Bruce Springsteen taking over the PA system after the stick salute- came to Friartown substantially earlier and before. The natural objective is to continuously renew those good days, beginning with a sweep of this weekend’s series this afternoon.

“We talked about it in our (locker) room. We’re only halfway to our goal (for this weekend),” Deraney said. “And the other thing is I push our kids right to the end. And you might be saying, ‘Why aren’t you coaching for tomorrow?’ But I’m coaching for the season, and we need to create an energy level and a conditioning level that will last for 120 minutes, not just 60, of the hardest hockey you can possibly play.

“We kept the throttle all the way down even when we were up by four goals with five (minutes) to go. It doesn’t matter to me. We’ve got a lot more to give, and we’re going to get it out of them.”

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com