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Thursday, November 19, 2009

Hockey Log

Cottrell the PC women’s idealized attacker

Ashley Cottrell has been barred from only three out of 14 scoresheets thus far in her sophomore season. Less than two weeks ago, when the laser-beamed Northeastern Huskies and their regal netminder Florence Schelling thoroughly curbed everybody else, Cottrell slipped home an unassisted goal that proved ever-so-vital by the time the Friars walked off with a shootout win.

Providence collectively reignited last weekend, charging up nine goals and 12 assists between 11 individuals in their split series with Boston University. But even before that cathartic flare-up, Cottrell already had the swagger everyone else was pining to pick up. After all, she had participated in each of PC’s three goals in the two preceding games.

With a firsthand strike at Agganis Arena last Saturday and a 1-3-4 transcript on Sunday, she spiked her hot streak to a 3-5-8 showing in her last four games and morphed her season totals to 9-7-16. Right along with her, the team accelerated from having scored but nine goals in their previous seven ventures to potting nine in just two swirls.

“It’s really refreshing to know that we’re starting to execute more and get the job done,” she said. “I think it’s just us not getting frustrated with (our past performances), working through all the hard times, and knowing that eventually things will come out in our favor.”

In a sense, the Friars have been in need of an intense offensive rejuvenation for the entirety of this collegiate generation, not just during these recent weeks where they went 0-3-4 with a shallow nine-goal output to speak of. All signs –namely her atypically consistent presence on the board since opening night- point to Cottrell anchoring that resurgence.

Consider this: with 16 points through 14 games –which makes her the lone Hockey Easterner outside of New Hampshire with a point-per-game median better than 1- she is on pace to score roughly 38 by the end of the 34-game regular season. That alone would amount to the richest single-season feat by a Skating Friar since Kristin Gigliotti put up a 17-21-38 log in 2006-07.

And just individually, that would be mere ice chips shy of doubling Cottrell’s 21-point performance as a rookie.

“My confidence last year wasn’t as high as it is this year,” she said. “I think now I’m more comfortable playing at the college level, and my teammates are helping me out a lot. We’re getting along really well and starting to get to know each other (as players) on the ice.”

In terms of goal output, no one in the PC program has broken 20 since Sonny Watrous (21), Karen Thatcher (25), and Rush Zimmermann (26) all did it in 2004-05. At the rate she is going, Cottrell ought to finish with at least 21 strikes, not counting anything she might muster in postseason action.

Already, Cottrell has surpassed the five goals she charged up in 2008-09. She has thrust 35 shots on goal and connected a rewarding 25.7 percent of the time. As a frosh, she was one of the less frequent shooters in the PC stick rack (73 SOG) and had but a 6.85 percent accuracy to speak of.

Lately, though, she has been a bit more like the Cottrell that PC head coach Bob Deraney saw firsthand at the inaugural U18 World Championships in 2008. That version of Cottrell balanced her goal-assist distribution for a 5-5-10 showing in five tournament games en route to gold for the Americans. She similarly concocted 56 goals and 61 helpers in her final U19 campaign with Detroit Little Caesars.

And now, albeit a year late, she has brought that balance to the college game.

“It’s something me and (Deraney) have been working on, because last year I didn’t shoot the puck as much as I should have,” she said. “I guess it’s been working out.”

In perking up her own twig, Cottrell has not needed to compromise any of her already-established assets either. Her playmaker persona sprung back to life on Sunday when she assisted on all three of radiant rookie and new linemate Nicole Anderson’s goals. At the dot, she has won 196 out of 356 face-offs for a passable .551 winning percentage.

Additionally, just as she ended the 2008-09 campaign with the best plus/minus (plus-9) amongst all PC forwards, she again leads her fellow frontliners in that department with a plus-4. (Naturally, as a whole, the Friars could stand to buck up their aggregate minus-1 rating, but that can be remedied with nothing more than a regular outpouring of offense.)

Cottrell and Co. will vie to build on their renewed viability tomorrow night against none other than Schelling, the league’s testiest walking, talking Shooter Tutor. Afterwards, Cottrell will take brief leave –opposite teammates Genevieve Lacasse and Amber Yung- to New Hampshire, hoping to embolden her international credentials as a Hockey East All-Star versus the U.S. Olympic squad.

“It’ll be a really fun chance to see how we rank up against Olympians,” she said. “It’s just a time to go out there, give them some competition, and get them ready for the Olympics.”

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com