Vella taking the initiative
Rookie nabs first point, creates more chances
She still has not registered a shot on net. She has not taken, never mind won, any face-offs. Meanwhile, she has two minor penalties in as many appearances on the year.
Yet Friars’ freshman Jessie Vella has done better than to plead for slack and patience. Rather, and especially in last night’s stimulating 2-2 draw with Wisconsin, she has made some not-so-negligible good out of her challenges.
Only a week removed from making her belated college debut after nursing a soccer-related injury last spring, Vella was assigned to the left wing on last night’s first power play, which happened a mere 67 seconds into the game when the Badgers were flagged for too many players.
Working with the more seasoned and more proven Jean O’Neill and Alyse Ruff, Vella would take part in all of a 73-second power play swarm in the Wisconsin zone without so much as a whistle in the middle.
The play culminated with Vella absorbing a feed from Amber Yung out of the parallel point and handing it over to O’Neill, who tilted it into the rooftop to grant the Friars the early lead and Vella her first collegiate assist.
Later on, in the middle frame, Vella twice came within tasting distance of another helper. In the eighth minute, she extracted the puck from a scrum in the far corner and forwarded it to Kate Bacon, who churned into the slot before having her slapper swallowed by goaltender Becca Ruegsegger.
One shift later, Vella handed a feed right to hot-handed Nicole Anderson on the front porch, though Anderson’s shot would be foiled.
“She’s a very bright hockey player and that’s why we recruited her,” said head coach Bob Deraney. “There are obviously some things that she needs to improve upon, but her hockey savvy and her hockey IQ is very high, and that’s what allows her to compete even though she hasn’t played a lot of games so far.”
“That’s what’s encouraging about our team. We’re becoming a team of smart hockey players and when you do that, it always gives you a chance no matter who you play against. Obviously, Wisconsin is a very talented team and the reason we were successful tonight was because we matched their intelligence.”
Second generation of Kranz
With her team’s visit, Wisconsin senior forward Emily Kranz has had her first chance to skate on her sister’s old grinding grounds. Former Friars’ defender Jennifer Kranz, now an assistant coach at St. Cloud State, played 104 games between 1998 and 2002, capping her career with an ECAC championship and graduating on the eve of the program’s breakaway to the newfangled Hockey East conference.
The younger Kranz –whose clan hails from Waukesha, Wis., the same town that produced 2005 PC alumna Mara Amrhein- opted to stay close to home and to reap from the gold mines of the WCHA. In three completed seasons, she has indulged in two NCAA titles and ventured to another national title game with the Badgers in 2008.
Still, she said of the excursion to the Divine Campus, “It was really meaningful. It’s great to see (Jennifer’s) campus, see where she spent her four years.
“I was interested in coming (to school) out here, but I’m from Wisconsin, so that was my top choice.”
Kranz is the second of three PC relatives the Friars are slated to encounter this season. They have already tangled with Erica Farrer, the Brown freshman whose brother Ben is a junior forward with the Tim Army Corps. And next week, the New Hampshire Wildcats shall lie in wait, along with rookie forward Katie Kleinendorst, whose father, Kurt, starred at PC under Lou Lamoriello in the early 1980s.
Following the overtime buzzer that cemented last night’s 2-2 final, an exhibition shootout stretched through four rounds, culminating in Ruff’s virtual clincher for a 2-1 decision. Wisconsin’s Stefanie McKeough had scored to lead things off by beating Genevieve Lacasse blocker-side, but the likes of Brooke Ammerman, Geena Prough, and Kelly Nash would all be foiled. PC’s Laura Veharanta and Jess Cohen both missed on their bids while second shooter Ashley Cottrell let her shot trickle through the airtight five-hole of Ruegsegger.
Quick feeds: O’Neill’s goal last night upped her season scoring transcript to 3-6-9, one point better than what she mustered in 31 games last season. Likewise, with an assist, Yung has a 1-6-7 log on the year after collecting a mere six points (all assists) in 2008-09…The Friars are now 2-2-4 when scoring first, 0-2-1 when leading after the first period, and 0-3-4 when tied after the second…Audio streaming for tonight’s game may be picked up via the Friars’ official website.
Al Daniel can be reached at email@example.com