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Sunday, November 1, 2009

On Hockey

On their way back up

For more than one excruciating week-plus, the chart-topping tune for the PC women’s Billboard State of Mind Songs’ list had to have been Katy Perry’s “Hot N Cold.”

“You’re hot then you’re cold, you’re yes then you’re no, you’re in then you’re out, you’re up then you’re down.”

They’re hardly back to where they want to be after yesterday’s 3-1 falter at the hands of Boston University, which docked them to a 3-4-2 record on the year and a 1-3-1 finish to a five-game homestand. But based on head coach Bob Deraney’s assessment, the new theme song is something more along the lines of the timeless “Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive.”

“First of all, it’s nice to have our team back,” Deraney said after his pupils dropped the decision on a freak wrap-around goal by BU’s Jenelle Kohanchuk late in the third.

“I thought we played really well today. Obviously, I’m not satisfied with the result, but I am very happy with the effort today. We competed, created great chances, we stayed out of the penalty box. We played the game the way it’s meant to be played.”

As the calendar Zamboni made its monthly tour around the books this morning, the Friars seem to be rerunning a lot of old, unfavorable patterns. They have again finished October at sub-.500 overall and are not quite asserting themselves against nationally ranked competition. The tenth-rated Terriers were the third such adversary this season and, coupled with a 3-2 overtime slip at Clarkson and a 3-3 knot at St. Lawrence three weeks back, PC is 0-2-1 in that regard.

But there are acceptable explanations for all this –the most conspicuous of those being the chronic short bench scenario. Fascinatingly, Deraney was in no mood to accept that as a factor a week to date when his pupils egregiously spilled the Mayor’s Cup to Brown University, 5-1. But in that game, they had potted a brittle 1-0 lead on a 19-shot first period brittle and then dozed off.

Conversely, facing certified contenders has consistently impelled the Friars to break out the requisite resolve to make games exciting. For all the knowledge of all mortals, the presence of a Kate Bacon or a Jessie Vella may have been all they needed to tip the scale their way on a night like that.

But, as this author would often hear from a coach from a past sportswriting gig, you can’t coach against injuries. You have to use what you are allotted and swear by the “What doesn’t kill you…” adage.

“I think our kids are doing yeoman’s work because we haven’t had a full team since we stepped on the ice,” Deraney granted. “We’re getting better and I think we’re going to be better for it in the long run.

“Even though it hurts right now, some people are getting some valuable ice time that they might not have gotten. That experience is going to pay off.”

Right now, although there is little of it to be gauged, the bushel of offensive output points to decent top-to-bottom balance in the making. Of the 17 skaters to have suited up so far, 12 have discharged 10 or more shots on net, seven have unloaded at least 20, and the head-turning Arianna Rigano has a team-best 37, one more than she accumulated all last year as a junior transfer out of Division-III Saint Anselm.

No doubt Rigano is one of those extra-ice beneficiaries Deraney was referring to. Other developmental standouts include the two active freshmen, Nicole Anderson and Jess Cohen. Anderson has cracked her chrysalis in the last three weeks for two goals, an assist, and 12 shots after a mere two stabs in her first four games. And Cohen, though held pointless her last three outings, already has two Rookie of the Week laurels to her credit and has been an inseparable linemate of Rigano and Alyse Ruff.

Top gun Ashley Cottrell’s six goals account for 30 percent of the team’s total of 20. But her eight points constitute a slimmer 16 percent of the team accumulation of 50. Cohen follows that with six points (12 percent), then Jean O’Neill with five (10 percent), followed by another 12 personalities, including goaltender Genevieve Lacasse after she assisted on Cottrell’s goal yesterday, with somewhere between 2 and 8 percent of the PC scoring pie.

A few individuals, mind you, still have catching up to do. But that ought to show up on the surface by the time Bacon, Jackie Duncan, Emily Groth, and Vella all vacate the injury ward and potentially allow for a fixed four-set of forward lines and three-set of defensive pairs.

“Getting some people back in our lineup and being able to go deeper into our lineup will give us fresher legs during the games,” Deraney observed.

“There are a lot of positives to look forward to,” he added. “I don’t think the first quarter is indicative of the type of team we are.”

Well, at least all the mental, preparational, and psychological ailments appear to have healed.

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com