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Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Hockey Log

Going smoothly with the flow
Deraney: Rigano “typifies” PC women’s progression

Coaxing a comment on an individual player out of Bob Deraney is about as daunting a dare as an effort to smuggle more than one puck behind the back of Northeastern savior Florence Schelling in a single game.

To that point, when asked to assess the rapid improvement of senior forward Arianna Rigano –a second-year Friar who had converted from the Division III powerhouse Saint Anselm two summers ago- the skipper’s initial offer was as follows:

“I’ve been pleased with our entire team and the progress we’ve made from last spring to this (past) summer to where we are right now,” he said. “I think Anna typifies the improvement of every one of our players from last year to this year.

“I feel very good, not just for Anna, but for all of the players that are experiencing success right now.”

Rigano’s success runs chiefly along the lines of gritting her teeth through a year’s worth of baptism by dry ice, accordingly modifying her game over the summer, and returning to a spontaneous surplus of opportunity with an overwhelming handful of injured teammates.

In her “rookie” year in the Division I ranks, Rigano pitched in four points through 18 consecutive appearances, then sat out for 10 of the remaining 18 games. She was a healthy scratch the day the Friars’ playoff run ended with a 3-1 semifinal loss to tournament host New Hampshire.

About one human pregnancy later, PC made its return to the oft-dreaded Lake Whittemore last Saturday, granting Rigano her first opportunity to play in the heralded barn only about a half hour west of her old striding grounds in Manchester.

Suffice it to say, she made the most of it, assisting on freshman Jessie Vella’s icebreaker with 8:32 gone in the opening period, then thrusting in the eventual game-winner 92 seconds later. It made for her second multi-point show on the year –the other being a two-goal trick at St. Lawrence on October 10- and upped her 2009-10 transcript to four goals and three helpers in 18 games.

“I definitely think I’ve grown,” Rigano said. “Last year, I had to get used to the intensity and stuff like that, so I think this year I’m playing more than last year, and it’s definitely helped. My teammates always help me, too.”

For the first five weeks (10 games) of action this season, Rigano was paired with established scorer Alyse Ruff and promising rookie Jess Cohen. Together, the three never combined for any fewer than seven shots on goal per game. Most nights, that total was more along the lines of 10 or 11 stabs.

More recently, with a full roster finally feasible and a few experimental shuffles on the lines, Rigano has been seen posted with Ruff and Jean O’Neill, who in the wee stages of their respective careers once supplemented the celebrated PRO Line with Finnish Flare Mari Pehkonen. In last Saturday’s 4-1 triumph, the starting trinity pitched in eight of PC’s 21 shots and accumulated a goal and four assists.

But Deraney has also made a habit of deviating what he pencils in on the game sheet. Accordingly, Rigano has also seen substantial ice time with the likes of Vella and Kate Bacon, who combined for a decent five shots and a plus-5 rating Saturday.

Rigano is still the runaway team-leader with 63 SOG, a proliferating upgrade from the 36 she landed all last year which also places her in a two-way tie for seventh in the league with radiant Wildcat Kelly Paton –whom the Friars held scoreless in Saturday’s win. On top of that, she is one of only three PC skaters currently with a positive plus/minus rating.

“She’s finally made the adjustment,” said Deraney, finally consenting to pinpoint some of Rigano’s specifics. “But it’s a credit to her hard work this summer and how much she improved as an athlete and it’s to see that hard work paying off for her.

“She’s a big part of our offense and has become one of our big penalty killers. She’s always wanted to be a Division I hockey player. Last year she had that aspiration met. And now she wants to be a real good Division I hockey player, and she’s starting to meet that expectation.”

More poll presence
One day after resurfacing just below the Top 10 leaderboard from USCHO.com, the Friars garnered five honorable mention votes to rejoin the mix in the USA Today poll. Meanwhile, conference cohabitant Boston University was tugged down into the same not-quite mix with three votes and Connecticut ascended to the No. 10 slot, below No. 9 Northeastern and fourth-ranked New Hampshire.