• Check out the Free Press founder's new Rhode Island/New England sports blog
  • http://providencesportsscribe.blogspot.com/

Friday, January 9, 2009

On Hockey

Riverhawks craving completeness

The Friars will finally rekindle their intercollegiate ignition tomorrow night bent on refurbishing their posture in the Hockey East playoff push. Their forthcoming adversaries from UMass-Lowell are yearning to recover a not-so-shabby offense that supplemented their regal goaltending earlier in the year.

It’s just a fact of life glaring at the ailing Tim Army Corps at this time. They will be locking twigs with one somehow enviable opponent after another as they initially get their blades whet in the climactic second half of the 2008-09 campaign. Providence pines for first time viability in the 2009 Hockey East playoff picture. Lowell pines for renewed membership in the national leaderboard.

The Riverhawks have already thawed their game time attire back out in last weekend’s Shillelagh Tournament –aka the ex-Lightning College Classic controversially transplanted from Tampa Bay to Chicagoland. They’ve taken their midseason posture for an authentic test drive, and their priority is plain: shore the scoring back up.

For the full scope of October and November, Lowell flaunted a flurry of offensive prowess, including an aggregate 10-2 steamrolling of the Friars over two tussles up at Tsongas Arena. Through their first 13 games, they had kilned an 8-5 overall transcript and a favorable 46-27 scoring differential. And they did so through a dense, relatively anonymous depth chart.

“It gives us a chance to have a lot of different people step up,” said head coach Blaise MacDonald in Tuesday’s midseason teleconference. “It’s a team that can’t be marked very easily, because if you take care of Kory Falite, then maybe Scotty Campbell can score. If you take care of Campbell and Falite, you’ve got Mike Potacco that may be able to score.

Ten of MacDonald’s offensive regulars have tuned the opposing mesh firsthand at least three times over their first 18 games. Another, senior captain Mark Roebothan, is nearing a return from a shoulder injury that has confined him to the sidelines each of the last five ventures.

“I think we can put out 12 forwards that can generate offense and play tenacious defensively,” MacDonald proclaimed.

But most recently, “can” has not mechanically translated to “do.” Coinciding with Roebothan’s recuperation over the sparse December schedule and last week’s tournament, the Riverhawks have veiled their borders well enough, but have charged up an infinitesimal six goals towards five consecutive falters.

“What we’ve encountered in our last five games is five one-goal losses,” MacDonald observed, implicitly opting to discount a gravy goal by New Hampshire’s Mike Sislo on an empty net December 5. “We could have easily won all five of those but we clearly didn’t do enough to secure a victory, so we’re in the process of trying to figure out how it is that we’ve only scored six goals in the last five gamese.

“People talk a lot about scoring being down in hockey in general, and we’re experiencing that right now.”

Come what may, Lowell entered this season aptly ambitious and has followed through with a couple of eye-catching spurts, such as an 8-3 thrashing of UNH November 14. Crease colleagues Nevin Hamilton and Carter Hutton have rotated on the IR almost as much as they’ve shifted in the cage, but one or the other has been consistently reliable. So much so that the Hawks have yet to lose by a goal margin greater than two and have only twice authorized more than three goals in a game.

But if they are to revitalize their stature in the national landscape –having been perched in USCHO’s #17 slot the first week of December only to lose all honorable mention votes after their subsequent, and still active, five-game slide- they need to statistically verify their treasured offensive density.

Step 1 is theirs to take up tomorrow night. They will indubitably salivate for the chance to complete a season sweep of the Friars, preferably in the same one-sided fashion from the younger weeks of the season.

If PC is to favorably kickstart its own second-half agenda, a fitting first course would be to revive the snug parity that defined this rivalry not so long ago. Oh, and to tip the scale their way a la former OT heroes Jon Rheault and Colin MacDonald.

“We certainly had expected a better first half, but it didn’t play out that way,” said Army in one final begrudging glance back. “We’ve dug ourselves a bit of a hole at 0-8-1 in the league and 3-12-1 overall, but we look forward to getting back underway.”

“It’s a home game for them, and they haven’t played in a while, so I think they’ve had an opportunity to retool and refresh themselves,” the opposing foreman predicts. “They will, I’m sure, play a spirited, enthusiastic game and we need to be prepared for that.”

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com

Hockey Log

Goalie dilemma revitalized
Ciarletta renews her case with familiar foe on deck

Genevieve Lacasse was generally, if not openly, expected to hit at least one muddling speed bump before her potential Team MVP/Rookie of the Year season ran its course. It happened this past Sunday in the form of a sixteen-minute, nine-shot, three-goal mini-firestorm at the hands of Cornell University.

Former incumbent Danielle Ciarletta has since assumed every ounce of the action in the Friars’ net, unhesitatingly dousing Lacasse’s uncharacteristic flame en route to a 4-3 win, then absorbing a 4-1 biff Monday in her first start-to-finish swing since before Thanksgiving.

It is thus plain that both of PC’s top two netminders have nimbly taken their chances to thaw out in the team’s first two weeks back in the routine. But who shall be deemed the one more fit to confront the program’s New Hampshire nemesis tomorrow afternoon?

As much, if not more than at any other point this season, head coach Bob Deraney reserves the right to stash up a backup dose of Advil as he mulls over that decision.

The latest statistical lesions from Cornell aside, both stoppers still rank no lower than sixth in the league under both the goals-against and save percentage headings. Lacasse, whose save count stands at exactly 400, has undergone slightly more testing –a product not only of more ice time accumulation, but circumstantially weightier average workloads.

Ciarletta’s heaviest single workload this season: 38 pelts from Boston University on November 1, 35 of which she handled. The second largest happened to fall on Monday, when she pushed away 23 of 26 stabs from the Big Red. Lacasse, conversely, has oft-coolly dealt with brimful bushels, charging up five individual save counts of 30-plus in her 14-game-old career.

And the last time Lacasse was seen at work in a brightly lit version of Schneider Arena, she merely amassed a career-best 50 saves in a 3-0 shortcoming to Mercyhurst.

Then again, one will recall Ciarletta’s intraleague breakthrough two years back when she clamped down 40 of 42 New Hampshire shots to pull off a 2-2 knot in the treacherous Lake Whittemore. She has since seen her praetorian guards step up a tad more responsibly against the Wildcats’ tireless stick rack, never having to face more than 28 shots in all of four encounters last season.

Regardless, though, the Friars altogether have yet to scrape a full two-point package off their rivals since before Ciarletta’s classmates were signing the NLIs.

Come what may, and start who may, the Providence tandem has this tinge of trivia smiling upon them: Lacasse and Ciarletta alike are ahead of UNH cornerstone Kayley Herman in both individual categories –though Herman has answered her call well enough for a slightly superior winning percentage.

Limited lamp access
The Wildcats have an active shutout streak at Schneider Arena touching all or part of their last three visits here and resting at 148 minutes and 51 seconds. PC last raised its collective sticks before its home mass during a tussle with UNH on January 27, 2007, when then-sophomore Katy Beach beat Melissa Bourdon to cut a deficit to 2-1. The Cats, however, proceded to stamp a 3-1 knockout that afternoon and they have since slapped the Friars with 7-0 and 3-0 decisions.

Between three different goaltenders –Bourdon, Lucy Schoedel, and Kayley Herman- New Hampshire has confined the Friars to three goals and three shutouts through their last six get-togethers overall.

Still Poll Cats
The compact, but never-say-die UNH bench has retained its program’s membership in every national poll through the duration of this season. In fact, even while idled for a full month, they ascended from #7 to #6 in the eyes of USCHO and two spots from #8 in USA Today when those panels broke out of three weeks’ hibernation on Monday.

Czeching for gold
PC assistant coach Amy Quinlan, on leave to serve as video coordinator for the U.S. U18 team, will witness and break down a semifinal game against the Czech Republic at 2:00 today. The Americans –whose roster includes UNH commitment Kate Brock- swept through the round robin portion of the Germany-based World Championship by a cumulative score of 37-2 over three games. The bronze and gold medal games will be conducted tomorrow morning at 9:30 and 11:30 respectively.

Quick Feeds: As of this morning, PC-UNH and Connecticut-Boston University are the only two unopened season series in Hockey East. Both of those will change come 1:00 tomorrow afternoon…Tomorrow will be the first of two women’s-men’s home double-headers at Schneider Arena this season, with the men hosting UMass-Lowell at 7:00. Both games will be carried on Cox Sports Television.

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Bruins Commentary

Good to be greedy

Admittedly, less than 48 hours ago, there was a master plan at the Free Press to build this special piece around the notion that the Boston Bruins –set to hit the halfway mark of their 82-game itinerary tonight- are concocting a run reminiscent of the Providence Bruins from precisely ten years ago. You know, when the still-Providence Civic Center was affectionately dubbed the “Bear Den” as the Baby Bs uncompromisingly mutilated their collective AHL competition.

But, lo and behold, right now is not the time. On Tuesday, the Bruins hit the low point of their startlingly celestial run so far through a 1-0 falter to the Minnesota Wild, spelling their first shutout loss and first set of back-to-back regulation losses all season.

So, instead, now is the time to talk about paranoia. I am sure there are some Bruins Buffs who have frankly missed having at least a dollop of cautionary negativity. It’s reached a peak in the locker room, as evidenced by head coach Claude Julien telling the Boston Globe, “I'm not going to say it's a slump just because you lose two games. But you can see it coming a little bit. We've lost that confidence of moving the puck quick and getting our attack going.”

Friartownies, especially, are acquainted with that dreaded pattern. (Read: PC men’s coach Tim Army telling the Hockey East media mass in Tuesday’s teleconference “When you struggle the way we have in respect to gaining some wins, you don’t play as comfortably as you need to.”)

Paradoxically, though, that’s where the brightness here remains unsullied. With every empty regulation loss –all seven of them- and every shootout shortcoming –all four of them- and a handful of incomplete victories (dare we call them “moral defeats?”), the Bruins have vowed to put their skates down and stop the madness.

For them, what with the new standards they have rapidly percolated since about Halloween, two consecutive slights to the chin –especially on home ice- is simply not okay.

Not okay for a team that is now virtually engaged in a three-way footrace with the Red Wings and Sharks for the President’s Trophy. Not okay for the only team left in the Eastern Conference that has authorized less than 100 opposing goals (89). Not okay for a team that has scarfed all four possible points in six events of back-to-back games, asserting that natural rust need not measure up with All-Star caliber resolve.

There’s no questioning the sincerity in the franchise’s new promotional tagline, “We want it as bad as you.” Fans have boundless privileges when it comes to laying out expectations. They have the right to gluttonously crave up to 164 points come the 82nd third period siren and to lament any setbacks to such an astronomical mission.

The men in control down at ice level are naturally and vocationally more restrained, but the Bruins have yet to shrug off an entire shortcoming and openly assume that the same formula will just happen to click next time. They responsibly pine for exponential improvement whether they’re on a ten-game tear or a two-game skid.

Just as a little voice inside Don Henley’s head (and Bree Sharp and Kris Roe and a handful of others) said, “Don’t look back, you can never look back.” Such aptly applies to the Bruins not exclusively, but especially in this instant. Slumps are a product of one jutting blemish taking a relentless psychological toll and effectively duplicating itself in one continuous string.

The sole antidote: repressing that anxiety with one’s appetite. So if the Bruins fail to professionally defy human nature and let all of the aforementioned realities fetter them, they’re risking a third consecutive home falter tonight –to the lowly Ottawa Senators, no less.

They do that, and they might risk watching the seating bowl of the new “Bear Den” regress to its “Bare Den” state.

It’s either that, or they splash this win-column “drought” and get back to building.

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Hockey Log

Numbers game not a guaranteed win

For the first 12 out of 14 stretch drive games last season, the PC women –their roster then lacking a few invaluable spare bodies- thrashed at a playoff bid shorthanded with a protracted lower body injury to senior captain Rachel Crissy, and –for one of those nights- Jenna Keilch.

Their transcript in that speedbumped sprint: an iffy 6-5-1. The end result: by the time Crissy returned to plug that void in the active forward’s dozen, they had but two games left to scrape out one last requisite point to secure their postseason passports; which they did.

Only now has the latest edition of PC’s Skating Sorority been informed that constant shorthanded play needn’t be so taxing. With the privilege of a full 18-skater rota plus up to three extras in the bleachers per night, they will commence the heat of the 2008-09 Hockey East pennant race Saturday with New Hampshire, which has so far salvaged its viability even with a humble smattering of 17 players (15 skaters, two goalies) all season.

It will automatically mark the Friars’ fourth consecutive engagement with an incomplete bench. And their immediate history debunks any assertion that the more populous posse is Vegas’ computerized favorite.

Last week, Yale University had all of nine strikers and five defenders to work with and initially gave PC a few inches in the form of a 13-8 shooting advantage after Period One, a 1-0 connectivity difference at 3:26 of the second, and one trip to the sin bin versus four against the Bulldogs. Over time, though, unyielding Yale goaltender Jackee Snikeris was rewarded for her patience as the her mates commanded the shooting gallery, 27-14, over the latter two periods, pulled even to enact a bonus round, then nimbly won it all via top gun Crysti Howser 12 seconds into the extra frame.

Cornell, whose own Rebecca Johnston has been out sporting Canada’s colors at the MLP Cup in Germany, iced but three full forward lines with a remainder of one but mustered seven goals over two games with the obsessive-defensive Friars. In both Sunday’s gallant 4-3 triumph and Monday’s 4-1 migraine, PC saw sizeable patches of momentum and disorder. But save for Sunday’s decisive second period when they abolished a 3-1 deficit, they were flatly barred by a rigid goaltender in Kayla Strong.

Up next in the countering cage: Wildcats’ sophomore Kayley Herman, who, all things considered, has reasonably followed up on her searing rookie campaign. Her vital in-game stats have expectably dipped along with the rest of her team, but she has decided all but one of New Hampshire’s nine victories.

Leading the way in front of Herman: the same old Jenn Wakefield and Sam Faber, both with 20-plus points through 15 games played.

And confronting Providence without the maximum limit of participants is hardly new to Brian McCloskey’s aspiring dynastic pupils. Two years ago, over the final weekend of January, UNH dropped in at Schneider Arena with an injury-shriveled depth chart (two missing forwards) and pulled off a 3-1 knockout. They iced the same short-circuited roster the next day at Lake Whittemore and held up for a 2-2 tie, outshooting the Friars, 4-0, in the bonus period and 42-18 altogether.

Quick Feeds: First-line pivot Ashley Cottrell, the lone Friar to brush the scoresheet in Monday’s loss with an unassisted goal, was also the lone figure on her bench to post a positive plus/minus rating, effectively upping her team-best rate on the year to +11…With a 1-2 performance over the last week, PC spilled all six of its votes in the USCHO Top 10 poll…Saturday’s get-together will be UNH’s first intercollegiate engagement since December 9, when they blanked Northeastern, 3-0, at the Whittemore Center.

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Cornell 4, Women's Hockey 1

Delayed reaction costs Friars
Report based on ICS Live Stats

Ithaca, N.Y.- By the looks of their routine tactical game day pattern, the PC women have an exclusive insight to a mysterious element implanted in the ice with the power to hone their blades as they glide. So much so that they have purged the conventional practice of whirring up a skate sharpener before every intercollegiate outing.

That would be one urban legend behind their incessant tendency to let their efficiency accelerate as each game progresses, even if it means starting off by carving themselves a fiddly pothole.

The no-duh kicker to such an obsessive-dramatic habit is the limited reliability of a resolute comeback attempt. And yesterday, within 24 hours of twisting a 3-0 deficit to a 4-3 triumph of the Cornell Big Red, the Friars stalled once more and ultimately offered up penance in the form of a mollifying 4-1 falter in Part II of their long weekend stay at Lynah Rink.

Though they unmistakably perked up after authorizing two Red goals on a dozen first period shots –proceeding to stack up a 25-15 edge in the way of registered stabs over the latter forty minutes- their determination was snuffed by that of opposing stopper Kayla Strong (31 saves). Strong’s contending supplement, Danielle Ciarletta, pulled together after a ham-handed –and effectively decisive- opening frame towards a respectable 23 save performance. But the damage was inflicted early and subsequently frozen at a reasonable pace on Cornell’s part.

The Friars adjourned to the dressing room for the first intermission lugging behind them the remaining 20 seconds of an already fairly draining PK –Kate Bacon having been flagged for bodychecking with 1:40 to spare- and, yet again, a two-goal deficit.

An initially air hockey-paced tussle unfolded before Cornell pulled ahead, indubitably seething with resolve to recreate their performance from Sunday with a starkly alternate ending. Her team exactly eighty seconds removed from its second facile penalty kill, Brianne Gilbert lashed home the icebreaker at 12:14.

From there, the Big Red discharged nine of the period’s last 12 cumulative shots, the last three over the course of Bacon’s sin bin term and another one, from less than two minutes prior, off of Ashley Duffy’s tape that enhanced their edge to 2-0.

And their anaconda’s grip only spilled over to the middle frame, winning each of the period’s first four face-offs and thrusting another four unanswered stabs –two on net- in a matter of less than ninety-five seconds.

At that point, though, a hooking infraction on the part of Stephanie Holmes served to salt Cornell’s ice and steadily revive the PC strike force. By period’s end, the Friars had morphed a 12-7 shooting deficit from the first intermission to a 20-19 upper hand and wrinkled the connectivity differential to 2-1 via Ashley Cottrell at the 14:02 mark. Reinvigorated, they would level another five unanswered hacks at Strong, though her poised responsiveness helped them spill yet two more power play opportunities.

The Red continued to disassemble at a desperate-looking pace, serving three more two-minute box sentences before the halfway mark of the third period. A pair of tripping calls to Amber Moore and Duffy offered the Friars 56 seconds worth of 5-on-3 in the ninth minute.

But Strong held up long enough to ultimately richochet the PK ray. Twenty-two seconds after Cornell regained full strength, Mari Pehkonen went off for slashing to grant the sweaty leaders their fourth power play. In another seventy seconds, the Red capped an uninterrupted cyclone through the PC zone with an insurance goal by Catherine White.

Ciarletta would vacate the cage amidst the Friars’ hasty tempest at the other end in favor of a six-pack attack. But Hayley Hughes inserted a nimble empty netter to solidify the 4-1 final –which equates PC’s worst margin of defeat this season- with 2:09 remaining.

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com

Hockey Log

Facing the music
Friars struggle at the dot in loss

Ithaca, N.Y.- Hand-in-hand with their fraught stockpile of ice chips on shots on net in the waning minutes of their 4-1 loss at Cornell yesterday, the Friars gripped a daylong elusive element of command in the way of face-offs, winning each of the last five draws on record.

That way, they had at least wrinkled a gaping deficit in that category to 36-26. But up till that climactic point, the host Big Red was the runaway superior in of the game’s littlest specimens of readiness. They had won the first six draws on the day, two-thirds of the 21 total face-offs in the first period, and 29 out of 43 by the second intermission.

In two less active stretches, one on the heels of the initial goal at 12:14 of the first and the other immediately after they assumed a 3-1 lead in the third, Cornell swept a succession of four faceoffs between which not so much as an attempted shot was recorded at either end.

PC’s principle centerpiece, Ashley Cottrell, dropped 16 of her 24 twig-locks with a Cornell counterpart, and only Katy Beach and Jackie Duncan walked away with a supra-.500 winning percentage. Beach took eight out of 14 dot decisions, Duncan four out of five.

In the countering column of the scoresheet, Amber Overguard –who together with Kendice Ogilvie assisted on each of her team’s two first period goals- wrested 17 of her 25 attempts while Catherine White –another two-pointer with her power play conversion and empty net helper in the third- went 13-for-18.

Mea goal-pa
A pair of retroactive reversals was made to Sunday’s box score in the after hours, granting PC sophomore Jean O’Neill credit for what was initially ruled linemate Abby Gauthier’s tying goal and Alyse Ruff firsthand credit for what was previously ruled Ashley Cottrell’s go-ahead. The erroneously recorded goal-getters were still certified for assists, keeping the five individual multi-point games intact. Ruff, meantime, has now potted five deciders this season –four winners and an equalizer.

Quick Feeds: Cornell’s Amber Moore joined her three aforementioned teammates in the two-point club yesterday, assisting on both third period goals…PC’s power play went a cumulative 0-for-10 in this series, launching six vain shots Sunday and 10 yesterday. Cornell’s player-up brigade only struck once out of nine tries…Forwards Pam McDevitt and Stephanie Morris were back in the mix after sitting Sunday out. McDevitt pitched in three shots on net and won two of her four face-offs…Sophomore defender Leigh Riley was out of service yesterday, resulting in Erin Normore’s reassignment to the blue line, opposite Colleen Martin on the starting unit…Currently 5-6-1 in interleague play, Providence will take one more nonconference swing when they visit Dartmouth a week from tonight. But first, New Hampshire drops in at Schneider Arena for a 1:00 tangle Saturday.

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com

Monday, January 5, 2009

Women's Hockey 4, Cornell 3

Friars resolve Red scare
Report based on ICS Live Stats

Ithaca, N.Y.- In the small moments of the New Year, a few old patterns still look to be lingering in the Friars’ gamely regimen. Customarily, the 2008-09 PC women have partnered with a night’s given adversary and filled most every game’s grande cup to the full 60-minute (or more) brim with scalding competitive intensity; whether that be in rally time, duck-and-cover-the-net time, or tip-the-scale-on-that-tie time.

And in the climactic phases of yesterday’s first of two late-weekend matinee drop-ins on Cornell, they were again flirting with a narrow goal differential –in this case, a 4-3 upper hand concocted back in a tempestuous second period. And within the final four-and-a-half minutes of regulation, a tripping penalty to defender Colleen Martin incited the briefly idled Big Red offense for a nearly continuous, four-shot power play swarm.

But goaltender Danielle Ciarletta, who was summoned in the second period to put out Genevieve Lacasse’s uncharacteristic fire, refused to default. And within 31 seconds of Martin’s jailbreak, Providence picked up a handy clock killer with 2:02 to spare, drawing a checking citation against Cornell defender Amber Moore. From there, they swiftly cemented an epic 4-3 triumph, wherein they abolished a 3-0 deficit in the second period, then warded off a second tide of the dogged Big Red offense in the closing frame.

The mutual allotment of goals and the eventual goaltending swaps on both benches were about the only jutting deviations from the norm. PC and the opposition had not combined for five-plus goals since the Robert Morris series over the first full weekend of November.

To start yesterday’s tussle, the excruciating numbness amongst the scoring brigade skulked and slunk down to bite the long all-but-infallible cage custodian, Lacasse.

Lacasse, who still has yet to authorize more than three goals in a 60-minute time frame over her first 14 collegiate ventures, already had a threesome of flecks on merely nine shots faced within the sixteenth minute of yesterday’s first period.

Meanwhile, the Friars’ frost-bitten offense saw eight of its first 11 shot attempts snuffed before they could come within playing distance of Cornell stopper Jenny Niesluchowski. Another bid, discharged by Alyse Ruff mere seconds after the Big Red drew first blood, wiped off the post and scampered away from a threatening position.

Swift conversions on the part of Catherine White (at the 3:45 mark), Laura Danforth (10:32), and Ashley Duffy (15:33) pole-vaulted Cornell to a gaping 3-0 advantage. Friars’ head coach Bob Deraney unhesitatingly forked out the overcooked freshman goalie, but remarkably witnessed an equally prompt reversal of momentum.

Ciarletta would push away all of 22 shots faced and her skating associates perked up to make their first incision a mere 17 ticks after Duffy’s goal. Katy Beach inserted her club’s icebreaker with 4:10 till intermission and the power play thawed well enough to charge up three registered stabs on its first of three opportunities before the first buzzer.

The Friars assertively gushed through the second period, running up a 17-10 lead in the shooting gallery after each team had afforded 11 shots in the first, utterly fettering the Red on the period’s only full-length power play, and whittling steadily into the lead. After initially shaking a carry-over penalty to Jennifer Friedman, they wrinkled the deficit to 3-2 via Ruff at 2:18.

Niesluchowski (14 saves) would last but another 3:16 of play before she gave way to Kayla Strong at the 5:34 mark. Strong ran unblemished for a little under 10 minutes, partially owing to a shortage of shooting activity, but was in turn softened by a back-and-forth tempest within the 14th minute that saw her kick out four shots, her teammates block another two, and Ciarletta swallow three on two visits by the Big Red.

On the other end of the long-time-coming draw, Abby Gauthier caught up with Beach’s face-off win and pulled PC even, 3-3. Thirty-one ticks later, Ashley Cottrell planted the eventual clincher for PC at 15:29, granting linemate Laura Veharanta her second helper on the day.

PC spilled its sugar rush over to the young minutes of the third before Cornell perked back up to distribute ten unanswered SOG. The Friars would bust that fast via Erin Normore and Ruff over their last-minute, rally-squashing power play.

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com

Hockey Log

Rekindling when needed most
Gauthier, Ruff bust slumps to pilot rally

Ithaca, N.Y.- The Friars’ answer to a toe-curling recession –i.e. a dire call for a stimulus package- fell in the form of a massive puckslide over the first quarter of action at Lynah Rink yesterday. All it took for the shallow offense to chafe their bonfire twigs more fervently was a rapid 3-0 deficit at the hands of host Cornell –a team roughly identical to the Yale program that had opportunistically slighted PC, 2-1, in overtime early last week.

But the exponentially pressing swing of futility served to bail a couple of Friars out of their respective slumps en route to a 4-3 victory. Freshman Abby Gauthier, who has struggled to translate her heftily saturated high school resume, entered yesterday on a nine-game scoring drought dating back to a 4-2 win at Vermont Oct. 19. She had since found herself rotating between the fourth line and the upper bowl of the arena seating chart.

Yesterday, Gauthier splashed her personal drought by assisting on Katy Beach’s connection late in the first period, then switching roles with the senior to draw a 3-3 knot at 14:58 of the second period –her first goal since Part II of the opening weekend Ohio State series.

Meanwhile, untouchable first-liner Alyse Ruff had been grudgingly gritting her teeth over a little-big break from the scoresheet. Ever since she slugged home a thrilling equalizer against Niagara Nov. 22, she went pointless over the next four games spaced between Thanksgiving and the aforementioned Yale excursion last Tuesday.

Ruff, only a day removed from her 20th birthday, thawed out her twig at 2:18 of the middle frame to treat herself to the Friars’ second strike of the game and her seventh on the year, keeping her second-best on the team in the G column behind linemate Laura Veharanta’s 13. She would later receive belated credit for an assist on Ashley Cottrell’s game winner hours after the final horn. Cottrell was similarly credited on the play that amounted to Ruff’s conversion, equaling five multi-point individual performances on the PC roster.

Through the duration of their teammates’ struggles, the winger Veharanta and centerpiece Cottrell have at least retained their productive touch. They each stretched their living point-getting streaks to four games.

No sweat
For the third time in four outings and the seventh overall this season, the first goal served nothing to its cultivator. Providence concocted its third come-from-behind win of the year and second rally from a multi-point deficit, the other being the 2-2 knot with Niagara prior Thanksgiving.

Additionally, the Friars have again defied the opposition’s home ice advantage, stamping their seventh road win in ten tries. With that, they have already surpassed their accumulation of road Ws from each of the three preceding seasons.

Quick Feeds: Forward Erin Normore and defender Colleen Martin led the Friars’ stick rack with five shots on net apiece…Senior goaltender Danielle Ciarletta improved to 2-2-2 on the year with the win. Combining her fractional relief appearance with her last start-to-finish outing, she has an active shutout streak brewing at an even 83 minutes…Part II of this series commences today at 2:00. It will be the Friars’ final engagement from without New England borders this regular season…Today’s game will be team captain Brittany Simpson’s 125th career appearance in a PC uniform. After today, classmate Katy Beach should be only five outings away from attaining the same milestone.

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Hockey Log: Sunday Edition

How they can be fine in ‘09
Rational, feasible resolutions for all Hockey East tenants

Boston College: By now –in fact, way beyond now- it is second nature knowledge that a BC youngster is expected to perform beyond his years. With no more than six goals or eight points apiece and plus/minus rates below the poverty line, this is the exact message that Cam Atkinson, Paul Carey, Tommy Cross, and Jimmy Hayes must resolve to start swearing by. Carey, in particular, could dish up a lot more salsa-based rubber if he just shot more frequently (four goals on a shallow 22 SOG over his first 13 games). And with a similarly slow start after a radiant rookie campaign, sophomore Joe Whitney could indubitably stand to step it up as well.

Boston University- Compared to recent preceding seasons, Professor Parker’s Pupils have sculpted a much better long-term savings account by sweeping their first five nonconference contests. Now would be the time to assert themselves amongst their Hockey East cohabitants, against whom they have charged up an iffier 6-4-1 transcript thus far.

Maine- Supra-.500 again so soon, maybe now the Black Bears can start thinking about trying to arrange their first Causeway Street engagement since 2006. To do that, though, they’ll need to pad on a couple of layers of offensive punch to go with the surprising reliability of freshman goalie Scott Darling. And despite a passable 5-4-1 intraleague record, Maine is a collective -4 during Hockey East games this season. For the love of their fan base, they shouldn’t signal satisfaction in merely rekindling their playoff contention.

Massachusetts- Getting scorer Will Ortiz and stopper Paul Dainton back in the regular rotation and back in their respective standard forms should only bolster the Minutemen’s endeavor to boardhop over the right side of the .500 fence. The ordinarily reliable Ortiz missed four of his team’s first 15 games and had but a solitary goal and assist in that span.

UMass-Lowell- For a program whose coach, Blaise MacDonald, has recently lauded the stimulating, auscpicious buzz it gets from its home crowd, the Riverhawks could sure do a little more to return the favor. They hit their break brandishing an edgy 5-4-0 log at Tsongas Arena, all four of those losses coming against Hockey East foes. Lowell must learn to neutralize the self-stirred pressure to stir cute home cooking as well as the external pressure that comes with closeness. They are currently 0-5 overall in one-goal decisions. But perhaps consistent health in their robust goaltending tandem of Nevin Hamilton and Carter Hutton can serve as a start.

Merrimack- Some thirty-plus years ago, a Charlestown fan told another renowned blue-and-gold club, “You guys have gotta stop losing. Get the power play together.” Ditto these guys, who have subsisted much to disproportionately on the goaltending of Joe Cannata and Andrew Brathwaite.

New Hampshire- Much to their fan base’s brimful impatience, the Wildcats are in limbo as far as home ice for the HEA quarter-final and an at-large NCAA bid are concerned. Could an upward dash away from their chin-to-chin 52-51 GF-GA differential remedy that itch? Could a depth chart with up to 10 more James vanRiemsdyks and Mike Sislos be in order, perhaps?

Northeastern- The fast forthcoming priority for the first-place Huskies (whuh oh, sound familiar?) is to stay hot long enough to, for once, make this year anybody’s Beanpot. And while Northeastern is tops in Hockey East in the way of penalty killing, they have coincidentally taken more citations from the refs than any of their peers. They ought to can that habitual torch-juggling before the PK blows a tire in front of an established powerhouse come crunch time.

Providence- The statistically and psychologically bloodied Friars ought to link up with Farmer’s Insurance and let their sanity make a comeback. Once they’ve implanted that, the long-cold likes of senior captain Kyle Laughlin (two points and two benching in the team’s first 16 games) and junior pivot Greg Collins (one assist in eight appearances) need to re-amp their productivity to salvage the morale, not to mention PC’s shot at a 25th consecutive Hockey East playoff passport.

Vermont- Their #7 rank in the league scoring charts is a tad deceptive as the Catamounts have only inserted 12 fewer goals than the leading stick rack from BU. However, the goaltending of Mike Spillane and Rob Madore has yet to sufficiently fill the pads of Joe Fallon. If the not-so-shabby Catamounts can diligently fortify their own borders, they should cement their certificate as a constant contender.

Boston College- BC sculpted one of the league’s more roundly braced resumes throughout the first half of the season –during which they consumed just over half of their WHEA schedule- pacing itself to a 10-4-3 overall record and a first-place 7-3-1 transcript within the conference. However, a majority of their chasers have 3-4 games in hand, leaving the Eagles with the wager of continuing to stoke their flare and prop up their momentum ever as their frequency of game activity decelerates in the stretch drive.

Boston University- Only once out of six possible occasions have the Terriers whittled off Hockey East points within regulation time. Two other conference wins have required a shootout and another three could-be two-pointers wound up only half-full finishes. Another pinch of persistence would be a requisite as the four-year-old program vies to continue its exponential ascent.

Connecticut- Assertive as they are with a top-slot stick rack and special teams net rate, UConn could still use better depth beyond the tireless puckslinging of Dominique Thibault, Michelle Binning, and Amy Hollstein. The three constituted 37 of the Huskies’ first 61 goals scored over 19 games. That’s all fine, but they needed one or two more lines of this caliber to break the program’s conference banner/NCAA tourney barriers.

Maine- Weave in every third period of their first 19 games, and the score reads a deficit of 31-12. Short on stamina much? And we all thought it was the neighboring UNH Wildcats with the numerically challenged bench.

New Hampshire- Granted, it has not exactly been the Easter Egg Hunt of flaws some had anticipated before the Wildcats commenced their campaign with merely 17 rostered players. Everyone is scoring and/or defending at a rate worthy of at least a B+ and the team is in the thick of the reckonable realm with a 4-1-4 league log and 9-4-5 national transcript. Naturally, the second-half wager is to keep their tanks from giving out in Part II. Boundless fuel and discipline are no-duh essentials for activity beyond February.

Northeastern- Kristi Kehoe’s scoring posture, when measured up with that of her associates, cries “Help Wanted” with a Juno-like volume. Though propped up by the league’s #1 goalie guild of Florence Schelling and Leah Sulyma, Northeastern ranks dead last in the WHEA’s scoring charts, with Kehoe’s 11 strikes constituting over one-third of the team total of 29. Before they go forward, a one-dimensionality awareness lecture from men’s coach Greg Cronin would be advisable for the Hub Huskies Sorority.

Providence- The Friars sat through their protracted hiatus at #4 in the way of power play proficiency, penalty killing, and intraleague point cultivation. Might an upgrade in special teams proportionately upgrade their stature in the standings? It couldn’t hurt. Nor could the same suggested recipe for Northeastern: i.e keep the supernaturally stellar goaltending as is, but pack some more punch in the offense.

Vermont- The Catamounts have charged up a grand total of seven first period goals in a space of 17 games versus an aggregate 13 apiece for their middle and closing frames. A habitually chop-chop flick of the ignition could only help this program’s endeavor to crash its first playoff party.

Quick Feeds: So, the Patriots do everything right on their part in the climactic stages of the regular season and still miss out on the post-season? That anguishing upshot must feel all-too-familiar to those Foxborough football buffs who double as women’s hockey Superfans at Chestnut Hill…BC’s Brock Bradford, Maine’s Chris Hahn, and Vermont’s Dean Strong are the remaining Hockey East satellites in the Lowe’s Senior Class Award derby. The national pool of 20 candidates will be halved to 10 next month…This author’s picks for the out-of-market game of the week: Top dog Notre Dame hosts a weekend series with Alaska, which is still grittily clinching a perch in the Top 20 national leaderboard.

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com