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Friday, January 16, 2009

Hockey Log

Nash coming home with Catamounts

Lately, the University of Vermont has been the lone Hockey East institution to entice any proficient puck locals beyond Rhode Island boundaries. The men’s sector just graduated backup goalie and Cranston resident Jeff Hill last spring, and now the women’s program rosters a Newport County native in defender Kailey Nash.

Nash fostered through the full length of her high school career with the predominantly male Middletown Islanders from 2003-07 before she hopped over the western border for a post-grad campaign at the Taft School. She joins PC transfer Brittany Nelson and head coach Tim Bothwell –a Brown alumnus- as a fellow Ocean State connection in the Catamounts’ den.

And come tomorrow’s start to the Catamounts’ two-day stay at Schneider Arena (face-off at 2 p.m.), she will be the first female Rhode Islander to engage in an intercollegiate tussle here since Lauren Florio of North Providence gave her final stick salute in 2007.

By far the least vertically privileged of any Catamounts with a gymnast’s measurement of 5-foot-1, Nash compensates through a bobcat-like tenacity that has allotted her regular ice time in all of 22 possible games up to this point. “She is a tough competitor whose ability to win puck battles goes way beyond her modest stature,” Bothwell commends on the program’s web site.

Granted, though, Nash’s resolve has yet to substantially shapeshift Vermont’s perennially modest track record. She like all of her mates, new and seasoned, sits below the poverty line under the plus/minus heading (-12) and has partaken in but four wins out of 22 tries.

Collectively, Vermont rates last in Hockey East in the way of overall scoring (37 goals for), defense (94 goals against), and both ends of the special teams department (11.4% power play efficiency, 74.8% penalty kill). And Nash, along with six teammates and Maine’s Abby Barton, constitutes the cellar’s linoleum in terms of plus/minus.

But Nash’s individual progression has flickered in spurts, as most recently evidenced by her first collegiate goal against Connecticut two weeks ago (coupling that with a pair of assists to her season total) and her latest assignment on the depth chart. In the Catamounts’ five games since returning from the holiday respite, she has been inserted on the right side of the second unit with sophomore Peggy Wakeham, Vermont’s most offensively venturesome backliner bearing a 4-7-11 scoring transcript.

And among UVM’s eight rostered defenders, Nash has discharged the second most shots on net (24) behind Wakeham’s corps-leading 43.

Penchants for travel
Only one of the Catamounts’ five wins –one of those being a technical tie/shootout triumph at Maine- have been cultivated at the Gutterson Fieldhouse, when they nipped Boston University, 3-2, on December 5. Since then, though, UVM has sputtered on a carry-over six game skid, surrendering a cumulative 32-5 scoring deficit in that span.

Vermont had started its 2008-09 road slate a decent 3-2, all three wins nonconference and both losses against fellow Hockey Easterners. They have since lost seven of eight road ventures.

They will vie to rekindle the original October sparks through this weekend’s drop-in on the Friars, which will seal a six-game road stretch to kickstart their calendar year. PC, conversely, gets to hang about here through next Saturday for Part I of a home-and-home bout with BU and will vie to perk up their iffy 4-5-1 home log.

Quick Feeds: Opposite their fellow bottom-feeders from Maine, the Catamounts are one of two WHEA teams yet to convert a shorthanded goal this season. The Friars and New Hampshire are the only teams yet to surrender one…Each of the Friars’ last four twig-locks with Vermont have been decided by two goals or fewer after their first six as Hockey East cohabitants wound up a PC runaway of a three-plus discrepancy…Online video streaming will be offered for Sunday’s game…The Friars formally confirmed the NLI signings of forwards Jessica Cohen and Jessica Vella late Wednesday. Both are slated to hop on board this autumn.

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Hockey Log

Darts won the battle for bulls-eye
PC seeks better finishes

To their credit Tuesday night, the defenses at both ends grated all of the opposition’s flurries to reasonably ingestible fragments for their respective goaltenders. At no point were Providence starter Genevieve Lacasse, her eventual stand-in Jen Smith, or Dartmouth counterpart Carli Clemis left to sweat through a great, gale-forced salvo of shots.

But Dartmouth’s superior maneuverability and more spot-on precision gradually built up on the board, amounting to a 7-3 final up at Thompson Arena. The Big Green simply detected and exploited more openings in the ice and the cage, nailed more of those elusive second chances, and veiled their borders more rigidly –especially when on the penalty kill.

Now in the midst of a three-day cram to gear up for two days’ worth of weekend company from the Vermont Catamounts, Friars’ skipper Bob Deraney can all but scrap his customary skate-for-every-penalty drill. PC crushingly out-disciplined Dartmouth, drawing nine infractions on the opposing record while recording a comparatively docile three of their own.

The jutting problems that surfaced on Tuesday’s scorecard and call for a special teams’ sharpener were all post-whistle. Read Dartmouth’s power play proficiency: 2-for-3, four shots on net, an infinitesimal two minutes and 48 seconds with a numerical advantage.

Now the Friars’: 1-for-9, 10 shots on net, 15 minutes and nine seconds –translation: a quarter of the total game clock- with an extra player in service.

Shrewdness, not discipline, happened to be the most decisive element Tuesday. Both teams flashed it in spurts, and it was not partial to special teams segments, either.

Of the five goals Lacasse admitted in the first two periods, two were the product of a well-calculated deflection, another two from awareness on the rebound, and the fifth on a fleeting breakaway by Reagan Fischer.

Clemis was similarly fettered when Alyse Ruff raked home the remnants of Jennifer Friedman’s blocked shot, again when Erin Normore polished off the homeward bound trek of Kate Bacon’s long-range bid, and when Christie Jensen shipped the puck through neutral ice to grant Ruff and Laura Veharanta an effective two-on-one.

But Fischer’s connection was perhaps most telling as to the course of the game in that it fell a mere 24 seconds after Dartmouth had renewed its lead for the fourth time, Kelly Foley having buried Sarah Toupal’s garbage within a minute of Veharanta’s strike. In the dusk of that tempestuous second period, the Green had assumed a 5-3 edge, clutching the long-soapy momentum and resolutely vowing to enhance it.

That’s what they did in the third, nailing two out of a measly six sparsely distributed stabs at Lacasse and hushing the Friars over three more power plays.

The psyche-puncturing puckslide, as well as Lacasse’s night shift, ended on Dartmouth’s busiest buzz of the game, a good two minutes after Veharanta was through serving an ultimately harmless bench minor. In one unwhistled swing, the Big Green strike force persisted as Lacasse’s protection brigade blocked or turned wide six unanswered shots.

But finally, winger Shannon Bowman pelted the keeper and linemate Marley McMillan was primed to stash the vulnerable rebound.

It is now the Friars who must learn to max the art of rebounding. Their costly collection of shortcomings Tuesday shut down their nonconference slate at an iffy 5-7-1. At least a small handful of those owies might have been wowies with a few more auspicious bounces and finishes.

They have concocted an unsettling loss-win-loss-win-loss pattern since pulling their game schedule out of the cooler post-Christmas. Sequentially speaking, it has been a pattern nearly identical to the 38 minutes of back-bite they gave Dartmouth on Tuesday.

All that in mind, PC could stand to string a game-to-game throttle equivalent to what the Big Green made from the final 22 minutes of their get-together –complete with a devastating pile of stealthy strikes. Their opportunity to do that lies in the form of a dozen dates remaining in the Hockey East pennant race, where they are a more favorable 6-2-1 thus far.

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Dartmouth 7, Women's Hockey 3

Friars left to lick wounds

Report based on Live Stats

Hanover, N.H.- Pitting their own packages of stealth and anti-stealth against those of a frightfully truculent Dartmouth Big Green team, the Friars were given an oblique warning that their reactivity was running low in the waning minutes of last night’s second period at Thompson Arena.

Forty-eight seconds removed from Laura Veharanta’s pulling their third knot of the evening, PC slipped a pace behind yet again when Dartmouth freshman Kelly Foley leveled her team back up, 4-3. And this time, there would be no easy shot for amends; hardly any time to envision the prospect of it.

In just another 24 ticks, the Green’s Reagan Fischer granted her club the nightlong elusive multi-point upper hand to lay back out for the final twenty minutes. From there, they paced themselves to a ruggedly executed 7-3 final, the most abrasive voodoo doll treatment –perhaps the only performance fit for such a label- on freshman goaltender Genevieve Lacasse’s otherwise pristine young resume.

Lacasse (25 saves), would be forked out of her cage with 6:59 to spare upon admitting the seventh goal. Sophomore Jen Smith would fill in for her first sliver of action all season and face a melancholy calm after her team was clouted by a 53-minute tempest of red light blindness, endless Dartmouth-inflicted bruises, and spilled power plays.

One law of puck physics immortalized by every coach’s stay-out-of-the-box homily did not materialize against the Green last night. They simply continued to pile on the insurance goals and the penalty minutes (nine total minors) while the Friars recorded a mere three of each.

Upon planting a speedy 1-0 lead courtesy Sarah Parsons and an ominously tone-setting 5-1 upper hand on the shot board within the first three minutes of action, Dartmouth opted for a daring approach to nurture their primordial command. Just seven seconds after Parsons lit up Lacasse, Jenna Cunningham endured a two-minute citation for body-checking, the first of (four) unanswered penalties the Green would accept.

After initially fending off the Friars on their first two kills –which had overlapped towards a 5-on-3 set-up for 39 seconds- the Green felt a fleeting burn over defender Julia Bronson’s term in the box for elbowing. After striker Jennifer Friedman saw her initial bid blocked, she left things up to Alyse Ruff, who slugged home the equalizer on PC’s third shot in as many player-up offerings.

Dartmouth’s psychological slide and disciplinary fumbles carried precariously on to the cusp of the buzzer. A checking penalty to their top gun, Amanda Trunzo, allotted the Friars 1:48 worth of carry-over power play time to commence the second period. But once they cleared that kill unscathed, the Green got down to drawing their own opportunities, bolstering their ability to keep a consistent stride ahead of Providence.

Veharanta paid her club’s first trip to the bin within 35 seconds of Trunzo’s jailbreak. Dartmouth promptly pounced to renew their lead to 2-1 via Foley at the 3:20 mark.

The persistent Friars nibbled back right at 6:02, again circumventing their host’s New Jersey Devilishly defensive barrier and watching Erin Normore deposit their second equalizer behind stopper Carli Clemis (24 saves).

The same fundamental pattern reran in the latter half of the period, Trunzo inserting the Green’s second strike on as many power plays at 12:19 for the 3-2 advantage.

All the while, PC’s forward push was vexingly stuffed up on another two power plays, affording three stabs on one and a handful of wide/blocked attempts plus a shorthanded bid by Shannon Bowman on the other.

The Friars would knot the Green in the third period shooting gallery, 6-6, three of those shots distributed over two more full-length player-up segments. Another, granted at 10:07 on a hooking flag against Foley, was halted at 11:00 by a too-many-players infraction.

Providence would grudgingly settle for one power play conversion out of nine opportunities and 10 shots.

Meantime, connections by Maggie Kennedy (at 6:41) and Marley McMillan (13:01) solidified the 7-3 upshot and exiled the overcooked Lacasse.

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com

Hockey Log

PC Ruffed up despite individual revival

Hanover, N.H.- For her part, established first-liner Alyse Ruff has seemingly reheated her acetylene twig, putting forth a goal-assist value pack in last night’s excursion to Dartmouth for a total of five points in her team’s first four ventures of 2009.

Fatalistic Friar Fanatics ought to have taken at least momentary comfort in Ruff’s scoresheet prominence as she abolished Dartmouth’s initial 1-0 lead late in the first, then aided linemate Laura Veharanta in forging a 3-3 tie one period later. After all, a tangible contribution from Ruff had been growing to spell a guaranteed win/tie night for PC, which entered Thompson Arena at 8-0-1 under that circumstance and 3-8-1 when she is stifled.

But much like goaltender Genevieve Lacasse’s near-immaculate tear through the first half of the season, that intriguing string of success was gunned down by a Cyclopean Big Green strike force last night. Ruff’s multi-point night was overwhelmingly eclipsed by seven like performances saturating the opposing column of the scoresheet.

The rundown: two goals by Kelly Foley, a 1-2-3 punch via Maggie Kennedy, one point of each kind for Sarah Parsons and Amanda Trunzo, and two helpers courtesy Julia Bronson, Jenna Cunningham, and Sarah Toupal.

Save for Parsons and Toupal, each of those Dartmouth strikers also garnered at least one pair of penalty minutes. Their starting right winger Trunzo, in particular, landed a curiously timed unsportsmanlike conduct infraction within the final 4:39, at which point the eventual 7-3 final was already up.

Meantime, Ruff and Veharanta led all 36 active skaters on the night with five and six SOG respectively while Dartmouth’s laser-beamed defense restricted the rest of the Friars to two apiece or less. Dartmouth’s slightly more balanced attack was led by four shots off the tape of Cunningham, Kennedy, and Parsons.

Other extensions
Ashley Cottrell, Ruff and Veharanta’s inseparable centerpiece, was hushed on merely one shot of her own, thus halting her six-game point streak. But the likes of Veharanta, Erin Normore (goal), Kate Bacon, Katy Beach, and Jennifer Friedman (assist each) all sprinkled a point onto their nightly log for the second straight game.

Additionally, project defender Christie Jensen etched her first collegiate point with credit for the first assist on Veharanta’s goal.

Second period storm
Each team discharged precisely half of their night’s total of shots (PC: 13 out of 26, Dartmouth: 16 of 32) during the second period, wherein the Green outscored the Friars, 4-2.

Quick Feeds: Last night was the sophomore Ruff’s fourth multi-point performance of the season and eighth of her career. She is also now tied for second on the team, opposite Beach and Mari Pehkonen, with four power play conversions, the same number she had last year…Bacon posted a +1 rate on the night, enhancing her cumulative mark to a +4…The Friars tied a season-low in paying a mere three minor trips to the penalty box. They originally set that standard in a 2-1 OT loss at Yale two weeks ago…Barring any spontaneous postseason encounters, Dartmouth goalie Carli Clemis has closed her all-time series with the Friars a perfect 3-0, pushing away 85 shots and authorizing four goals over that span. Forward Maggie Kennedy moves on having pelted PC with a goal and five assists…PC coach Bob Deraney left his game night depth chart exactly as it was last weekend, only starting the defensive pair of Friedman and Brittany Simpson rather than that of Amber Yung and Colleen Martin…With Jen Smith’s brief season debut, PC has given three different goaltenders at least a sliver of regulation game action in five of their first seven years in Hockey East.

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Hockey Log

PC women hope exorcism is habitual

Depleted antagonist legion or not, Providence played its part last Saturday in slashing off the power behind the tremendous engine that had fed New Hampshire’s ceaseless saga of Friar restraint.

Intriguingly enough, they have proceeded to spring back into this practice week eyeing tonight’s trek up north to contend with another routinely insufferable Granite State gem: Dartmouth.

The Friars are grudgingly glaring at a protracted six-game skid against the Big Green and have only two wins to speak of in 15 tries over Bob Deraney’s near-decade-old tenure. All this after the program had consumed 25 of its first 27 tangles in the all-time series between 1979 and 1996.

PC, which last surpassed the Big Green in a November 2002 visit, is raring to put a bow on a .500 nonconference record, an invaluable feat they have blinked on each of the last two seasons. They come into this interleague finale with an even GF-GA of 27-27 against alien adversaries.

And they are just on the heels of overthrowing a ranked opponent in the (now formerly) #6 Wildcats. Dartmouth ascended from the 8th slot to #7 in yesterday’s weekly revision upon raking away Harvard, Yale, and Brown –all on the road- by a cumulative count of 17-3. Their old slot was, incidentally, filled by a bumped UNH.

The Green (11-5-2 overall) had been rated 3rd overall in USA Today’s last poll before a three-week holiday layoff, then inevitably slipped to #8 upon posting a 1-3 run before polling resumed seven days ago.

Dartmouth is tops in the ECAC standings at 9-3-2, their game transcript coupled with the league’s best offensive and defensive efficiency rates (3.44 and 1.72 respectively).

Tipping the scale on their last nonconference call whilst slighting an unmistakable bigwig could only mold a layer of worthwhile padding onto the Friars’ NCAA passport application.

Star dusted
Dartmouth's celestial junior Sarah Parsons, a spotlighted U.S. Olympian in the Torino Games before she had even enrolled, has experienced a minor-to-moderate dip on her personal scoring chart. After turning in a goal-assist value pack in the team’s belated home opener on Halloween, she took leave to partake in her third consecutive Four Nations Cup, and has since come back to muster a mere four goals and four helpers over 13 intercollegiate contests.

Her ten-point total places her in sixth place on the Big Green stats sheet and her current pace has her finishing with a slim 17 points, half of what she packed in last year and roughly one-third of her all but Kazmaier-worthy freshman aggregate of 50.

Cottrell’s consistency
Upon earning belated credit for an assist on Jennifer Friedman’s icebreaker, and eventual game clincher, on Saturday, first-line centerpiece Ashley Cottrell enhanced her active point streak to six games –the longest such streak kilned by any PC player so far this season. Cottrell, the lone Friar to brush the scoresheet in last week’s 4-1 loss at Cornell, has now initiated five game winning plays and finished another herself. Her 13 overall assists lead all rookie Hockey Easterners, just ahead of linemate Laura Veharanta and BU phenom Jenelle Kohanchuk’s 11.

Quick Feeds: Dartmouth senior defender Julie Bronson has charged up one point in each of three possible confrontations with the Friars (one goal, two assists)…Genevieve Lacasse scooped up her second Rookie of the Week distinction of the season yesterday. With Saturday’s shutout, her third in 15 ventures, Lacasse has slimmed her GAA in Hockey East action to a precise goal-per-game median…Providence has nibbled back into national visibility, absorbing two votes for an honorable mention in the USCHO Top 10 leaderboard…Assistant coach Amy Quinlan has returned to campus with a World U18 gold medal, her Team USA having nipped Canada, 3-2, in the final…Tonight will be the last pre-scheduled weekday engagement on the Friars’ 2008-09 itinerary.

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com

Hockey Log

Great to BU
Near-seamless Terriers await tonight

The rife, trendy motif amongst several of the Hub’s high-profile athletic entities consists fundamentally of flattening all verbal skepticism and circumstantial roadblocks with a poised, resolute, muscular swipe.

That principle topped the storylines with the Celtics in the not-too-distant past. It served to salvage the dignity of the Patriots’ run to within tasting distance of the NFL playoffs even without a quarterback who’s bigger than their franchise. It continues to pace the Bruins along an authoritative push through their now half-finished regular season slate.

And, as it happens, the Boston University men’s hockey team –primed to host the Friars tonight up at Agganis Arena- has been all for coolly repressing any logically, superficially adverse situations in their living hot streak of 7-0-1 and season record of 14-4-1.

With the ever-hallowed Beanpot still on the horizon, the #2-ranked Terriers finished their broader travels at 7-0-0 against nonconference competition when they usurped the Denver Cup championship, clipping the host Pioneers, 4-1, in the title game ten days ago. All the while, slick sophomores Colin Wilson and Kevin Shattenkirk were piloting Team USA to another medal round crash-landing at the World Junior Championships.

In the top gun Wilson’s absence, Chris Connolly plugged the void centerpiece on the starting line and combined with partners Chris Higgins and Jason Lawrence for six points on the tournament. Steve Smolinsky filled in on the blue line opposite Shattenkirk’s partner and fellow Colorado Avalanche draftee Colby Cohen, drawing no complaints in the process.

No subsequent complaints out of Connolly, either, when Wilson’s inevitable return nudged him back to the third line. He just slugged home two goals to anchor a 4-1 pasting of Maine Saturday.

And given that it was the most gaping area of question in the offseason, BU’s goaltending has arguably been the least worrying position. Apart from a choppy, unfavorable 5-1 upshot at UMass-Amherst in mid-November, the Terriers have yet to lose by a multi-goal margin. And their established starter, Kieran Millan, has claimed responsibility for merely one of the program’s four losses, meantime stamping 10 wins and a tie in his other start-to-finish swirls.

On this pace, the freshman is just the full-blooded substitute for John Curry arriving a year later than head coach Jack Parker would have desired.

Millan’s heaviest sweat up to this point was a 34-shot, 33-save conquest of Denver, a testament to the reliability of his laser-beamed defensive corps that has tied Northeastern for the league lead of a minute two goals allowed per game.

Couple that with a runaway offensive instruction clinic that has seen tangible contributions from 20 out of 22 active skaters, a whopping twelve of them brandishing NHL property tags.

Boding well for Beaudry
Still hardly a week into his official team membership, goaltender Alex Beaudry has already claimed a bite-sized bit of hardware, garnering Hockey East’s Rookie of the Week label for his cathartic debut win over UMass-Lowell on Saturday. As best can be told, he should be scraping the visitors’ blue patch in Beantown tonight.

Elsewhere in the weekly honors’ society, the PC athletic office deemed junior captain John Cavanagh the school’s athlete of the week for his double-lighter in Saturday’s 4-2 decision.

Quick Feeds: Senior defenseman Matt Taormina was retroactively credited with an assist on Kyle MacKinnon’s empty netter, coupling that with his helper on Pierce Norton’s goal to give the playmaking puckslinger his second consecutive multi-point game…Only one Terrier –rookie forward Kevin Gilroy, who has dressed for merely seven games- is in the red under the plus/minus heading. All of their regulars, save for Higgins, are a +2 or better…After tonight, PC will still have two unopened season series before them: Boston College and Merrimack, each of whom is slated to visit Schneider Arena for a night two weekends from now.

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com

Monday, January 12, 2009

Hockey Log

Beach still flexes power

Providence senior forward Katy Beach’s exponentially enriched special teams’ resume was only hampered by technical restrictions on her book-slamming strike in the waning moments of the third period Saturday.

With an impending penalty to visiting New Hampshire, goaltender Genevieve Lacasse had settled onto the bench in favor of a six-pack attack for a good nine seconds when Beach stretched the upper hand to 5-0 –the eventual final. But for all intents and purposes, she had zapped her team’s power play before it could be issued.

So, after six of her first seven points this season went down as a power play connection, and the other a shorthanded assist, her most recent four have all been rigidly filed under the even strength heading.

Otherwise, any circumstantial tweaks could have seen her splash a bit of a personal, trivial drought. Beach, who had five firsthand power play strikes over her first two seasons, then none last season, nearly had No. 5 on this year and her first since potting the clincher in a 1-0 repression of Brown six games ago.

Or, be it through her own finishing job or a recorded helper, she might have already matched her career-best sophomore total of seven player-up points.

Regardless, the A-captain has already leveled 27 shots on net –the same number she mustered through the entirety of both her sophomore and junior campaigns- when forking away with the PP brigade. Even with two missed games due to a temporary injury, she has retained her pace as the Friars’ second-most frequent puckslinger behind Laura Veharanta. Charging up five shots at Kayley Herman Saturday –that combined with linemates Kate Bacon’s five and Mari Pehkonen’s nine- she upped her overall total to 69.

And she has respectably forced her way onto the scoresheet in five of her last eight ventures, flexibly partnering with eight different linemates along the way. For Saturday’s insurance execution, Beach was intermingled with the likes of Arianna Rigano, her left winger throughout the sparse December schedule, and Stephanie Morris, who flanked her on the right side at Cornell last week. She would grant them both an assist –Morris’ first point in 17 appearances- upon beating Herman.

Head spinners
The puck took a wildly continuous, air hockey-paced spin around the pond within the final three minutes of Saturday’s second period. First, Friars Christie Jensen and Abby Gauthier each took a term pelting Herman in a quick swarm of the UNH zone before the Cats recovered and gushed on a return break into Lacasse’s vicinity. The PC stopper responded to visiting captain Kacey Bellamy’s subsequent bid and sent her mates on another retaliatory rush. Bacon would test Herman, Herman would safely hand the puck off for yet another unhesitant breakout, and Lacasse would haul in a stab by Angela Taylor before the looked-for whistle finally blew.

Much improved margin
Strictly within conference action, the Friars now have the WHEA’s second-best GF-GA differential of 27-13 for a +14 rate. The faltering Wildcats’ saw their differential dip to a +8 (28-20) as they also slid into a tie for third place. Only the regal Boston College, on whom PC still has two games in hand, has been more efficient in both zones with 33 scored and 17 admitted.

Quick Feeds: In blanking UNH, the Friars snapped top gun Jenn Wakefield’s carry-over five-game scoring streak. Typical scoring pests Wakefield and Sam Faber were only on record for a pair of penalties each when natural frustration cleared the brim in the third period…PC initially trailed the Wildcats in the way of face-offs, dropping nine of the 15 draws of the first period, but whittled back to seal a final edge of 29-28…Lauren Covell and Jackie Duncan were scratched from Saturday’s scorecard…Dartmouth lies next on both the Friars and Wildcats respective agendas. PC busses up to Thompson Arena tomorrow night (7:00 face-off) before the Big Green drop in on their intrastate rivals Friday.

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Women's Hockey 5, New Hampshire 0

Trend re-setters
Constant Cat scratches halted by Friars

Report based on Gametracker

This most up-to-date edition of the Providence College women’s hockey team has had a way of keenly clutching poised-to-pop firecrackers. They have been dangerously drama-maniacal.

Some game days, they have snatched a quick teaspoon of tangible, visible momentum, and then appeared to step back to let it take its preferred course. If not that, then they have let their ice slim to a high-wire state of matter before proceeding to salvage a close shave or take a nasty nick to their track record –not to mention, their spirits.

And ever since the middle of 2005, when UNH Blue settled in and sturdily became the new PC Black under the Hockey East championship banner, the Friars have had a way of repeatedly succumbing to the region’s incumbent sovereign entity. Their most recent history with the Wildcats: a winless stretch of 0-11-2 dating back to January 30, 2005.

In one grand sweep of a massive accumulation of Zamboni snow, they purged all of those nagging tidbits yesterday, stamping an authoritative 5-0 victory –their broadest margin of triumph to date- at Schneider Arena.

And in eerie symbolism of their intent to reverse the WHEA’s two-way road all over again, new blood paved the way –goaltender Genevieve Lacasse charging up a 42-save shutout and four freshman skaters brushing the scoresheet over the team’s first three strikes. From there, they exploited New Hampshire’s notoriously short bench in drawing a late rash of penalties and sprinkling a few insurance goals.

The Wildcats’ excruciating deconstruction in the dusk of the third period smoothly sealed a day that began with their head-spinning use of Rockstar, which translated to a tempest that dislodged most everyone in their path but Lacasse.

Bolstered by a presto pair of Friar penalties –Katy Beach doing time for holding at 1:01 and Kate Bacon garnering a hooking citation at 2:48- the Wildcats rabidly ran up a 9-0 shot differential within the first five minutes of action. Owing in part to another Bacon infraction –cross-checking at 15:06- UNH cultivated another four power play stabs and owned the shooting gallery, 19-8, at intermission.

The early shooting imbalance aside, Lacasse was not mollified at nearly the same rate as the lapis lazuli –Kayley Herman- in the countering cage. Herman, who authorized all of two Providence strikes over four encounters in her Lacasse-like rookie campaign, squinted at 10:15 when her own PK brigade was serving its only shift of duty on the period.

Fifty-two seconds after top line centerpiece Kelly Paton sat down as penance for hooking, a pair of other Friar freshman collaborated for the pounce. Playmaker Ashley Cottrell set up point patroller Jennifer Friedman for her first collegiate goal and third point altogether.

The Friars made haste to enact a little more restraint on the unflagging UNH buzz and would ultimately take command of the shooting gallery in the tempestuous middle frame by a 16-12 difference. Lacasse kept making like herself –pushing away all of 12 registered stabs- while her mates shook off another penalty kill and dabbed another blemish on Herman’s transcript at 7:56 courtesy captain Brittany Simpson, allotting themselves a 2-0 upper hand through forty. It was their first multi-goal edge since they tipped over Connecticut here on November 16.

New Hampshire had one radiant calling to pierce their way back into the game when PC’s Christie Jensen was flagged for body-checking at 4:16 of the third. Instead, after a three-shot, go-nowhere sugar rush, a flustered Jenn Wakefield used her heat gun to hack a Friar, zapping the power play at age 26 seconds.

Bacon augmented the lead to 3-0 at 9:16, and the Wildcats discipline –already the shabbiest in the league- continued to melt. With Wakefield boxed again and precisely six minutes to spare, Mari Pehkonen converted fellow Finn Veharanta and classmate Erin Normore’s set-up.

PC may have exercised its resuscitated power play a seventh time within the final two minutes, if not for Beach slugging home the finale amidst the delayed call. Instead, it settled for exorcising its most telling demon of the current collegiate generation.

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com

Hockey Log

Great leap forward
PC sets tone for six-team playoff chase

The upshot from the young phases of the Women’s Hockey East season, together with yesterday afternoon’s lineup of action, had its middle pack of contenders ready for a potential seven weeks of rabid, random lottery ball bounces.

The Friars (5-2-1 in league play) entered their home tussle with New Hampshire (5-1-3) perched tightly in fifth place, but a mere two points behind the second place Wildcats. A collision across the western border between UConn and Boston University –co-recipients of third place as of yesterday morning- automatically barred Providence from pole-vaulting to the silver slot, but their 5-0 triumph knotted them with UNH and starved their rivals’ craving for an all-15-point knot for first with Boston College.

So now, with the Huskies’ 3-0 clipping of the Terriers, this morning’s revised standings have BC safely solitary at the throne. Their most proximate chasers are now from UConn, trailing by a single point. The Friars have lassoed themselves with the Wildcats to share third place, a position just as tight as they had previously occupied with fifth-place BU behind by a notch.

In other words, the points break down as follows: 15 for the Eagles, 14 for the Huskies, 13 apiece for the Friars and Wildcats, 12 for the Terriers.

Northeastern has yet to concede, as they stressed Thursday night through a 2-0 road blanking of BU, which improved them to 5-4-0 on the year versus conference cohabitants. The Hub Huskies and Friars both have the best of all the slim offerings of breathing room, each still with 12 dates to consume on their 21-game agenda.

For their part, PC still has their interleague finale at Dartmouth on Tuesday and a two-game home set with the plebeian Vermont program straight ahead. Following that, it is strictly fellow contenders. They will face all five of their fellow pennant racers in a home-and-home series over the final five weekends of the regular season.

Pehkonen’s persistence pays
Senior forward Mari Pehkonen unleashed nine shots on net yesterday, eclipsing her cumulative output from her previous five appearances since she recovered from mononucleosis circa Thanksgiving. Her promising boundlessness effectively engaged her in an entertaining personal derby with New Hampshire’s Courtney Birchard, who charged up a supernatural 11 registered stabs on the day.

But while PC stopper Genevieve Lacasse never budged on anything heaved her way –by Birchard or any of her 13 active associates- Pehkonen snapped her string of scoring futility on Shot #9, nailing a power play conversion with 6:00 remaining for a 4-0 Friar lead. Out of five connections on Pehkonen’s season, four have been bolstered by a 5-on-4 sequence.

Pehkonen would be one of 11 Friars credited with a point on the day.

More balanced load
First line staple Laura Veharanta nabbed two assists for the second time in three ventures and third of her last six. She has upped her team-leading totals to 13 goals and 23 points, but is making more regular secondhand appearances on the scoresheet. Eight of her last 12 points have been helpers. Similarly, linemate Alyse Ruff –normally a master finisher in key plays- paired up with Veharanta to assist on Brittany Simpson’s second period goal.

Quick Feeds: PC sealed its first win over a nationally ranked adversary after snuffing on each of its first four tries (0-3-1)…Yesterday was New Hampshire’s second-widest margin of defeat on the year, behind an 8-2 falter before the still-undefeated Wisconsin in mid-November…Freshmen defenders Jennifer Friedman and Christie Jensen played in separate tandems for the first time in 13 games. Friedman teamed up with Simpson, Jensen with sophomore Leigh Riley…Lacasse’s victorious 42-save performance statistically equated her first win over Colgate on October 11, also the only other time this season where the Friars have won by a three-plus difference.

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com

On Hockey

Ice still drying, but they step in on right skate
PC men backstopped by surprise new face

So, it’s true. The “Mystery Men,” as they are billed by one of their online followings of laptop loiterers, have lived up to their label by enlisting a new masked man at midseason.

Meet Alex Beaudry, who with next to no notice from any reliable sources met all of the fundamental, paper-based prerequisites and has promptly joined the Friars’ goaltending guild.

He was never so much as listed on a log of potential pick-ups for the fall of 2009 or 2010, at which point Chris Mannix and Ryan Simpson were due to have graduated respectively. Around the big flip of the calendar last week, Beaudry was almost spontaneously plucked from the Gloucester Rangers of the Ontario Junior A League –which, incidentally, is classified as Tier II. And he was only formally bestowed with a roster spot two days ago.

No question, the public eye had to see this to believe it. But if the presidential candidate representing one of America’s highest profile parties can enlist a first-term governor from the Last Frontier as his sidekick, perhaps no acquisitions of any type, anytime, anywhere, can bowl one over anymore.

And one day after he was openly confirmed by Friar Puck, Beaudry accepted his collegiate baptism in starting last night’s home bout with UMass-Lowell, turning away 19 out of 21 shots faced as part of a 4-2 victory, PC’s first win of the intraleague breed in 10 tries all season.

With the ailing Simpson’s increasingly evident Ray Hall level of luck, the hole in the Providence net was becoming a slightly more niggling and less dispensible matter. And somebody with a little more honing than a David Spagnoli –a student/living Shooter Tutor with no recorded experience beyond La Salle Academy– was in order.

The crease crisis makes a fair case with the recent defensive constraints –i.e. Bryce Aneloski and Joe Lavin’s self-deletion from the roster over break- as to which has called louder for emergency responses. At least for last night, Army simply left the gaping, drafty door open for all six of his remaining rostered blueliners to dress.

And to the collective credit of all 18 skaters, they handled their end of the newbie’s acclimation with respectfully soft hands. Fourteen out of Lowell’s 35 total shot attempts didn’t reach touching distance of Beaudry. Eight were magnetically guided to the side, four blocked. Another two early in the third period –one by Kory Falite, the other Scott Campbell- brushed the red iron.

Beaudry’s delicate young slate kept clean through his first 29 minutes of clock time and Lowell’s first 13 registered whacks. Defender Maury Edwards finally solved him for a Riverhawk power play conversion at 9:02 of the middle frame, pulling the guests even less than five minutes after junior captain John Cavanagh had persistently collected two of his own blocked rebounds to break the ice for the Friars –his team-best sixth overall strike on the season.

The Friar front-liners would keep Beaudry unpestered for the next seven-plus minutes, during which time they drew themselves a quick five-on-three, Nick Schaus and Edwards going off for separate tripping infractions at 9:26 and 9:54, respectively. Well before a fresh-out-the-box Schaus could join the remainder of his penalty kill, senior Pierce Norton renewed the PC lead to 2-1 at 11:28. Norton would tie classmate Nick Mazzolini, back in formal game attire for the first time in two months, with four SOG on the night.

The mutual coiling of the contesting defenses only tightened in a third period that saw the Friars outshoot the Riverhawks, 7-6 (the final shooting gallery would read 27-21, PC). Mike Pottacco drew a 2-2 knot for his club at 1:20, raking home Edwards’ rebound, but Beaudry perked back up on the subsequent draw to deny back-to-back stabs from Mark Roebothan.

Cavanagh, whose first line partnership with Ian O’Connor and Matt Bergland has stayed constant after all the hibernation, inserted the eventual clincher with 5:14 to spare. And sophomore second line centerpiece Kyle MacKinnon, one of umpteen coldies in the cheerless first half of the season, sprinkled on an empty netter with less than a full tick on the clock to go with his assist on linemate Norton’s goal.

And upon the ensuing, throwaway face-off, Beaudry’s triumphant introduction to the Divine Campus was over around that specific time of the week made famous by Billy Joel.

To the most melancholy degree, Simpson may never get his time to shine. But already, Beaudry and his new associates –the Friars- have something digestible to build upon.

The new kid on campus is 1-0 in his career. And Providence, for a start to its statistical recovery project, is 1-0 in 2009.

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com

Hockey Log: Sunday Edition

Homecoming fan invites
Three recent HEA exes to start AHL showcase

Cue the succession of “What if?” wonders.

The first period of the 2009 AHL All-Star Classic, slated for two weeks from tomorrow night at Worcester’s DCU Center, will reunite the contesting crease custodians of the 2006 NCAA championship. Victorious Wisconsin graduate Brian Elliott, now a full-time Binghamton Senator, will tend the Canadian cage versus BC-Eagle-turned-Manitoba-Moose Cory Schneider, the starting stopper for PlanetUSA.

For Schneider –one of six one-time Hockey East satellites on the PlanetUSA squad and eight in the game altogether- it will mean his first business trip back to his native Bay State and a fond return to the site where his Eagles claimed their passport to the 2006 Frozen Four. There, one will recall, the likes of Elliott and the Badgers followed through on their perceptible home ice advantage to wrest the title at Milwaukee’s Bradley Center.

Granted, the Badgers’ underprivileged entry into the 2008 tournament that submitted to North Dakota in their own Madison mansion ought to debunk the notion of unwavering home ice advantage. Still, Worcester has been a regular host to postseason collegiate action ever since it flooded its first professional pond for the departed AHL Icecats in 1994. And it has functioned as a haven for Jerry York’s capstone class, which has won six of seven games at the DCU Center this decade, springing from there to the final frontier in three of four tries.

So fans are free to have fun contemplating and debating the infinite –albeit never to be known- possibilities if the selection committee of three years back had calculated their assessments a few twitches differently. Maybe Wisconsin would have had the luck of a Miami Redhawk there.

Frankly, there’s enough evidence to spawn a silent, for-kicks conjecture that crossover collegiate/minor pro buffs came together in masses to arrange this trivia-enriched rematch. In the not-too-distant past, you had Schneider and Elliott contesting in just a routine east-west college classic. In two weeks, they will lodge their respective flags on their moorings as masked representatives in the “A’s” annual chapter of Canada Against The World.

Additionally, Schneider will ally once more with Nathan Gerbe, now a first-year scoring beacon with the Portland Pirates. Gerbe, who made Worcester the penultimate stop in his supernatural tear to the title with the Eagles last spring, has since reappeared and potted a hat trick (couple with an assist) as part of the Pirates’ 5-3 tip-over of the Sharks November 5.

Gerbe’s former backstop, though, has been confined almost strictly without the Eastern Time Zone since latching on with the Vancouver Canucks’ organization. Come the All-Star weekend, Schneider will return to the oversized barn an hour west of his native Marblehad, Mass. for the first time since he pitched a pair of 5-0 shutouts over Miami and BU to pilot the Eagles to Milwaukee.

And then there’s Gerbe being paired up with BU alumnus Chris Bourque on PlanetUSA’s top line, which amounts to three one-time Hockey Easterners starting this celestial exhibition. It nearly poses grounds for suspicion that the AHL’s “You Decide” selection policy was as locally prioritized as the NHL’s allegedly was in Montreal, where you have four Habs raring to start that game in their full-time rink.

Some seeing Red, for now
Cornell University –the ECAC’s most recent Men’s Frozen Four ambassador, reeling back to 2003- laid claim to one of the fifty first-place votes in the first USCHO poll of 2009. Meanwhile, the first installment of the PairWise Rankings gave Cornell (9-1-3 coming into the weekend) the throne.

Evidently, the panelists bestowing those honors to the 8th-rated Big Red was uncontrollably wooed by their wresting the Florida College Classic over rival Colgate by mere teethmarks in a shootout, then oppressing the bubble-based UMass-Amherst, 5-2, last weekend. That tournament clincher, incidentally, went down as a tie for both parties, but Cornell has nonetheless woven a 5-0-1 ride and remains the lone team in the nation with one solitary loss. That might be where the other skate drops: these guys came into the weekend still with a lumpy 16 regular season engagements to deal with. And they’re still a stride behind conference cohabitant Princeton.

Speedy recovery
A few ice chips beyond the halfway mark of the season, it is fairly easy to assert that Maine foreman Tim Whitehead has already fastened one of his hands on the Bob Kullen Award as Hockey East’s outstanding coach. Seven-and-a-half years removed from filling the late Shawn Walsh’s untimely vacancy, Whitehead has fortified his psyche through a handful of adverse off-ice occurrences, a slew of tournament frustration, and, most recently, an egregious non-playoff run. Fastidious Orono residents would surely prefer that the Black Bears spike back to certified contention without delay, but give Whitehead credit for easing them back to a present middleweight stature in the Hockey East standings and a supra-.500 overall record.

Quick Feeds: With only two more nonconference games (Maine vs. Bentley this Friday; New Hampshire at Dartmouth on Saturday) plus Beanpot action still to come, Hockey East has virtually secured a winning record against all fellow Division I men’s leagues in 2008-09. That ought to beef up the Sweet 16 membership from the measly two schools of last year, no?...Hockey East has enlisted the Providence-based Swing Juice energy drink manufacturer as its newest corporate partner, spelling its second newly established tie with a Rhode Island company this season. The league had previously declared new linkage with the Naukabout apparel company in early October…Casual quote of the week from the men’s league’s midseason teleconference: “No football questions,” said BC skipper Jerry York when the media was handed the floor before him…This author’s picks for the out-of-market game of the week: the bubble-based UConn women entertain a two-game series with almighty Meryhurst (who entered the past week #4 in the nation) over in Storrs on Friday and Saturday. Going into this weekend’s action, the Huskies have paced themselves on a six-game winning streak since absorbing back-to-back blankings from PC and BC in mid-November.

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com