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Saturday, January 24, 2009

Hockey Log

Friars, Terriers should pit stern defenses
Anyone could go in goal this weekend

With her recent pattern of alternating undress and redress –indeed a jutting diversion from the celestial standard she has set for the better part of the season- Genevieve Lacasse leaves an extra dollop of ambiguity to the PC women’s never-definitive goaltending rotation for today.

In starting five of the last six games, the radiant rookie has laid two goose-eggs but also been forked out early on two occasions, been tagged with her first no-decision, and twice authorized four-plus goals after never having done so in her first 14 whirls-around.

Lacasse may be demonstrating slight disturbances of burnout, which would only warrant a small reduction in playing frequency for the established No. 1 stopper. Meantime, the Friars this afternoon play host to Boston University, whom senior Danielle Ciarletta has stared down in each of the last four opportunities, including the mutually stimulating 65-minute/shootout showdown in the Hub back on November 1. Ciarletta owns a lifetime log of 3-1-1 against BU with only the long-graduated Jana Bugden withholding any experience against the four-year-old program.

On the opposite roster, the Terriers have their own active pattern in the crease –one likewise nonexistent prior to the protracted respite. Senior Allyse Wilcox has rotated with junior Melissa Haber in each of BU’s last six games after the understudy had handled but four of the first 17 ventures.

Barring any unforeseen circumstances, head coach Brian Durocher should again call upon Wilcox for Part I of this home-and-home series today at Schneider Arena (2:00 p.m. face-off), which would make for her sixth confrontation with the Friars out of seven possibilities. In turn, though, Haber –who is 0-2 lifetime against PC- would be slated to get the nod tomorrow up at Walter Brown Arena.

The 2006-07 season saw a more even split in the BU backstops’ workload, the then-sophomore Wilcox consuming 56.8% of the allotted ice time, Haber 42.7%. Last year, Wilcox –who is credited with all three of BU’s only regulation wins against the Friars, plus the extra shootout point from their latest tussle- tipped the scale to take credit for 26 games while limiting Haber to ten appearances, including a 4-3 falter here last January 31.

But in light of the imminent dusk on Wilcox’s collegiate tenure, Durocher is implicitly rebooting Haber’s activity for a comfortable transition to next season, by which point she will partner with a colder classmate in Ashley Leichliter and a newcomer in Alissa Fromkin –currently of Phillips Andover Academy.

Regardless of whom Durocher employs today and tomorrow, the Friars will be attempting to circumvent another laser-beamed defensive guild that has not allowed the opposition to break 30 on the shot clock in any of their last five games, though that coupled with inconsistent supplementary offense has amounted to a 2-2-1 record in that stretch. The Terriers are on the heels of docking plebeian Maine, 5-2 and 5-1, only after they had been blanked by both Northeastern and Connecticut the preceding week.

The 22 shots afforded to Providence in their last meeting with the Terriers stands as their third-shallowest bushel on the season. They have most recently been confined to 26 stabs in a 7-3 falter at Dartmouth, 18 in last week’s 3-0 triumph over Vermont, and 28 in the Catamounts’ retaliatory 5-2 decision. That despite PC restricting UVM’s shot count to 20 for a weekend total of 36.

Oddly enough, Ciarletta’s heaviest sweat this season was against the Terriers (38 shots, 35 saves), though that data was chiefly emboldened by the Friars’ toe-curling pile of 13 penalties plus the five-minute bonus round that preceded the shootout. BU gluttonously charged up 22 power play shots that afternoon, including Gina Kearns’ last-minute equalizer. Exactly half of the 38 total stabs dealt to Ciarletta fell in a third period stocked with five Providence infractions.

Scrap the notion of a recurrence of that and the Friars and Terriers will likely just collaborate for another pair of trendy, stuffy arm-wrestling bouts.

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com

Friday, January 23, 2009

Hockey Log

PC, BU pack a few parallels

She’s merely a frosh, but she has been a constant at the top of her team’s offensive depth chart for as long as she’s been on campus. She has retained at least one veteran partner for the duration of that stretch. She is tops on her team in terms of power play scoring and shots on net.

And she is embodied by two nascent scoring beacons raring to clash with one another at Schneider Arena tomorrow and again at Boston University’s Walter Brown Arena on Sunday: Laura Veharanta of the Friars and Jenelle Kohanchuk of the Terriers.

Kohanchuk accompanies her associates for the lone visit of the season currently brandishing team highs under the headings of SOG (75), plus/minus (13) and power play goals (4, tied with Gina Kearns and Lauren Cherewyk). Her overall transcript of 9-11-20 places her second on the BU scoring charts behind only junior Melissa Anderson (6-16-22).

In the league’s rookie leaderboard, her totals are sandwiched by top dog Veharanta’s log of 14-12-26 and fellow Friar (and linemate) Ashley Cottrell’s 4-14-18.

And Kohanchuk might have the top slot right about now if not for a recent four-game hitch that only ended against Maine last Sunday. But should she resuscitate her lately snoozing stick and retain her previois pace, she could plausibly post the second-most fruitful freshman campaign in this Lazarene program’s modern four-year history. Anderson’s standard of 34 points set in 2006-07 is a long shot, but she could at least surpass the 28 points charged up by now-senior Laurel Koller in 2005-06.

She will need to do little more than rekindle the pleasurable consistency she has shared with the likes of Kearns and a varying left side linemate, most recently Koller. Koller succeeded sophomore Jillian Kirchner in that position prior to the Maine series after Kirchner and Kearns had sandwiched Kohanchuk for her first 17 appearances.

Meanwhile Kearns, who is to Kohanchuk what Alyse Ruff has been to Veharanta on PC, has collaborated with the Terrier rookie on six scoring plays, though none in any of their last six games. Kearns herself had only snapped a protracted scoring slump of six games in last weekend’s road sweep of the Black Bears.

More duplicate data
Beyond the youthful, individual spotlight magnets, the third-place Friars (7-3-1) and second-rate Terriers (8-4-0) measure up chin-to-chin in most every major statistical category. Most telling to that parity, PC will pit an aggregate 62-52 GF-GA differential against BU’s tally of 62-51. On average, Providence ranks fifth in the league in terms of scoring offense, fourth in defense. Boston’s offense rates fourth, its defense fifth.

PC’s total penalty minute intake of 290 is only a dollop higher than BU’s bushel of 280, though the Terriers are lagging a bit on both sides of the special teams’ spectrum.

Limited selection
Out of the Terriers’ last seven Hockey East wins –stretching as far back as October 25- three have been regulation clock-cleansings of Maine, another three shootout triumphs over the Friars or New Hampshire Wildcats.

And BU has still been subsisting on shootouts more than any of their peers. Out of the three NCAA conferences giving the breakaway bonus round a whirl this season –WHEA, WCHA women, CCHA- only the men’s programs of Notre Dame and Alaska have equated the Terrier total of three shootout wins. No other women’s team has scraped out more than one thus far.

Starved for bean soup
The shootout point from their last tangle with the Terriers aside, Providence has yanked a win from every conference cohabitant except for the three Hub Clubs, having dropped 1-0 and 3-1 decisions to Northeastern and BC in October.

Quick Feeds: There might be a few tweaks in the Friars’ defensive arrangements tomorrow. Yesterday, sophomores Amber Yung and Leigh Riley practiced in green jerseys while Colleen Martin and Christie Jensen partnered in blue. Riley was previously linked with Jensen, Martin with Yung. The top pairing of Jennifer Friedman and Brittany Simpson appears unfettered from the last game…According to a freshly released attendance report, BU is the second-best road draw in Hockey East with a gamely average of about 298 behind only BC, which ironically has attracted the fewest home spectators. PC comes in third with a count of 292…Tomorrow will be Katy Beach’s 125th career game played. She shall thus join classmates Erin Normore and Simpson, along with 31 of their predecessors, in that milestone club. Meanwhile, BU defender Amanda Shaw is slated to hit the same milestone, which will join her in with Kearns, who played Game #125 this past Sunday. Sarah Russell should be the third Terrier with that distinction come Sunday’s rematch.

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com

On Hockey

PC men present a whole NU sight

Tim Army, his active spoken philosophy about as expectable as seeing Billy Mays in an infomercial, merely didn’t have any less banal options in approaching the other side of a 31-day calendar Zamboni shift. From his perspective down to that of his pupils –seasoned, new, and in one special case, very new- all nagging numerals were as good as regressed to zero.

After all, even with a 0-8-1 start, they still had two more periods of a 27-game Hockey East pennant race, and they’re merely bent on winning them both. Best two out of three.

As it happens, that philosophy ought to work just fine for the followers, but especially the undergraduate royal rooters who tonight will take in their first look at their puckcentric peers in action since mid-November.

The better part of the PC student body has not been allotted a reasonable chance to witness a men’s hockey game since a toe-curling sweep at the hands of Maine slammed shut a five-game homestand at 0-4-1. The Friars had since spilled a 4-2 decision before Dartmouth the night after Thanksgiving and took off on their sorely needed respite 10 days and three road games later.

Most of them still barred from campus till this past Monday, the Friar Fanatics missed an ostensibly sharp U-turn on the team’s part. Providence busted a seven-week fast from the brightly lit edition of Schneider Arena and splashed their Hockey East victory drought through a grittily executed 4-2 knockoff of UMass-Lowell 13 nights ago.

And on a rationally paced, door-to-door circuit, they have proceeded to avert wholesale sweeps out of their three-game season series with the Riverhawks, Boston University, UMass-Amherst, and Maine in a matter of nine days. Freshly plucked goaltender Alex Beaudry has anchored the whole outburst and was boasting a 3-0-1 collegiate career record before he had even rounded out his transfer student orientation proceedings.

And suddenly, the Friars are seven points better heeled and a few strides ahead of their successors –the Merrimack Warriors- to the cellar’s linoleum of the Hockey East standings.

Now is the time for the crux of the program’s fan base to break its own 69-day fast from live action in the House That Lou Built. As luck would have it, the card is complemented by Northeastern, the same adversary who visited on opening night October 17, ending a five-month recess for the full Schneider congregation at the time.

See the difference? Or, better yet, feel the difference?

It has been naturally settled that the men in control pined for a super-size serving of retreat and recuperation followed by a virtual do-over to the slushy foundation they struggled with for two months. But all PC buffs would be just in buying into the same approach.

In immediate and distant hindsight, there is now less cause for reservation and reflection on past presumptuousness. The team that bowed down for a 4-0 beating by the Huskies in October was behind the rest of the nation in terms of preparedness –having only conducted the Black/White intrasquad scrimmage the week prior while most everyone else was engaged in intercollegiate horn-lock.

The former Friar-Husky lowdown had a home team crammed in an overpopulated dressing room -31 total bodies, ten of them brand new- that in turn set a breeding ground for excess internal competition and dysfunction. And only a night later, five upperclassmen were reassigned to the sideline as penance for disinterested, less-than-wholehearted play –even by the standards of a program late to delve into its intercollegiate itinerary.

Additionally, the two goalies in action that weekend –Justin Gates and Chris Mannix- have since posted supra-4.00 goals-against medians and sub-.900 save percentages.

Conversely, tonight’s Friars are bound to again start Beaudry, who but three weeks ago was parting from a Tier II junior program and now boasts a 2.45 GAA and has swallowed 140 saves for an average of about 35 per game. Toss in his superior plus/minus posture of +8, ahead of runners-up Andy Balysky and Jordan Kremyr –tied for second at +2 apiece.

Balysky, Kremyr, and the rest of Beaudry’s praetorian guards have pampered the still-acclimating stopper with an average of 3.75 goals per game, a near-double hop from the preceding mean of 2.19.

Four individual skaters –Matt Bergland, Pierce Norton, Ian O’Connor, and Matt Taormina- have nabbed at least three points apiece in this active four-game tear. And fifteen of the eighteen Friars who have consistently dressed in all four games –always with the same two linemates or one defensive supplement- have brushed at least one of those scoresheets.

Do note that Northeastern is comfortably perched in first place at 11-3-1 (15-5-2). But PC seems to prefer ogling not at their 2008-09 record, but their pristine 2009 record.

Normalcy, together with black lids rather than silver, appears restored for the return of the Providence pep section. Guess next week’s white-out for the cameras of NESN is not off after all.

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com

Thursday, January 22, 2009

On Hockey

High time for a mission statement
PC Women need consistent command in stretch drive

Here launches the final countdown for the likes of Katy Beach, Danielle Ciarletta, Stephanie Morris, Erin Normore, Mari Pehkonen, and Brittany Simpson. Beginning with Saturday’s home matinee twig-lock with Boston University, it’s the final T-minus-ten-regular-season-games countdown for this senior class, one that is burdened with the specter of becoming the first since 2001 to go four years without a merry March of hockey at Providence College.

As was the case last season, their 10 remaining regular season contests fall in this pattern of five home-and-homes: BU, Connecticut, Northeastern, New Hampshire, Boston College. Naturally, that’s just pre-arranged –and likely coincidental- repetition.

But for as long as any of these seniors have been here, they have constituted a fragment of a program that is at its sharpest in its own right this time of year, yet is stuffed up by a conglomeration of equally primed, ambitious adversaries. In 2005-06, the Friars went 4-6-0 in the stretch drive, amounting to a third place finish in the conference leaderboard. They subsequently snuffed out with a semifinal loss to Boston College, and a 17-14-4 overall record couldn’t cut it for a passport to the NCAA’s Elite Eight.

As sophomores, with Ciarletta and Pehkonen having freshly emigrated from Duluth, this sextet pitched in to a 4-5-1 chug to the finish. Specifically, another third-place finish coupled with a WHEA championship shortcoming. And again, their cumulative record (16-16-4) didn’t woo any selectors supervising the national platform.

And last season, Providence reran everything from the winter of 2007. The 4-5-1 regular season closure, the .500 overall record, the falter before almighty UNH for the conference crown, and the regretful redeye knowing that a lack of an automatic bid zapped their NCAA tournament candidacy.

Unlike the aforementioned, forthcoming itinerary, all that would certainly constitute a smudgy CD lens that PC’s leaders can and would be uncompromisingly advised to cleanse.

Here’s another: by the time they have all played Game #34, none of PC’s four most reckonable adversaries will have lost any more than four nonconference games and won no fewer than six. The Friars, meantime, have duplicated their 5-7-1 interleague record of last season. And they just broke double digits under the overall “L” heading.

Neither history nor the present needs to remind anybody that these stats are salting PC’s long-term ice. Still, USCHO’s poll currently has BC, UNH, and UConn crammed together from 6th through 8th. Freeze their respective statures from now through March 8 and they’d be all but shoo-ins to the NCAA bracket. And if women’s hockey had its own NIT, BU –currently benched on the honorable mention slab- would have a sporting chance of admission.

But, naturally, the Friars have no business revisiting and dissecting the bugs behind the partially fettered persona they conveyed to kick off this campaign, and again to take it out of the cooler after their 23-day December respite. Bob Deraney and Co. can delve into that issue in April, after these yet-to-be-fulfilled seniors have given their final stick salute.

As for the strict present, the Friars and five forthcoming adversaries are keen on an exhilarating climax to the pennant race. Going into the weekend action, a mere seven points bridge top dog BC from the sixth-place Northeastern. PC and UNH are conjoined with 15 points apiece for third place, one stride behind BU (16 points) and within one win of lassoing the Eagles (17).

Oh, and fourth-place UConn (14 points) is likewise in a position to dislodge a few of its leaders in just one sixty-minute swing.

No one –not even the numerically underprivileged Wildcats or the ostensibly receding Hub Huskies- is in a state shabby enough to compromise points. They never have been before, as evidenced by the not-too-distant past. And the refined, six-team playoff system only ought to flick another appetizer pill down everyone’s throat.

For the first time in its wee seven-year existence, the WHEA can proclaim that its tenants are pursuing home ice for the postseason. And the top two finishers will earn the coveted NFL-esque prize of a bye week.

Translation: sixth or fifth place? Just think, in 2008 or prior, you’d be sullenly rushing the advent of spring with a greater fervor than any Groundhog Day devotees.

Fourth or third? You’re on your pond for Round 1 because you and the rest of the competitive melting pot made it happen over time, not because the league predestined it before captain’s practices. Good for you.

Second or first? Your wager is to productively invest in bonus practice time and consistently follow through on your triumphant sprint to the regular season finale.

All scenarios are as open as a goal mouth backstopping a six-pack attack. In the Friars’ equation, there is a little extra cramming what with the now-uncontrollable national landscape. But a gush to the stately byes’ perch –which would call for a recommended intake of, say, no fewer than seven more wins- might translate to last-minute at-large nomination.

Not to mention, it would be a bracing psychological upgrade for one graduating class that has settled for third place upon claiming less than half of the allotted homestretch points in each of the last three seasons.

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Hockey Log

PC women plagued by power glitches
Not enough special teams bounces going their way

Save for Kate Bacon’s hitting from behind minor, caught at 3:21 of a draining third period, the Friars’ disciplinary record was seamless beyond one fleeting fit of infractions around the halfway mark of Sunday’s fall-from-ahead, 5-2 falter before Vermont at Schneider Arena.

But wouldn’t you know it? That sullied string was the clear-cut turning point.

The hurried, hostile turnaround in thorough summation: Arianna Rigano goes off for tripping at 9:34. Alyse Ruff is flagged for interference –and only seconds after she had won a vital face-off- at 10:49. Vermont pounces promptly to draw a 2-2 knot, merely four seconds before Rigano was due out. With Ruff still incarcerated, Colleen Martin endures a two-minute citation for body-checking. Suddenly ahead by two bodies once more, the Catamounts bust the 28-second-old tie.

So it merely took Vermont two-and-a-half minutes to outright exploit the fidgeting Friars, who had been fostering a brittle 2-1 advantage despite capitalizing on but one of their first four unanswered power plays. By day’s end, PC had gone 1-for-6 with the extra body, coupled with an aggregate eight shots in those segments. In two of those full-length PP segments, plus a shortened one (1 minute, 14 seconds) that they earned on the latter end of a brief 4-on-4 sequence, they left Catamount goaltender Kristen Olychuck completely untested.

Granted, Vermont was itself stifled during Bacon’s sin bin sentence, a time when they may otherwise have built upon a now 4-2 advantage –made possible by Chelsea Furlani’s strike late in the second. But the foundation of that lead was a matter of responding attentively when the invitation was in plain sight. It was a matter of the Catamounts alertly collaborating with the old brief-but-fatal menace.

If anything, the Bacon penalty dealt a crucial nick to the Friars’ tanks, salting their shot at any timely take-back swarm around Olychuck –which they already appeared to have had brewing. The reinvigorated UVM backstop pushed away four quick unanswered stabs to start the closing frame in defense of her newfangled 4-2 lead until Bacon was whistled.

PC would not charge up another shot for the next eight minutes. “Opportunity missed” was callously switched to “opportunity lost.”

They did have one more chance to, at the very least, apply a light layer of extra dignity to this acrid lemon cake. Still down, 4-2, within the final four minutes, they heaved three more shots while Vermont’s Kyleigh Palmer served a two-minute hooking sentence. But Olychuck coolly slammed the door and would hand things over to Friar-turned-Catamount Brittany Nelson for a shorthanded empty netter.

In each of their four latest losing efforts, the Friars have decisively out-disciplined their adversaries. Yet in seven total post-holiday ventures, a 3-4 stretch on their permanent transcript, they have converted a mere six of 38 power play offerings. Meantime, they have allotted the opposition an equal six conversions on 28 chances.

One immediate byproduct to that is only a negligible dip in their overall special teams’ proficiency, a 17.2% power play conversion rate morphing to 16.9% and the PK from 86.1% to 84.6%.

Yet still, Sunday was a troubling regression to the slightly more frequent case of skates-in-the-mouth. The more pressing result for the host was an emotionally puncturing loss to one of the certified welterweights in Hockey East.

Only twice since New Year’s –once as part of the 5-0 thrill ride over rival New Hampshire a week prior and once in a 3-0 knockout in Part I of the Vermont series- have the Friars’ player-up brigade outscore that of the opposition. They have, in spurts, been the ones making the timely, decisive investments. In Saturday’s win, for instance, Ashley Cottrell slugged home the eventual clincher on the team’s last of merely two power plays with 3:46 gone in the second period.

But there has been a substantially costly element of inconsistency to that habit; one which, in an alternate PC hockey universe, might whiten the full hair of men’s head coach Tim Army in the speed of a slap shot.

And one which, on Sunday, made waste of an otherwise cover-to-cover upper hand in the scorebook: namely in terms of shots (28-20), face-off wins (42-24), and, yes, discipline.

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com

Monday, January 19, 2009

Vermont 5, Women's Hockey 2

Recurrent nightmares
PC blows a tire before Catamounts

Report based on Gametracker

The collective implications within yesterday’s pre-game layout could have served as a stimulating Hall of Mirrors for an ostensibly opportunistic Friars team.

After finishing strong in Part I of their two-day visit from Vermont –a 3-0 win- they were within tasting distance of polishing off a second 3-0-0 season series sweep, having already abolished the equally plebeian Maine Black Bears. Doing so would have advanced their own cause while starting up the Catamounts’ annual stretch drive burial in ice chips.

They were on the cusp of inching their home record above the .500 fence for the first time in the 2008-09 season after 12 tries altogether. And they might have put a favorable spin on the loss-win-loss-win rut that has hampered them since they awoke from a three-week’s holiday hibernation.

Instead, this morning’s awakening within the Skating Sorority is inclined to be accompanied by migraines, grunts, and a quick steaming punch to the wall. Providence spilled an initial 2-1 lead, allowing three second period goals, and ultimately faltered, 5-2, at Schneider Arena. Thus Vermont, for the second year in a row, averted a clean sweep at the hands of the Friars, who have submitted to the Catamounts for the first time on their home pond and broken double digits in their overall “L” column.

As was the case in their only other near-miss some 12 months ago at Gutterson Fieldhouse, PC slipped upon failing to bust out of an offensively fettered state. Vermont, conversely, concocted its best offensive showcase since opening weekend, highlighted by Erin Barley-Maloney’s playmaker hat trick, a goal-assist value pack for first-liners Chelsea Furlani and Molly Morrison, two helpers courtesy Peggy Wakeham, and a 2-1-3 night by ex-Friar Brittany Nelson.

The resolute Catamounts veiled the Friars’ scorecard-length dominance –three power plays to none, 11-4 shooting advantage, 17-7 face-off edge- for the better part of the opening frame, keeping no more than one stride behind in the core category. For a considerable stretch of time, the obsessive-defensive showdown unfolded, yet again, with the look and feel of one of Lou Lamoriello’s Intrasquad Extravaganzas.

Seven face-offs and nearly five minutes worth of playing time elapsed without either goaltender coming into play until Katy Beach finally gave Vermont’s Kristen Olychuck (26 total saves) something to ensnare and haul in. On the subsequent face-off, starting left winger Kate Bacon converted PC’s second stab on a feed from Erin Normore, planting a 1-0 lead at the 5:02 mark.

Apart from that, Olychuck was kept pleasurably unpestered for the bulk of the first period, left to deal with diddlysquat over two unanswered PC power plays and turning aside another five shots before her own top gun, Teddy Fortin, beat Genevieve Lacasse (15 saves) at 13:00, pulling things even.

The Friars, who authorized a mere four shots against their keeper in the opening stanza, took the new enlightenment into perspective and out on Olychuck. Drawing a third power in the form of a checking minor to Middletown native Kailey Nash, they pelted Olychuck on a four shot sugar rush within the final minute-and-a-half till intermission. Point patroller Jennifer Friedman –with the aid of Beach and Mari Pehkonen- climaxed the flurry with the go-ahead strike, her third goal on the weekend, with only four seconds to spare.

Within the first four minutes of the middle frame, Olychuck neutralized another power play onslaught –consisting of two shots- while the ex-Friar Nelson did time. But around the halfway mark, the Friars’ daylong unyielding discipline broke a profuse sweat, as did Lacasse’s latest entry to her game log.

A tripping infraction against Arianna Rigano at 9:34 and interference flag on Alyse Ruff at 10:49 spelled 45 seconds worth of 5-on-3 for the salivating Catamounts. Sarah Smiddy converted for the 2-2 draw a mere four seconds before Rigano’s due jailbreak and a subsequent checking minor to defender Colleen Martin put Providence down a pair for another 61 seconds.

It only took ten seconds for Ruff to be summoned back out, though. Nelson planted Vermont a 3-2 edge at 11:48. And the harrowing puckslide only gained oppressive momentum against the Friars, who after four unanswered swings at Olychuck authorized 11 of the next 13 shots.

At 16:34, Furlani, with the aid of her linemates Nelson and Morrison, enhanced the difference to 4-2, where it stayed through intermission.

Olychuck wound things down for her club in the third, despite a 10-4 shot deficit working against them. And with a six-pack attack deployed over their sixth and final power play, the Friars relinquished an empty netter to Nelson with 2:13 remaining.

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com

Hockey Log

Vermont muzzles Veharanta
Top scorer coiled in series

Laura Veharanta was in logical position to round out her facile trek to become the first Friar to crack triple digits under the SOG heading this past weekend. The proficient puckslinger entered with 98 registered stabs to go with her 14-11-25 production record over her first 22 games.

At a bare minimum, she would have had that 100th swing yesterday in the desperation drive of a vinegary 5-2 loss, if not for the red iron. With less than six minutes to spare in the third period, her only attempt of the game dinked off the pipe, ultimately collected by linemate Alyse Ruff, whose own bid was swallowed for a whistle by Vermont stopper Kristen Olychuck.

But for the length of this split series, both contesting defenses simply presented their adversaries with a laser-beamed defense shield. PC ran up a shallow 18-16 advantage in Saturday’s shooting gallery –ultimately good enough for a 3-0 win- and followed through with a still-lightweight 28-20 upper hand yesterday. Veharanta’s trusty centerpiece, Ashley Cottrell, led all Friars yesterday with four tests of Olychuck while another five –Kate Bacon, Jennifer Friedman, Erin Normore, Ruff, and Amber Yung- charged up three apiece.

PC transfer Brittany Nelson matched Cottrell’s four-pack yesterday –with a more fruitful upshot- but no one else surpassed three in either game on the weekend. And Veharanta, who was belatedly credited with an assist on Friedman’s first of two goals Saturday, was one of six skaters per side to be kept shotless yesterday.

Result: her solitary stab from Saturday merely ups her season total to 99.

Apart from Veharanta, who went without a point for only the seventh time in 24 games played, classmate Genevieve Lacasse’s track record felt similarly pace-changing ripples from the weekend’s mutual constriction. In each of all but one of her first 14 decisions, the freshman stopper had been forced to make at least 25 saves. She would deal with a mere 16 Saturday and 19 Sunday, Vermont’s penultimate shot being an empty net conversion, the fourth PC has allowed this season.

And, quirkily enough, Lacasse is also suspended on the precipice of a trivial personal milestone. Her cumulative save total yesterday shot up to exactly 499.

Returned favors(?)
Nelson, who is splitting the Vermont “C” with fellow junior Chelsea Furlani and senior Sarah Smiddy, now has two goals and four assists in six encounters with her ex-teammates, matching the point total she had kindled in 32 games as a Friar freshman two seasons ago. Her game clincher and empty netter yesterday made for Nelson’s first two goals in 2008-09, coupled with a career high seven assists.

Quick Feeds: Winger Mari Pehkonen notched two assists for her third multi-point game on the year…All nine Friars taking at least one face-off yesterday had a winning percentage of .500 or better in the dot. As a whole, Providence claimed 41 of 64 draws…PC endured its first Sunday loss after having won each of its first four games on that day of the week…Junior Jackie Duncan was worked back into the lineup after missing the team’s previous three ventures. She and Arianna Rigano flanked Stephanie Morris on the fourth line…With her goal yesterday, Bacon ties linemate Katy Beach for second on the team with six total goals. Meanwhile, Normore’s assists knots her for second with Veharanta in that category (12 each)…The Friars lost for the fourth time when scoring first and the second time when leading after the first period. Failing to abolish Vermont’s 4-2 lead at intermission, they dropped to 0-5-1 when trailing after two…The remainder of the regular season consists of five home-and-home series, the Schneider half falling first in each case. Providence will host Boston University at 2 p.m. this Saturday, reconvening at Walter Brown Arena the following afternoon.

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Women's Hockey 3, Vermont 0

Sustainable development
PC bests Vermont on low shooting sustenance

Report based on Gametracker

Though the former’s statistical spreadsheet reflects near-regality while that of the latter underscores what would be found in a catalog of rag-based fashions, Genevieve Lacasse would have little incentive to sympathize with Kristen Olychuck. At least not in terms of measuring up one another’s labor loads.

Olychuck, a junior and Vermont’s established starter two years running since she transferred from Sacred Heart, entered yesterday’s confrontation having faced 360 cumulative shots in 14 appearances. Lacasse, the Friars’ freshman phenom, came in having dealt with 499 opposing bids over 16 games played. Her latest swing: a most forgettable seven-goal dismantling via Dartmouth on Tuesday.

All that aside, Lacasse has had a far more expansive assortment of luxuries to indulge in this season and she gratefully accepted a quite facile end of her bargain yesterday, helping PC to paste a 3-0 victory at Schneider Arena with a slim 16 saves necessary. While Olychuck’s disconcerting stature at the bottom of all major goaltending categories in Hockey East deepened a touch, Lacasse submitted her fourth shutout overall and third in as many intraleague home contests.

Her puckslinging partners, conversely, had to crack a stubborn Catamount code to get to the brittle Olychuck, but ultimately mustered three strikes –two off the stick of the suddenly radiant rookie defender Jennifer Friedman- on a game total of 18 shots. Classmate Ashley Cottrell tagged along on the multi-point club, inserting the game winner and adding her team-best 14th helper on the year.

Although, with the mutual rigidity at each blue line border, the Friars’ connectivity took time to upload. In a rather hurried first period that hardly took a half hour to raze off the game clock, PC mustered a featherweight 6-5 shooting edge as the primal ranges of both attacking zones gained about as little outside admittance as the ongoing Extreme Makeover site at Slavin Center.

The Friars slogged out five of the game’s first six registered stabs in the first thirteen minutes before Vermont pelted Lacasse on four quick tours, including a carry-over checking penalty issued to Friedman with 21 seconds till break.

On the heels of clearing that kill to start the second, Lacasse warding off two shots in the process, Providence landed Channing Ahbe in the Vermont bin for body-checking for their second power play and circumvented the Catamount garrison for a nimble conversion. Amber Yung set up Cottrell for their lone stab of the player-up onslaught, which the freshman centerpiece converted for the icebreaker at 3:46.

Neither party had so much as broken double-digits under the SOG heading until after the halfway mark of the game. But at just that point, on PC’s next marked visit to the zone, Cottrell lassoed the remnants of Brittany Simpson’s whiff and handed things over to Friedman, who scorched home her second collegiate goal and third point in as many ventures with 10:24 gone.

Vermont’s stick rack thawed out afterwards, if only briefly, charging up five of the period’s remaining seven shots even as the Friars persistently broke up their protracted swarms with a fleeting wake-up gush at Olychuk.

The Catamounts would carry a slight, shallow, and altogether trivial 13-12 upper hand in the shooting gallery to the next new sheet. Friedman, however, carried in a still-unfulfilled twig and potted her second goal on three personal stabs 34 seconds into the closing frame, solidifying the 3-0 final.

Vermont’s offensive tanks would give out after merely three far-between retaliatory tries at Lacasse. After an utterly uneventful power play –their fourth on the day- passed with 5:34 to spare, the Friars upped their tone in the killing process. They spent the bulk of what time remained in Olychuck’s vicinity, winning four of the last five face-offs and discharging the last six shot attempts, three of which the keeper played.

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com

Hockey Log

Friedman diversifies, improves stick usage
Report based on Gametracker

Freshman blueliner Jennifer Friedman charged up her first career point in the form of an assist to Laura Veharanta, breaking the ice en route to a 4-2 road knockout of Vermont October 19. That same afternoon, she doubled her young accumulation of penalty minutes from four to eight.

By the conclusion of her first month on the Divine Campus, Friedman had the archetypal readings of a stay-at-home laborer with the one assist through eight games. With it, she had the fairly conventional, understandable readings of a still-acclimating newbie with the 10 PIM.

Fast-forward to the conclusion of her latest encounter with the Catamounts, yesterday’s 3-0 home win. With fifteen additional games to her credit, Friedman boasts a 3-3-6 scoring transcript and has only sprinkled three more misdemeanors to her record –one of those, incidentally, was a checking infraction late in yesterday’s first period.

Leading up to her last three outings, Friedman was inseparably complemented by classmate Christie Jensen, with whom she chiefly shoveled off the remainders of opposing attacks and set up statistically uncredited breakouts. But lately, the two have each partnered with a veteran and are unmistakably feeding off of the more seasoned twigs.

Jensen, who has been paired with sophomore Leigh Riley, finally scraped out her first point in last Tuesday’s 7-3 falter at Dartmouth. Friedman, who has ascended to a starting position with captain Brittany Simpson, coincidentally has a three-game point streak in the works after not having so much as a shot on net in her previous four ventures.

Repeated resilience
Goaltender Genevieve Lacasse has been forked out of her cage early in two of her last four starts, but has shaken off both muddles in the form of subsequent shutouts. She had been unplugged after a three-goal, seven-shot crumble in Part I of a two-game stay at Cornell, giving Danielle Ciarletta the rest of the weekend’s workload, but turned around to blank New Hampshire on a 43-save dolphin show. Yesterday’s less strenuous triumph of Vermont promptly rinsed the vinegar from Tuesday’s career-worst shellacking at Dartmouth.

With her continual backstopping resolve, the Friars –now 12-9-2 overall- have consistently averted consecutive losses since their chin-clipping 0-3 start. Having enhanced their conference record to 7-2-1, they have leapfrogged UConn –which dealt with Mercyhurst both yesterday and Friday- for sole claim to second place in this morning’s standings.

Sticking around up front
Barring any future emergency voids in the defensive corps, two-way connoisseur Erin Normore seems affixed to her full-time, even-strength role as a forward. Naturally, the crafty senior was perched on one the points with understudy Amber Yung on the Friars’ decisive power play conversion. But meanwhile, she won six of her 10 face-offs on the day.

Normore and classmate Katy Beach swapped their spots on the depth chart yesterday, Normore winging Mari Pehkonen on the right side opposite Kate Bacon, Beach centering Jean O’Neill and Abby Gauthier.

Quick Feeds: Ashley Cottrell nailed her second game winning goal on the season, linking her up with linemates Alyse Ruff and Veharanta as the other Friars with multiple clinchers. Ruff, meantime, shared credit with Simpson on Friedman’s third period dagger…Cottrell, Friedman, Ruff, Simpson, and Veharanta all finished with a day’s rating of +2…With the lone assist on Cottrell’s goal, Amber Yung splashed a personal six-game scoring drought…Freshman winger Lauren Covell was reworked into the lineup after she was omitted the last two games, filling in Arianna Rigano’s normal spot with Pam McDevitt and Stephanie Morris on the fourth line…After PC finished killing Vermont’s third power play at 7:44 of the second, the game ran through strictly even-strength play for the next 24 minutes and 42 seconds. Beach’s ultimately harmless interference minor was the lone infraction on either side in the closing frame…The overall shortage of developments -34 aggregate shots, three goals, six minor penalties- amounted to the quickest finish (1 hour, 50 minutes) to a Friars game this season.

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com

Hockey Log: Sunday Edition

Not easy being clean
Hope is best bet in HEA’s clean fanfare campaign

Hockey East commissioner Joe Bertagna, like any responsible sports chieftain, has amended his game plan on the fly and stepped up his attempts to repress ignoble spectator antics in his league’s ten barns.

That’s right. It has not been enough to repeatedly issue pre-game precautions from the PA system with the fair warning that “Profanity, racial or sexist comments, and other intimidating actions...will not be tolerated, and are grounds for ejection from the arena.”

See? One who has taken in a few trapper gloves full of games this season can all but recite that straightforward PSA. Yet Boss Bertagna, in collaboration with the HEA’s ten head coaches, detected the need to take further resorts. They did so this past week by unleashing a campaign poster and proclaiming the intention to paste it for all eyes to see on each member school’s campus.

The poster’s equally clear-cut message: “Give your team a cheer, but remember who else is here.” This needn’t be elaborated any further, but this is plainly an issue that cannot stay away.

Pro hockey has its cyclical examinations and debates over fighting, player salaries, and U.S. television outreach. The collegiate game is all but inherently immune to those issues, so the next best thing is to pole-vault over the glass and critically spotlight the folks who mark the student section as the place to break out the Blutarski within.

It’s as true as it is regrettable: a fair majority of collegians, to a barely contained extent, soothe a certain sweet tooth when they demonstrate a little conscious disobedience. This author will not soon forget the PC men’s home opener this season when the overwhelmingly brimful student section –which, among other things, underscored the meaning of the phrase “standing room only”- held up the opening draw and had to be told over the PA speakers to refrain from leaning/hanging over the glass. Guess that kind of First Night hooliganism is planned and stored up too far in advance to hold back, no?

Take it from the recent history of hockey’s definitive Deltas, i.e. Yost Ice Arena of Michigan and Lynah Rink of Cornell: persuasion and pleading can only work for so long. Most fanatics have a lot of physical, mental, and emotional Rockstar in their systems. Unfortunately, when they spot a band of athletes sporting their school colors challenged by a legion sporting anything else, they are inclined to dispense their energy with the two locker room languages that Gordie Howe famously cited: English and profanity.

More likely than not, the presence of posters will do about as much to neutralize salty partisanship as an NHL salary cap has done to curb the Detroit Red Wings perennial championship contention. So how may a more surefire solution be unearthed -and without getting all Sheila Broflovski about it?

There might be a way to build on the straightforward depiction of a smattering of grade school-aged fans. After all, nearly every royal rooter –be it a student, alumnus/alumna, or local- who passes through a Hockey East turnstile has fostered his/her interest from a young age onward. They thus ought to be reminded of the captivating sense of Romanticism that came with those early excursions to Schneider, the one-time Civic Center, the Garden, etc.

They ought to be enlightened to the fact that a fraternity of fanfare encompasses every existing generation. That’s why half of those trouble-free trivia questions during TV timeouts are posed to students, the other half to mites and squirts.

Student rooters need to have those reminders of their own roots in hand and in sight at all times. They too were once drawn to the pure-as-fresh-ice perception of the game that only a child or a nostalgic Emersonian thinker can withhold. Would it have been the same if the atmosphere was sullied with boisterous, raunchy taunts seeping out of a fraction of the seating bowl?

It might not matter in such an event, for any responsible parent/guardian would reluctantly pull their children’s fragile little minds to safety. Translation: no game experience, period.

Most, if not all, if these “mature” spectators kept themselves sopped up in team-centric activities in high school and still might as collegians. For that reason, Bertagna and Co. ought to upgrade their PSA campaign to underline the unique breed of team responsibility that lies in a Hockey East fan base. For those youngsters and their escorts who either gape in fright, cringe, cover their ears, make an early check-out, or all of the above, it is like being those clean-nosed scholastic players who have to join in on Herbies every time a negligent associate bends a team rule. The innocent ultimately feel more of the consequences than the perpetrator.

Even with that approach, complete abolition of distasteful fanfare is anything but guaranteed. But the best anyone can aim for is to explain the selfless perspective to each and every ticket-bearer.

How about a New England Hockey Week?
Not without a reckonable amount of prodding from the media, but still with a genuine tone of approval, Jack Parker and Jerry York have resurrected the recently deflated proposal to pit their respective programs together in an outdoor tangle, most likely at Fenway Park. But upon watching hockey’s latest outdoor venture at Wrigley Field and hearing some less puckcentric fellow viewers remark “That’s a lot of (maintenance/construction/deconstruction) work for just one game,” this author has a few potentially boosting additives to the BC-BU movement. New England ought to make like Canada, Michigan, and Minnesota –each of whom celebrate an annual “Hockey Day”- and carve out a block of time to specially recognize its vastness in all levels of hockey.

The Olde Towne ballyard –whenever it can take a breather from perpetual renovation- should be frosted for enough time to hold at least three ticketed events, coupled with piles of open skating and youth games: the quintessential college clash (working the women’s programs in there as well), at least one AHL showdown (perhaps the Baby Bs versus the Lowell Devils), then climax the week with a Bruins game.

And, not to stoke still-touchy flames, but if this were pushed off to the depths of February, it could just as easily and more seasonably be conducted at the Foxboro Snowglobe, no problem.

Fashion Retraction
So, the Tim Army Corps has purged the inadvertent PC Lax look-alike attempt, reverting from the silver buckets back to black, but transferring the excess grayness to their upper bodies in a new “third jersey.” On the whole, they look no different than the retro Pittsburgh Penguins attire –save, of course, for the mortifying light blue core. The immediate reception points to a somewhat propitiated fan base, but then again, with two wins to start the calendar year, PC’s posture in the standings has undergone a bit of a chop-chop makeover as well.

The last eight years for Friartown
Each with two games yet to be recorded as of this write-up, here is an overview of how each PC hockey team fared in concomitance with the Bush presidency:

Women: cumulative record of 152-106-33; four league championships; one NCAA tournament bid.
Men: cumulative record of 103-123-32; one league championship; one NCAA tournament bid.

Quick Feeds: Boston University alumnus Chris Drury was voted the HEA’s best all-time defensive forward, as was declared Thursday. The league now awaits poll masses to weigh in on the best “Unsung Hero” now through a week from today…Four season series in the Hockey East women’s league are done with, two of them clean sweeps: PC over Maine and BC over Northeastern. The Eagles docked the gradually receding Huskies, 4-2, Thursday…The Central Scouting Service unleashed its midseason installment of 2009 NHL Draft projections, ranking PC recruit Alex Velischek #112 in a pool of 210 North American skaters. Velischek has spent the 2008-09 campaign playing under his father, ex-Friar Randy, for the New Jersey Colonials. He is accompanied by 13 fellow Hockey East pick-ups plus Warwick native and Michigan Wolverine-in-waiting Mac Bennett…This author’s picks for the out-of-market game of the week: the ever-ascending North Dakota, 8-2 in their last ten after a toe-curling 5-8-1 start, hosts the WCHA’s regal Denver Pioneers.

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com