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

Friday, March 13, 2009

Hockey Log

PC men’s final player reports

Eric Baier, defense- Baier got a grip on his previously inconsistent health to play the full length of the second half, pitching in five points in the process. He made a last-minute case to stay on call for special teams when he scored his only goal on a power play versus Boston University last weekend.

Andy Balysky, forward- One of umpteen PC youngsters still with gobs of room for growth, to say the least. More than anything, Balysky could stand to upgrade his shooting frequency, having discharged only 27 SOG (two for goals) in 23 total outings.

Alex Beaudry, goal- After a surprisingly stimulating first month on campus (4-2-2 record, .913 save percentage), the midseason acquisition from Tier II juniors plummeted along with the rest of his new crew. With any luck, he’ll cultivate more stability from a fresher, fuller sheet as a sophomore next year.

Matt Bergland, forward- Most naturally the Friars’ lone specimen of stability from start to finish. Bergland was one of only four players to appear in all 34 games, facilely topped the charts with 10-17-27 scoring totals and 102 registered shots, and never went scoreless for any longer than three games at a time. He should have no trouble getting in on the Hockey East All-Rookie team.

David Brown, defense- Brown, who paired up with fellow rookie Danny New most of the way, closed up shop with a little more to build on than most of his peers: five points, a comparatively decent minus-5 rating, and regular shifts on both ends of the special teams’ spectrum.

David Cavanagh, defense- Compelled to step up following the self-deletions of Bryce Aneloski and Joe Lavin, Cavanagh ultimately linked up with Baier on the second D-unit and should be thirsting profusely to finally play the full length of the schedule as a senior next season.

John Cavanagh, forward- The junior captain grabbed himself a career high 19 points (10 goals, nine assists), finished second behind Nick Mazzolini with a .164 shooting success rate, and took a mere two minor penalties whilst playing the full length of the 34-game schedule. MVP, anybody?

Greg Collins, forward- Seen merely twice (in the Merrimack series Feb. 21-22) on this side of the holiday respite, a most disconcerting follow-up on more-than-decent freshman and sophomore seasons.

Chris Eppich, forward- After two years of utter scoring futility, Eppich found the net four times over his junior season and left off still steadily restoring a permanent spot in the active lineup (he went from 34 appearances in 2006-07, to 14 last year, to 20 this season –including 13 of the last 18 chances).

Ben Farrer, forward- Farrer’s frequency faded substantially in the second half as he appeared in but six games after having played 12 in the first half. To his credit, though, he charged up two helpers in those sparse second-half ventures.

Mark Fayne, defense- A rising senior who brandished an “A” over this season, Fayne pitched in a welcome four point-based goals and five helpers, but more to his positional matters chalked up the blue lines worst rate of a minus-16. Logically, the most sizeable body on a team ought not to be so inversely proportional with defense proficiency.

Matt Germain, forward- Germain surpassed his freshman scoring totals of 1-9-10 with a 4-10-14 transcript on the year and might have done more with a more stable supporting cast. Additionally, amongst all of the regulars on the game night depth chart, he tied Nick Mazzolini for the team’s best face-off winning percentage at .559.

Paul Golden, forward- Got a break at the dusk of the schedule, dressing for each of the last three games after having sat out the length of his freshman year and playing a mere two games in October.

Jordan Kremyr, forward- Unable to established much in terms of connectivity (one goal on 23 shots in 17 outings), Kremyr was unknowingly finished after the first weekend of February.

Kyle Laughlin, forward- If any individual could personify the Friars’ agonizing 2008-09 meltdown, it was the two-year captain who miraculously retained his “C” despite the effects of his continued aridness. Unable to snap out of a numb twig that carried over from the better part of his junior campaign, Laughlin appeared in a mere five games over the second half of the season, upping his career accumulation of two games missed coming into the season to 17 at the conclusion of his melancholy run.

Kyle MacKinnon, forward- A somewhat unsung contributor when sized up with his peers, MacKinnon packed in a final 6-7-13 scoring log in spurts, charging up three multi-point games in the second half. Perhaps more admirably, though, he took but one minor penalty in that span for a season total of eight PIM in 33 appearances.

Rob Maloney, forward- Playing in all but four games on the schedule, Maloney left a good impression in that he hardly saturated his freshman transcript with penalty minutes (four total). However, he hardly saturated the scoresheet with aromatic ink as well, totaling a single goal and lone assist.

Austin Mayer, forward- The steadily growing sophomore is all but an established regular on the game time line chart now, having formed a sturdy starting line with Kyle MacKinnon and Pierce Norton near the end, although he mustered only a sparse three points after charging up a savory 1-2-3 performance at UMass on January 16.

Chris Mannix, goal- For what it’s worth, the senior sat out the majority of the second half before relieving Beaudry in the home finale, charging up 15 minutes of play and one save on two shots faced.

Nick Mazzolini, forward- The towering senior pivot all but anchored the temporarily uplifting January –climaxing with a 2-1-3 performance on January 31 versus Merrimack in PC’s final win of the season. And even after that, Mazzolini made the most of his remaining time here, factoring in to seven of the team’s final 16 goals in February and March.

John Mori, forward- Mori returned after a three-month hiatus to play the remaining four weeks of his career, scraping out one assist along the way.

Danny New, defense- The rookie backliner hinted all-around improvement in the form of three points and zero penalty minutes in his latter 10 appearances of the season.

Pierce Norton, forward- All things considered, Norton gratifyingly retained his scoring touch, especially on the power play. He pitched in 12 points over the second half for a season total of 21 and indubitably helped to foster young Bergland’s proficiency when playing a man up. Likewise, the soon-to-be-graduate hopes to have left a productive fingerprint on recent linemates Mayer and MacKinnon.

Ian O’Connor, forward- The third-most frequent puckslinger on the team (behind Bergland and Norton) with 72 shots on net, O’Connor went through a personal five-game scoring drought amidst an ongoing tempest of line changes, but ultimately perked back up to finish with a 6-10-16 transcript.

Ryan Simpson, goal- Accepting his boundless allotment of health mulligans, Simpson bumped colleagues Justin Gates and Mannix into the upper bowl to back up Beaudry for three weeks, putting in one 16-minute relief appearance versus New Hampshire on February 14. Most extraordinarily, though, he had enough time to pick up the Friars’ only positive plus/minus rate of the season. Perhaps at least one more episode of the “Will He or Won’t He?” nighttime soap opera is pending next autumn.

Matt Taormina, defense- Another individual who –given the ghastly big picture- didn’t surface so shabbily in the end. But even his trademark productivity from the point sputtered considerably in the stretch drive with merely two points in February and a clean drought over the final three weekends.

Shawn Tingley, forward- One additional appearance beyond the Mayor’s Cup (January 24 at Northeastern) was hardly enough for the mature, yet injury-plagued freshman to translate his promising EJHL resume. A reasonable standard for next season will be making sure he does not turn out to be the Simpson of strikers.

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Hockey Log

PC women’s final player reports

Kate Bacon, forward- A lesser recognized member of the depth chart’s top six, Bacon insidiously beefed up her scoring resume, finishing with an 8-4-12 transcript and three firsthand strikes against almighty New Hampshire and second only to classmate Laura Veharanta with 111 shots on net.

Katy Beach, forward- Immediately after Beach nabbed her 16th point on the year for a career high at the end of January, enticing hints of a booming exit were cruelly curtailed. She would whiff on her next 18 registered shots and was held utterly scoreless in her final month as a Friar.

Danielle Ciarletta, goal- Though confined to the bench by Genevieve Lacasse’s season-long hot streak, Ciarletta had to have done something right if she put in nine appearances for a career total of 56, enough to surpass Amy Quinlan for fourth all-time in the Friars’ goalie guild. And she only needed three years to do that.

Ashley Cottrell, forward- The most frequent first-line centerpiece for the majority of the schedule, Cottrell has demonstrated a growing comfort with every responsibility that comes with that. Her playmaking propensity hardly fizzled in the second half (she finished the year with 16 assists, second best on the team), she stamped an altogether assuring +9 rate on the year, and her winning percentage at the face-off dot exponentially improved on a nearly nightly basis.

Lauren Covell, forward- The rising sophomore is still evolving after a scoreless, 24-game freshman campaign.

Jackie Duncan, forward- Duncan will surely be itching for a smoother personal road next season after a handful of injuries cut her back to merely 22 games played.

Jennifer Friedman, defense- The tenacious, towering newbie fed well off of captain Brittany Simpson on the No. 1 D-Unit for the duration of the second half. In hindsight, her curious January scoring spurt (six points in seven games) may have been a little fluky, but her proficiency in the depths of the Friars’ zone is hardly in question.

Abby Gauthier, forward- Her first Friar campaign as a whole did not steadily balance with the hype, but the ex-St. Mary’s of Lynn scoring beacon chipped in a worthwhile six points –including two goals versus UNH in the stretch drive- to up her transcript to 3-7-10.

Christie Jensen, defense- Her season briefly disrupted by a head injury sustained versus Connecticut on January 31, the rookie blueliner recovered quicker than one would have expected and proceeded to finish with a +5 rating in 32 games played.

Genevieve Lacasse, goal- After two tattered, terminated starts at Cornell and Dartmouth in early January, Lacasse swiftly restored her rigidity in the cage en route to the league’s rookie and goaltending crowns. The natural laws of the game combined with her near-Sara-Decosta-like data (.933 save percentage, 1.94 GAA, six shutouts) point to her as the nucleus of a long-yearned-after PC resurgence.

Colleen Martin, defense- The final plus/minus leader among all PC skaters (+10) also retained an admirably clean nose with merely 14 penalty minutes in 33 ventures. Going on her senior year, Martin figures to be the prime candidate for next year’s captaincy.

Pam McDevitt, forward- Pitted amongst up to four other candidates for the final three game night forward positions, McDevitt ultimately earned the right to suit up in each of the last 12 outings after missing a sparse three of the first 24.

Steph Morris, forward- Like McDevitt –her eventually established linemate- the senior centerpiece had nailed her nightly roster spot by early January and cultivated a game clincher versus Connecticut on January 31.

Erin Normore, fwd/def- Permanently placed up front upon Jensen’s return, Normore sealed her celestial career with a genuine, productive fervor, posting 4-4-8 totals in the final 10 games. Her overall transcript boasted a career high nine goals and 26 points, coupled with a .122 shooting efficiency rate. She tied top gun Laura Veharanta with 15 power play points, thus factoring into nearly half of the team’s 31 total conversions.

Jean O’Neill, forward- Having restored her health, O’Neill linked up with Beach and Gauthier on a stable grind line. Although she still has yet to replenish her former productivity rate, which will indubitably be her top priority as a junior next fall.

Mari Pehkonen, forward- Not unlike Normore, Pehkonen’s passion accelerated in proportion to her collegiate sand timer. She unleashed 35 shots on net in her last eight games for a season total of 106 in 30 games and enhanced her scoring log from 4-3-7 at the half to 11-6-17 at the curtain.

Arianna Rigano, forward- Still acclimating to the upgrade in tempo from Division-III, Rigano saw action in 26 games, pitched in a sparse four points, and was one of the odd women out when the time came to cement the active forward lines on the cusp of the playoffs. Look for her to brandish an extra coat of self-assurance, hunger, and maturity as a senior next season.

Leigh Riley, defense- Finally a constant in the lineup after a year-and-a-half’s worth of waiting, Riley made her case to stick around with a trusty +6 rating on the season, sprinkled three assists over the last eight games, and went penalty-free in the last seven.

Alyse Ruff, forward- Once known strictly for a bloodhound’s nose for the corners and a knack for polishing off scoring plays, Ruff has rapidly broadened her horizons in recent months. She perfectly doubled her point totals (10) from the holiday break to 20 –with eight of those in the form of assists- and is also a newly established penalty killer with an assertive way of clearing the zone.

Brittany Simpson, defense- Of all the constants in PC’s lineup, their captain was one of the least penalized, ultimately visiting the box a mere five times in all 36 games. Additionally, Simpson charged up a career-best 12 assists on the year, eight of them on the power play. And if only not for one abysmal Senior Night falter versus Boston College –wherein she endured a minus-4 rating- she would have easily finished in the black under that heading.

Jen Smith, goal- Smith saw all of six minutes and 59 seconds worth of relief duty in a 7-3 slip at Dartmouth on January 13, facing zilch in the way of shots on net. With Ciarletta’s graduation, she should not expect such an undemanding workload next season. She figures to put in at least six or seven lengthier appearances behind the incredibly stable –though still human- Lacasse.

Laura Veharanta, forward- The radiant rookie’s stats from the first four months may have gone to her head in the stretch drive, amounting to a six game point drought in the thick of February. But assuming she learns from that, Veharanta (team-best 16 goals, 31 points, and 140 shots on goal) can only evolve into a stronger scoring asset for the next three seasons.

Amber Yung, defense- Her Normore-like behavior beyond the opposing circle tops has all but dissolved. Instead, Yung devoted her sophomore campaign to strict defensive duties and was a standout shot-blocker in the climax of the playoff run.

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

On Hockey

Trouble still lies in tone-setting
PC women can ail less with better cushioning


It clearly didn’t surface on their final transcript or their final faces in the aftermath of Saturday’s Hockey East semifinal loss, but the Friars flickered with sincere makings of an improved program in 2008-09. The fundamental covers of this run mirrored those of the previous three shortcomings, but at least some of the pages were genuinely different.

That being said, here is why their refurbishment was not rewarded with, at a bare minimum, a dramatic spike in win percentage and a more conspicuous presence in the national leaderboard: they spent the thick of the season playing catch-up, much the same way they did in their season-ending 3-1 falter to New Hampshire after surrendering an initial 2-0 deficit in the first period.

Delete their iffy 2-5-0 start to the season from their final log of 17-16-3 for a moment. Their overall win percentage instantly leaps from to .514 to .569.

That on its own probably would not have fortified a fail-safe at-large mattress for them. But consider the overall competitiveness of their October slate: no losses by more than two goals and all five by a single sliver if you discount empty netters.

Size that up with the similarly superficial slow starts of every season in recent memory and it is made plain that head coach Bob Deraney made the right tweak by hustling his pupils straight to tests only four nights after the annual Canadian exhibition quiz. There were no ties against the plebeian Maine Black Bears, unspeakable blowouts via St. Lawrence, or shutouts dealt by Connecticut.

Still, the Friars had a lavish, four-game homestand to kickstart this season –a written invitation to get off to a booming start. And if they had had the immediate means of nailing that extra bounce needed to bump Ohio State and St. Lawrence those first three nights, it would have propped up their poll viability and entitled them to long-lasting confidence.

In a matter of that nature, one thing can lead to another. Perhaps then, they would have averted those 2-1 OT road falters at Yale (December 30) or UConn (February 1). Perhaps they would have won their season series with the burgeoning Northeastern program. Perhaps they would, contrary to the actual upshot, have skated with their noses tilted upward and their skates scarcely touching the ice en route to a win over the Wildcats on February 13, instead of an embittering 3-2 drop that prompted Deraney to snort “We don’t have the right to be confident.”

No question, they would have had that right if their record consistently reflected their ingredients. Hand-in-hand with that, they just might be spending this week fostering for a regional voyage rather than slogging through a few final cool-down skates and/or parting ways for an unwanted spring break.

How do we know that? As hinted above, defense and goaltending was this team’s most stable position from the very first face-off, authorizing a slim 77 opposing goals in 36 total outings (a nightly median of 2.14). And on only five occasions did they admit four or more “legitimate” goals –thrice against ranked adversaries (UNH, Boston College, Dartmouth) who are now bound for the Elite Eight.

But that, right there, is still another jutting problem. The Friars were an agonizing 2-9-2 versus Top 10 teams –a minor dip even from their 3-7-1 showing in 2007-08. Apart from 5-0 and 5-1 lashings of UNH and UConn, respectively, in January, they were 0-9-2 in that scenario, never tuning their opponent’s mesh more than three times per night.

Perhaps they would have with just a little less of that empty calorie confidence and more pregame seasoning. Recall the conclusion of the Ohio State sweep, when Deraney noted how the contesting parties had whet their respective blades the preceding weekend.

“They played a college team (Wilfrid Laurier),” he noted at the time. “We played a midget team (the Brampton Junior Thunder), so we took a while to get acclimated to what the pace is really like.”

It would be anything but a shock if Deraney is currently hearkening back to that very statement himself and, if he can help it, will make a point of enlisting a Canadian university to instill next year’s requisite “growing pains” to the Friars. Better to learn hardcore, bittersweet lessons when the final score counts for less, is it not?

And look at the subsequent paths PC and OSU proceeded to draw: the Friars finished fourth in their league and within reasonable tasting distance of an automatic bid. The Buckeyes spilled gallons of promise, rolling up a final record of 8-25-3 and were hastily exiled by Wisconsin (collective two-game score of 11-1) in the first round of the WCHA playoffs.

Neither club was anywhere close to emitting its true colors that first weekend of October. The Friars’ gratifying youth movement had yet to mature.

Ultimately, though, this year’s freshman class accounted for 41.8% of the team’s 86 goals, 38.7% of their 217 points, 80.7% of their 937 saves, and 15 of their 17 wins. The less populous sophomore stock pitched in another 15 of those goals and 34 of those points, a roughly duplicate follow-up on their own rookie reign.

By all those accounts, a simple upgrade in preseason competition really would have made ripples worth of difference. PC would have been able to boast a 1-0-0 record for the first time in this collegiate generation and their first 2-0-0 start since they battled under the ECAC heading.

Once he was removed from that half-full first month, Deraney consistently voiced a mission statement to “peak” in the climax of the season. Hey, it wasn’t as if he could reach back in time and correct those nicks to the neck, so why worry?

But as he had also promised as early as the spring of 2007, when the soon-to-be-juniors submitted their NLIs, he is accumulating the means of a team that has no cause not to be formidable from start to finish. Proficient puckslingers and playmakers Laura Veharanta, Ashley Cottrell, Alyse Ruff, Kate Bacon, and Jean O’Neill, backliners Amber Yung, Leigh Riley, Jennifer Friedman, and Christie Jensen, and newly bestowed ITECH Goaltending Champion Genevieve Lacasse are all raring to come back that much more mature. Some might even qualify to wear an “A” over their heart (the “C” is too much of a stretch with four rising seniors in the equation) the next time they strap on formal game time attire.

There were nights in this year’s stretch drive and playoffs where the Friars learned the value of setting the pace and claiming the momentum early. Sometimes they tutored the opposition on that very topic (e.g. 3-0 quarterfinal win over Connecticut). But most recently, they were on the schooled side at the hands of their northern nemesis.

It’s a concept straightforward enough for individual games. And it can be equally applicable to a full season. That ought to be their wager for 2009-10.

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com

Monday, March 9, 2009

New Hampshire 2, Boston College 1

Cats make it a fab four
Report based on Live Stats

Durham, N.H.- Katie King, the Olympic medal-laden second-year head coach at Boston College who hustled feverishly to spray plenty of ice chips over the program’s jagged memories between the summer of 2007 and the spring of 2008, let loose a headspun postgame statement following the Eagles’ 2-1 Hockey East championship falter.

“If we had twenty more minutes,” she said, her voice tuned with a mystery concoction of suspected bitterness, solace, and empty hypothetical marvel.

“Twenty more minutes,” she emphatically reiterated.

They just might have had it. But first, they would have needed a few more inches of net to hit and to have stolen a sliver of fortune from New Hampshire’s rookie stopper, Lindsay Minton, who upped her personal record to 10-0-0 in her first elimination swing as a collegian.

Kelli Stack, the newly anointed Cammi Granato Award winner who had been foiled on all of her six preceding shot attempts, watched her seventh bid fizzle wide into oblivion on the cusp of the final buzzer. The remnants ultimately turned up in the grip of linemate Allie Thunstrom, who like Marian Hossa in the dusking seconds of last year’s Stanley Cup Final heaved one more registered stab –also her sixth of the day- at Minton (20 saves).

But in perfect accordance with the play that dramatically nailed Detroit’s fourth league title in recent memory, Minton coolly stuffed this one up too and waited out the remaining nanoseconds, thereby granting the Wildcats their fourth WHEA crown in as many years before an elated audience of 1,201 at the Whittemore Center.

Minton was 1-0-0, coupled with two no-decisions, while her sophomore supplement Kayley Herman was 8-5-5 when the December deceleration kicked in. She has since laid claim to credit for nine of the Wildcats’ last 15 wins, which have fallen in one unblemished string.

“She probably would like to have that goal back that they got (from Meghan Fardelmann at 13:22 of the third),” said Cats’ coach Brian McCloskey. “But she shut the door several times when they were right on the doorstep, banging away

“For a freshman, to be thrown into the fire today –and in the second half of the season, we had decided to give her a shot- I think she’s undefeated, so it’s a credit to her. She had to make some key saves at times.”

Not so much in the initial stanza, though. UNH, still void of scorching scorer Jenn Wakefield’s services (she was termed “sixty percent” in health by McCloskey, but ought to be ready to return this weekend), reran its scrappy winning formula from Saturday’s 3-1 arrest of the Friars. They sculpted a gaping lead on the shot clock (10-2) and slipped two pucks behind goaltender Molly Schaus (21 saves) in the latter half of the period.

BC was trailing, 5-0, in the shooting gallery by the time Schaus first defaulted at the 10:40 mark, letting senior blueliner Kacey Bellamy –the eventual tournament MVP- lash home the icebreaker. Moments later, Stack and Thunstrom had their first hacks at Minton in immediate succession, but their bid for a draining cyclone in the Wildcat zone was effectively zapped by youthful linemate Mary Restuccia’s cross-checking minor at 12:22.

Fardelmann would be flagged for the same offense but 57 seconds later, amounting to a 5-on-3 segment of 1:03 tops and voicing a written invitation for UNH to vitally augment their lead, which they did at 14:00 via Micaela Long.

“I think we started off a little slow and that’s what that team likes,” conceded King. “They like you to start off slow because they want to capitalize at the beginning of the game and that’s what they’re good at.”

The Eagles nonetheless thawed out in the second, during which they commanded the shot clock, 11-7, and drew their lone two power plays on the day. All they would get on that front, though, were three foiled bids at Minton within the fourth and fifth minutes.

Minton’s sweatiest moments, though, fell within the final three minutes till intermission. She would freeze the clock at 17:25 upon stuffing up three unanswered shots –one from each of BC’s radiant first-liners- and two more from Stack within the final minute.

And she kept her balance through the duration of a carry-over flurry to commence the third. The Eagles notched six of the period’s first seven shots in a matter of eight minutes, yet couldn’t alter the 2-0 reading on the board.

But after they did –Fardelmann depositing the goods on a fleeting, one-shot gush with only 6:38 to spare- the Wildcats’ collective skating fortress perked up, blocking four of BC’s next six shots while guiding the other two wide.

And before long, Minton could step up as needed to stuff up the last-ditch six-pack attack.

“You knew that the next goal was going to be critical,” said McCloskey. “Fortunately, for us, it came late in the game.”

And the Granite State Goddesses exult once more.

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com

Hockey Log

Defensive dance party
Tourney scoreboard emboldens pool-wide parity


Durham, N.H.- If nothing else, the Providence College Friars have this trivial triumph all to themselves from this year’s Hockey East playoffs: they won the most lopsided of the five tournament games, which was also the lone shutout.

Most literally beyond their 3-0 preliminary knockoff of Connecticut at Schneider Arena last Saturday, the remainder of the tournament saw nobody scamper off with a three-plus goal differential, nor did anybody score anything beyond the 1-to-3 goal range in an individual twig-lock.

Quick recap: Boston University bumps Northeastern, 2-1, in the latter quarterfinal. The Friars are docked, 3-1, at the hands of tournament host New Hampshire in Saturday’s first semifinal. Boston College subsequently fetters BU, 3-2, in an enticing appetizer to the possibility of a storied women’s Green Line Rivalry.

And yesterday, UNH again lunged out to a snappy 2-0 edge, but had to subsist entirely on Lindsay Minton’s bold backstopping and gritty defensive puck graters to ultimately ward off the Eagles, 2-1, for the title.

In five of the six preceding seasons –under the old four-team, three-game format- there was at least one case of a final three-goal gap or greater and usually more than one shutout to go around.

Maroon and Gold melee ahead
As head coach Katie King comfortably expected even in the aftermath of yesterday’s defeat, BC (22-8-5) retained its NCAA viability. In last night’s evening hours, the breakneck regional schedule was discharged for public viewing, with the #7 Eagles assigned to visit #2 Minnesota at Minneapolis’ Ridder Arena this Saturday (5:00 p.m. EST face-off).

By implicit virtue of sealing their conference crown and a crack at geographic checks and balances, the Wildcats have hosting rights in a 4-5 tangle with Minnesota-Duluth here at the Whittemore Center (1:00 p.m. face-off Saturday). Though at least one stride ahead of UNH in the polls for the duration of the season, the defending national champion Bulldogs sat out the WCHA title tilt when they lost Saturday’s semifinal to Wisconsin, 3-1.

The regal Badgers –despite bowing to the Gophers yesterday- shall host #8 Dartmouth while the 3-versus-6 card has St. Lawrence venturing to the College Hockey America champion Mercyhurst.

Camera comrades
Victorious New Hampshire skipper Brian McCloskey gave partial credit to the presence of NESN for slowing the pace of the game, thus salvaging a little energy in his limited capacity tanks.

“TV probably helped us,” he said. “I’ve never been a fan for the last several years because we’ve had a lot of depth, but today I was very pleased that we had timeouts three or four timeouts a period.”

First and final act
The Eagles and Wildcats conducted the season’s first and last twig-locks between two fellow Hockey Easterners this season –with the potential to cross paths yet again at Boston’s Agganis Arena in another 11 or 13 days. Their regular season opener here on October 8 culminated in the league’s first meaningful shutout (a 1-0 UNH triumph) and they ultimately ran away with the two bye seeds for postseason play –a privileged they indulged in to the fullest possible extent towards yesterday’s nail-gnawing get-together.

“I really think Katie King’s team will do something (next weekend),” said McCloskey. “They’ll probably have to travel for the NCAAs, but that’s a very good hockey team.

“We’re very similar teams, I would say. I’m not surprised they had an outstanding record.”

Sonny spots
Now merely two years removed from finishing her career as an acetylene stick carrier for the Friars, Sonny Watrous took her second shift as a NESN field reporter for yesterday’s telecast (she had previously been up on a virtual call-up from Cox for last year’s men’s championship).

Quick Feeds: For the seventh time in as many possibilities, every All-Tournament slot went exclusively to title game participants…The Wildcats were outclassed at the face-off dot for the second straight day, wresting only 21 out of 51 draws from the Eagles. The preceding day, the Friars had won 33 of 59 draws, making them the majority ruler in that category for the third time in four encounters with New Hampshire this season… Dartmouth, rated #9 in both major national polls this week, nabbed an automatic bid to the NCAA regionals through their 6-1 ECAC championship win over RPI yesterday. Being the lone program beneath the eighth slot to claim a conference title, the Big Green effectively dislodged conference cohabitant Harvard from at-large consideration…Other fast burst bubbles across the nation: Colgate (ECAC), Minnesota State-Mankato (WCHA), Princeton (ECAC), and Wayne State (CHA).

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com

Sunday, March 8, 2009

New Hampshire 3, Women's Hockey 1

PC pierced early, fails to compensate
Report based on Live Stats

Durham, N.H.- Yet again, it’s springtime for Brian McCloskey and New Hampshire, winter for Providence College and Bob Deraney. Mood-wise, that is.

Or, more technically speaking, it’s vice versa. After all, the Wildcats –victors in a 3-1 decision yesterday at the Whittemore Center- live to exercise their Hockey East tournament hosting rights in today’s title tilt with Boston College, who will likely proceed to join them next weekend for an extension of ice in the NCAA’s Elite Eight.

Meanwhile, the Friars –who had but one honorable mention vote in this week’s USA Today leaderboard to subsist on- are now best served whetting their active appetites for golf clubs, rollerblades, and wiffle balls. Altogether malodorous, vinegary flowers have already sprouted through their ice.

But regardless of seasonal vantage points, the same tantalizing falter has simply recycled itself once more for Providence, shortcomers in a genuinely gung ho, do-or-die bout with their time-honored rivals at the close of each of their last three seasons.

Yet again, the moment of truth of this 2008-09 campaign mirrored the course of the preceding 34-game ride –and that went for both contesting parties. Even when it looked like the hockey gods were going to enact a hardcore empirical collapse on the dynastic Wildcats the same way they have the Friars post-2005, McCloskey’s underenrolled capstone class defied everything.

Merely hours removed from learning that their top gun Jenn Wakefield would be sitting out with an unspecified injury, leaving them with the depth chart of perfect NHL Golden Era size (three forward lines, two D-units), New Hampshire went on a rackety first period sugar rush. In the midst of running up a 12-3 edge in the shooting gallery, they stashed away two late goals, ultimately spelling the difference.

“Probably one of our strongest twenty minutes of the year,” said senior defender Kacey Bellamy, who by day’s end had tied junior first-line center Kelly Paton with a whopping six shots at Friar goaltender Genevieve Lacasse (25 saves).

The gradually mollified Lacasse held up with no explicit damage until her teammates’ discipline defaulted at the 14:23 mark –Ashley Cottrell going off for interference. Right off the subsequent draw, seasoned Providence persecutors Paton and Courtney Birchard collaborated to set up the point patroller Bellamy, who drilled home her third player-up conversion of the season at 14:31.

While the getting was still good, sophomore forward Julie Allen polished off linemate Angela Taylor’s rebound at 15:54, prompting Deraney to lavish his timeout far earlier than he would have naturally preferred.

“That didn’t make any difference to us,” he said concerning his squad’s all but iniquitous numerical advantage, one that did nothing to bolster their cause on umpteen occasions this season anyway. “Watching them compete the way they competed and how intelligently they played, we knew it was going to be a small margin of error.

“Hey, they worked hard, they got the breaks at the beginning of the game and in the end you can’t give up untimely goals.”

And so, although McCloskey admitted the scoring differential was still too close for comfort, his pupils indulged in their unique home ice auspices for the remaining two periods. Save for Abby Gauthier’s incision at 11:32, home stopper Kayley Herman (21 saves) halted the whole of a 12-shot counterattack in the middle frame and was kept virtually unoccupied over her last three penalty kills.

The Friars –who had been stuffed up on first period two opportunities- mustered but one registered stab on their last full-length power play before the halfway mark of the second. They saw two more 5-on-4 segments cut off prematurely with an infraction of their own.

“In this building, against this team, no matter how many players they have, it’s a pretty big feat to try to overcome –to say enough about a terrific performance by UNH today,” said Deraney.

Still that one vital stride ahead to start the closing frame, the Wildcats drearily held out on the Friars’ strike force for the first ten minutes –ultimately confining them to a stanza’s worth of seven shots- then renewed their two-goal edge courtesy Micaela Long with a precious 6:31 to spare in regulation.

PC’s unfavorable 40-minute game of catch-up had been lost.

“We started off a little afraid,” said senior forward Erin Normore, who nabbed her 91st and final career point through a helper on Gauthier’s goal. “But I thought as the game went on we picked it up a lot and the tempo picked up.

“We knew that they had a short bench, so we figured if we outskated them it would create more opportunities for us, so we picked it up near the end. But, unfortunately, we fell short.”

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com