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Sunday, April 5, 2009

Hockey Log Extra

PC women’s pick-up Jess Cohen will round out an already gold-fingered U19 career with Shattuck-St. Mary’s School today when the Minnesota-based Sabres –national champions in 2005, 2006, and 2007- lock twigs with the incumbent queen Chicago Mission (3:00 p.m. face-off) for the 2009 banner in Rochester, N.Y.

Cohen, who had hauled in a profuse 35 goals and 97 points over 48 appearances in the Sabres’ lengthy tournament tune-up, has since posted a 4-5-9 scoring transcript through five Nationals’ games, complete with four multi-point performances and three special teams’ goals, to place sixth amongst all individual puckslingers in USA Hockey’s Dandy Dozen.

Last night, Cohen bit in to a 2-0 deficit 46 seconds into the second period, effectively igniting a game-shifting five-goal romp en route to a 5-3 semifinal win over the Colorado Selects. She would ultimately claim the initial assist on Amanda Kessel’s eventual decider with 2:58 to spare in the period.

The opposing Mission figure to start up-and-coming Boston College stopper Corrine Boyles in the cage today and also feature Northeastern recruit Casie Fields on their blue line. Boyles officially rates second on the tournament’s goaltending leaderboard with a 4-1-0 record, six goals against, and a .955 save percentage.

Once this year’s edition of the Sabres parts, Cohen will convert to a sworn enemy of teammates Dru Burns and Kristine Horn, respectively recruited by BC and New Hampshire for next autumn.

Overseas, soon-to-be-graduate Mari Pehkonen charged up a 2-1-3 package, coupled with five registered shots and a +2 rating, as part of Team Finland’s 7-0 lashing of Kazakhstan in the round robin opener of the Women’s World Championships. The Suomi Skating Sorority –hosts of this year’s great global gathering- utterly suppressed the numerically challenged Kazakhstanis (14 skaters dressed) through a 67-8 shooting differential and a balanced bombardment featuring 11 different point-getters and six multi-point strikers.

Meanwhile, 2006 alumna Karen Thatcher pitched in two of Team USA’s 74 SOG in a similarly assertive 8-0 steamrolling of Japan. Rising Boston College senior Kelli Stack topped the game’s scoring charts with one firsthand strike (assisted by New Hampshire blueliner Kacey Bellamy) and three helpers.

Hockey Log: Sunday Edition

Gilroy should get the goods
BU co-captain most worthy of Hobey finalists

Matt Gilroy has already bagged the Walter Brown Award –designated solely for New England-based pucksters- has he not?

And now, he is challenged only by fellow wintertime Bostonians Colin Wilson and Brad Thiessen in the Hobey Baker Derby.

“Correction: the Brown Award is specifically for American-born New England players. And aren’t the likes of Thiessen and Wilson Canadian-born?” the wisenheimers must ask once they surmise the case at hand.

The fact is, though, that wisenheimers ought to have little company beyond their own kind in choosing between the trinity of finalists for Hockey’s Heisman. BU’s blue line captain surpasses the worth of his cross-town rival Thiessen in the way of accomplishment and that of his teammate Wilson in many of the less overt –but arguably more valuable- aspects of the game.

Supremely durable and integral to Northeastern’s upsurge as he was all year, Thiessen rates #12 in the national goaltending leaderboard. And he is bound to lose footing leading up to this Friday’s drum roll in Washington on account of the Huskies’ first round falter at the hands of Cornell –which was backstopped by #3-ranked stopper Ben Scrivens.

In the Beanpot final, the Hockey East semifinals, and regional opener alike, the newly potent Huskies proved that they are still not so ideally wholesome and a little more hole-some than what may have met the eye.

Pity on the cornerstone crease custodian, and pity on his now ex-teammates who two days ago learned that Thiessen will forego would-be senior season in favor of an AHL gig in the Pittsburgh Penguins’ organization. In one unforeseen Zamboni lap, the future looks a shade dimmer for the Huntington Hounds.

But back to the present: granted, had their top gun Wilson opted –or, more precisely, been swayed- to lend his muscle-based maneuverability to the Nashville Predators this season, BU might have been one or two rungs less splendid this season. And rookie goaltender Kieran Millan’s chivalric entry en route to filling the crease cavity speaks for itself.

Come what may, Gilroy has beyond question been Professor Parker’s glue guy, in part because he led a collective jump off a sentimental springboard after last year’s unflattering deferment from the NCAA bracket.

The Terriers’ incumbent senior class splashed at least one of the program’s jutting droughts as freshmen in 2006, wresting away its first Hockey East playoff crown since 1997. But their neighboring rivals from Chestnut Hill salvaged the Frozen Four aspect of the “1997” taunts through an assertive 5-0 win in their subsequent regional encounter.

Then there was another dually empty ending in 2007 (HEA semifinal loss to BC, NCAA first-round falter to Michigan State). Back to reality, the reality being futility.

If any foundation had been laid with the aforementioned 2006 banner-raiser, it was good as barren by the time BU spilled the Beanpot as well as its crack at any breed of postseason glamour last season. The holdovers needed to bounce back through a simple refill of constructive patience and emotion.

Upgrading his leadership letter from an “A” to a “C” allowed Gilroy to let his consistently clean nose stand out a touch more. He entered the 2008-09 campaign with a mere 17 minor infractions to his credit. He has since sprinkled on an additional six, including zilch in the last 11 ventures.

Gilroy’s last infraction fell late in the second period of a February 21 visit to Thiessen’s Huskies. He would recompense in the following stanza by inserting BU’s lone goal –shorthanded, no less- in an exhilarating 1-1 draw.

Whilst squandering so little of his ice time and keeping his dependent peers unfettered, Gilroy –one of only seven Terriers to have dressed for all 43 games thus far- has been a special teams’ cornerstone. He currently boasts a season scoring transcript of 5-12-17 on the power play and has discharged a team-leading 49 shots on net during man-up segments, the five strikes amounting to an irreproachable .102 connectivity rate.

Overall, unless Boston strolls along into Saturday’s final frontier without any output from him, Gilroy shall not go pointless for more than two consecutive games in any stretch this season. Not so outstanding compared to a handful of his celestial scarlet brothers –until you recall he is a designated backliner.

With his foremost position back in mind, also note his radiant +21 rating. Not exactly a Cyclopean stat compared to a handful of his teammates, but not brandishing much flaw, either.

You just can’t skate around it. In more aspects than none –seen and unseen alike- Gilroy has anchored the most consistently smooth ride of any NCAA program (team record: 33-6-4) in 2008-09.

Pond madness
Diligent Merrimack beat writer Mike McMahon (aka the “Warrior Rink Rat”) has made interesting use of bracketmaker.com to sculpt a hypothetical 64-team tournament field (molding in five D-III programs to fill space). Some of the most eye-catching fairy-tale matchups and upshots include:

· The Tim Army Corps takes #11 in one of the unnamed regions, and is promptly snipped out by a 3-2 decision to #6 Northern Michigan. Even more vexing for Friartownies, the other three 11-seeds advance to the second round.
· The senior class of fourth-seeded Minnesota addresses the vinegar that closed their freshmen season with an assertive 4-1 knockoff of #13 Holy Cross.
· #2 Minnesota-Duluth swats #15 American International, 23-0, in a near-fatal laugher unknown to widespread record since the Ottawa Silver Seven retained the 1905 Stanley Cup versus the Dawson City Klondikers (23-2 final in Game 2 of that best-of-three series).
· After three consecutive semifinal expulsions via Boston College, North Dakota bumps the Eagles from the Elite Eight, 2-0.
· Most jutting upset: 10th-seeded Bowling Green, 3-1, over #2 Vermont in the second round
· The yet-to-commence Frozen Four pits BU against New Hampshire and Miami against UMass-Lowell, which yet again ousted Northeastern to reach that sparkling stage.
· If you think three HEA ambassadors to the Frozen Four is suspiciously indulgent, Merrimack bumps Minnesota State-Mankato, Wisconsin, and Minnesota-Duluth, before Miami halts their surprise sugar rush in the Elite Eight. Uh, Mike?...

Minnesota misfits no more?
Regardless of the out-of-blue Bemidji State’s ultimate fate this weekend, just wait for the classical bandwagon brass out of western bigwig zealots. The WCHA –which will send no ambassadors to the Frozen Four for the first time in a full decade- had tuned out repeated requests to admit the Beavers to their league until College Hockey America declared its dispersal effective this summer. Bemidji –based some three hours northwest of the Twin Cities- will officially be the last to skate under the CHA heading, but you can bet your blades that won’t stop the followers of Bruce MacLeod from lauding their new cohabitants six months in advance of their actual transfer.

Quick Feeds: Not only did Notre Dame’s startling departure from the tournament last week zap this author’s bid for a perfect bracket right off the initial draw, but it may also have spoiled a radiant opportunity for locals to see Providence Journal columnist Jim Donaldson –a zealous Fighting Irish alum and general anti-rink rat- actually offer a positive puck-based comment…USA Hockey intends to divulge its men’s Olympic coach selection tomorrow morning, though all signs point to Friar legend Ron Wilson getting the call from his old classmate, Brian Burke. Perusing Wilson’s resume certainly helps to fortify the speculation, but you need only hearken back to one moment: November 29, 2008, the day this sport’s previous worst-kept secret was unveiled in Toronto…Fresh New Hampshire expatriate James van Riemsdyk, barely half a week removed from his signing with the Flyers, has with no delay assumed a token of Broad Street celebrity. Currently toiling with the AHL Phantoms –with whom he is helping to bid adieu the celebrated Spectrum- he has autographed five authentic jerseys to be given away at this afternoon’s showdown with the Norfolk Admirals…Barrington resident Kristen Eklund –currently of the Walpole-based Massachusetts Spitfires- has committed to the Quinnipiac women’s program for next season, making her the first Ocean State product to land a Division I home for the 2009-2013 window.

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com