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Saturday, July 18, 2009

On Hockey

Lacasse faces another hard shot
Invited back to Canada camp, PC stopper at worst earns more practice


On the whole, the ultimate prognosis here is quite favorable for all parties concerned in the women’s wing of Schneider Arena.

Late Thursday, when Team Canada condensed its pool of U22 goaltending candidates for the 2009-2010 season from eight to five, PC’s own Genevieve Lacasse was among those left still standing. This means a passport back to Calgary next month for another arduous week consisting of practicing and scrimmaging amongst a split Canadian squad (and a band of Swedish guests), with the home girls vying for a spot in the annual three-game U.S. series and next winter’s MLP Cup.

The other skate drops on her, however, in the quite literal asterisk that sits next to the rising sophomore’s name on the roll call. Officially, Lacasse has been designated as a free agent of sorts, assigned to stand in for the tandems of both the Red and White squads, which means she will see sparse action in practice to stay limber and be promoted on an emergency basis should one of the two stoppers from either squad go down.

Furthermore, both Harvard’s Christina Kessler and Wilfred Laurier’s (CIS) Liz Knox, who occupied each of last season’s U22 roster spots, are in the mix again. So, too, is Mercyhurst’s Hillary Pattenden, whom Lacasse couldn’t quite outduel in a half-full, 50-save, 3-0 loss on campus last November.

With all that in consideration, she is assuming an underdog posture and will likely need a miraculous twist induced with the aid of a rabbit’s foot to play on to any international competition in 2009-2010.

But still, regardless of her fate once the week (August 6-14) is up, she will have garnered another coat of worthwhile seasoning after yet again taking time to serve as a walking, talking Shooter Tutor for Canada’s best young puckslingers. At that rate, she has no cause to lose her touch after a sparkling, sharpening rookie campaign complete with 1670 minutes played, 756 cumulative saves, 13 individual bushels of at least opposing 30 shots, and a hugful of hardware in the end.

The way she withstood the yearlong barrage hereby described, and the way she has extended her offseason occupations like this, Lacasse doesn’t cease to impress. And with each development of concern to her this offseason, it just grows exponentially ironic that Lacasse went out of her way last winter to purge her Team Canada-themed mask in favor of one depicting the Providence skyline and mini-murals of the program’s past.

But it should be gently reiterated that this pool is like Puckworld –the world’s most densely competitive pond. And the Scarborough Save-ior needn’t go far for a cautionary reminder.

Freshly graduated two-way connoisseur Erin Normore, who a few months ago outhustled Lacasse in the unofficial race for Team MVP, had been invited to this exact same festival prior to her junior year, but the internal competition was as far as she went. No U.S. series, no Air Canada/MLP Cup, and no invitations back to the same camp in the subsequent two years. Instead, Normore merely got to return to the Divine Campus and not only play in every intercollegiate game possible, but also, on a gamely basis, put in at least one trademark end-to-end expedition with the puck.

And heck, this year, New Hampshire Wildcats’ scoring beacon Kelly Paton didn’t so much as clear the initial hurdle at May’s conditioning camp. Poor Paton can only look forward to spending the length of her junior year serving as an offensive nucleus for the Cats’ drive for a fifth Hockey East crown.

If Lacasse is indeed one of the three goalies filtered out of the mix before the end of next month, it simply means that the Friars can take comfort in her consistent availability. Not to mention, she will be accompanied to Calgary by a grand total of 26 fellow U.S. collegians, four of them fellow Hockey Easterners, and another 10 of whom she should be staring down in the interleague portion of the coming season.

Then again, there is no need to pronounce the race over before the cue-to-go gun is blown. So, as of right now, Lacasse is officially juggling with an opportunity to match an achievement of one of her celestial predecessors, Jana Bugden.

Amidst her sophomore year in 2003-04, Bugden did claim a roster spot for the Air Canada Cup, where she happened to engage in a showdown with a Swiss national team backstopped by a 13-year-old phenom named Florence Schelling –now Lacasse’s contemporary rival from Northeastern. And after all, she only had to miss two starts with the Friars, who between victories by Amy Thomas and Amy Quinlan swept Maine in her absence.

Naturally, the other benefit would be the chance to briefly complement last year’s clash of a red Maple Leaf helmet and Skating Friar sweater with the combination of a Rhode Island State House helmet and red Maple Leaf jersey. That’s what one might call proud dual citizenship.

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Hockey Log: Sunday Edition

Friar family affairs this coming season

A conspicuous quantity of familial Friar Puck connections –i.e. sisters or daughters of past or current players- are bound to make a stop to Schneider Arena over the course of the 2009-10 Providence College women’s hockey season. The following three cases leap to mind in all but a wrist shot:

October 25, Erica Farrer of Brown- Older brother Ben, a rising junior forward with the Tim Army Corps, is already two-for-two in the men’s version of the Mayor’s Cup, although he did not dress for this year’s 4-3 win at Meehan Auditorium. However, another Farrer will set skates on the Hope Street pond soon enough and good and plenty. And not long after she settles in, she will shuffle across town for her first taste of the Divine City Dance.

Like Ben, Erica made deep skate-marks at her hometown Calgary Edge School, where she is coming off a senior season with a team-best 27 goals, 45 points, and plus-39 rating in 41 games. But now that the two have each opted to make their loop around opposing rinks in Providence, they can all but quickly renew the sidebar spark we had in December 2007 when the Baier brothers –PC’s Eric, then a freshman, and Brown’s Paul, a senior- clashed for the only time in their collegiate careers.

Too bad the PC men will be preoccupied with a two-night excursion to Bowling Green State in Ohio that weekend.

November 27 and 28, Emily Kranz of Wisconsin- Rather than copy the tracks of her older sister, Jennifer (a 2002 alumna), Kranz pounced when her beloved hometown Badgers opened the door to her. Now a rising senior, Kranz made her commitment during her second season at Shattuck-St. Mary’s –where current PC assistant coach Meredith Roth was directing the U16 team- and wrapped up her U19 career in 2006 with a national championship clinching goal at the expense of Boston College recruit Molly Schaus, then of Assabet Valley. (Assabet also happened to feature a defender named Leigh Riley while Shattuck’s roster included a young forward named Jess Cohen, who will join in this autumn).

Previously, as a freshman, Kranz confronted the Friars at the Kohl Center over two nights in January 2007, pitching in an assist en route to a decisive 5-0 triumph in Part II of that series. This time around, she will come bearing two NCAA rings and will likely play a more visible role as some teammates are bound to be preoccupied with Olympic training.

A reminder, too, that Jennifer Kranz is entering her fourth season as an assistant coach at St. Cloud State, which will host the Friars on January 3.

January 17, Kaitlyn Kleinendorst of New Hampshire- Kurt Kleinendorst, a 1983 alumnus complete with a rich resume of 89 goals, 103 helpers and a 1981 ECAC Tournament MVP crown in 138 collegiate engagements, has pretty much fastened himself back into this region as he enters his fourth season as head coach of the AHL’s Lowell Devils. As luck would have it, his third-eldest offspring, freshly graduated from the North American Hockey Academy, has opted to keep hanging about in New England herself.

But as not-so-palatable fate shall have it for all nostalgic Friartownies, Kaitlyn Kleinendorst will skate in her father’s old domain as a part of the Enemy Epitome. But, hey, the New York Rangers just drafted Ray Bourque’s youngest son, did they not?

Prospective American Eagles
Of all the individual institutions to permeate their influence on the freshly released, 41-member, U.S. Women’s Olympic Festival roll call, few are as jutting as Boston College, from which there are five products –goaltender Molly Schaus, defender Maggie Taverna, and forwards Meghan Fardelmann, Kelli Stack, and Allie Thunstrom- raring to report to next month’s tryout camp in Blaine, Minn.

In this bragging department, BC trails only the almighty likes of Wisconsin and Minnesota, who are lending a respective 10 and seven of their alumni, active players, or recruits for a shot at the Qwest Tour. Hardly unexpected. Then again, Minnesota-Duluth, the other constituent of the WCHA’s decade-old national hegemony, is flaunting only two of its alumni in Jessica Koizumi and Jenny Potter.

The Eagles have even surpassed local interleague rival Harvard, who has but three connections to speak of, and their chronic Hockey East nemesis from New Hampshire, which is supplying the freshly graduated Kacey Bellamy and Sam Faber.

PC’s own Karen Thatcher, coupled with distant Northeastern alumna Chanda Gunn round out the rest of the former Hockey Easterners still vying for a Star-Spangled Sweater.

Bennett a Brown finalist
The once-outrageously expansive pool of Brown men’s coaching candidates –reportedly as high as 44 individuals at one point- has condensed to no more than five, with former PC acetylene scorer and assistant skipper Rick Bennett still standing. Do note that Bennett is up against a quartet of career-long sidekick skippers –apart from UMass assistant Red Gendron’s two seasons as the bench boss of the Albany River Rats- all with more protracted coaching resumes. Then again, that is partially attributable to the fact that Bennett spent way more time stringing out a pro playing career, having ventured through an array of minor league teams between graduation in 1990 and coming back to campus in 2000 to begin his five years of service under Paul Pooley.

California roller girl
Inexplicably, the Federation Internationale de Roller Sports is fairly and frustratingly secretive as to the finer statistical points of its Inline Hockey World Championships. But we know this much, thanks to the all-California hockey site, calirubber.com: rising PC sophomore Laura Veharanta, a greater Los Angeles resident in the offseason, capped Independence Day last weekend with the deciding goal for the U.S. women’s 3-1 gold medal triumph over the Czech Republic. The Amerks thus rounded out a pristine 6-0 run through the Varese, Italy-based tournament, while Veharanta’s other country, Finland, claimed seventh place.

Quick feeds: The Connecticut women’s recently confirmed recruiting class includes an intrastate hero in Claire Frances, a Vermont expatriate goaltender who brought Loomis Chaffee within tasting distance of a New England Prep championship this past winter…Curiously, though most likely erroneously, Chicago Blackhawks online beat writer Jim Neveau made this point about ex-Friar Joe Lavin while watching him at Chicago’s prospects camp: “Lavin racked up 23 points in 33 games last season with Omaha, and is committed to playing at Providence College in the fall.” To add insult to injury, Neveau continued, “a murmur went up every time he was near the puck. He is an exciting player and his ceiling seems pretty high.” Cue the malicious-teasing conspiracy theorists amongst PC’s laptop loiterers, who upon reading this are sure to start crooning “Joey, I hardly knew ye”…Last weekend, for whatever reason, Jim “Hockey in June? Spare me” Donaldson utilized his Providence Journal column space to lament the fact that Warwick native Mac Bennett, bound for Red Berenson’s capstone project in Michigan, spent the height of his honing days out of state. Yes, Jimmy D does have that less-than-covert tendency to slight something hockey-related every chance he gets, but he makes something of a point here. When was the last time this state had something along the lines of a sound Boys U18 or Girls U19 squad all to itself? Whither art thou, Providence Lady Reds?

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com