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Sunday, July 26, 2009

Hockey Log: Sunday Edition

All-Deraney Decade teams

Granted, as far as the public eye could tell, there was no popping of 10-year-old champagne corks in the Schneider Arena office canopy as women’s hockey coach Bob Deraney officially entered his second full decade on the job. It seems the only liquid flowing on this occasion has been a few electro-based splashes of ink.

But there’s really nothing wrong with that. When it also occurs to one’s mind that the official calendar day is in its waning months, there is nearly no better time to begin entertaining thoughts as to the best Friars of the 2000s. And so, the Free Press hereby offers its picks for the program’s First and Second All-Decade Team, the first such compilation to include any Deraney recruits:

First Team
Rush Zimmerman, F, class of 2005- Besides anchoring her class’s clean sweep through four conference championships, Zimmerman did much to personify PC’s rise into its modern Golden Age of Scoring, which would last from about 2002-03 through 2006-07. As a rookie, she attained a mere 20 points while top gun Jenn Butsch had 31. But by the following year, Zimmerman was the top point-getter among Friar forwards with 40 and would only escalate her productivity rate as she continued. She charged up a 17-26-43 log, despite missing four games, her junior year, then climaxed with 26 goals and 56 points as a senior. Most strikingly, though, was the fact that Zimmerman was thrice the Friars penalty minute leader, yet made time to utterly dismantle the opposition when they were shorthanded. In all, she pitched in 31 goals and 36 assists on the power play.

Darlene Stephenson, F, class of 2004- When only a frosh in 2000-01, Stephenson led the pack with four game-clinching strikes and assisted on yet another five deciders, constituting part of a sparkling 14-19-33 transcript on the year. Though she was never quite the most frequent scorer on the team, Stephenson’s stats were still irreproachable. For instance, in her junior year, she compiled 30 points, including 18 goals which only trailed Rush Zimmerman’s 20, and boasted the team’s best shooting percentage with a .148 success. And as a senior, she tied then-junior Zimmerman for a team-high plus-22 rating.

Karen Thatcher, F, class of 2006- Thatcher unofficially pioneered an ongoing trend when, as a junior in 2004-05, she shared the league’s Player of the Year prize with New Hampshire senior Stephanie Jones. Thatcher thus became the first underclassman to have a stake in that honor, though no seniors have won it since. In hindsight, one might say that Thatcher took a year after transferring from Brown to fully flaunt her true colors, having cultivated a “mere” 27 points in 2003-04, but she indubitably leaped to the peak the following year, topping the Friars’ scoring charts with 58 points and staying on top with 47 as a senior. Additionally, in each of her three seasons on the Divine Campus, she reeled in the Hockey East sportsmanship award.

Kelli Halcisak, D, class of 2004- Halcisak was a tireless puckslinging defender whose scoring output frankly obscured the description of her day job on the blue line. She shuffled over from Ohio State as a sophomore after topping the Buckeyes’ scoring charts with 40 points and proceeded to thrust a team-high 122 shots on goal in 2001-02, then lead the Friars in terms of both SOG and points-scored in her junior and senior year. On the whole, Halcisak’s junior season was probably the most radiant, with 45 points, 201 shots, and a plus-33 rating. Her collegiate career culminated with the 2004 Hockey East championship clinching goal, inserted with the third period more than half-gone and a scoreless tie still intact, followed by her second consecutive tournament MVP laurel.

Kristin Gigliotti, D, class of 2007- Gigliotti happened upon the scene when established offensive defenders Kelli Halcisak and Meredith Roth were seniors and the exponentially productive Danielle Bourguette still had another year ahead of her. So maybe that’s why the then-rookie blueliner could only muster eight points (though both of her goals were invaluable power play connections). With negligible passage of time, however, Gigliotti would spike her stature to become a can’t-miss two-way performer in her own right. She escalated from 2-6-8 to 6-17-23 in her sophomore year and then picked up two 30-plus point campaigns, climaxing with a team-best 39 in 2006-07, along with a plus-5 rating that trailed only Pam McDevitt for the team lead.

Jana Bugden, G, class of 2007- Arriving in 2002, some two-and-a-half years after Sara Decosta had graduated, Bugden set the tone for her own legacy without hesitation, whipping up seven shutouts and stopping all 39 shots faced between Connecticut and New Hampshire to cement the Friars’ first Hockey East playoff championship. Though her sophomore transcript was a little shakier, dropping from a 20-5-5 record to a barely supra-.500 log of 13-2-2, she perked up in the stretch drive to pitch four more shutouts, including a 3-0 triumph of UNH for another pennant. But Bugden’s real test seared in her direction after an injury sidelined her for the duration of the 2004-05 season. As it happened, she recovered, redshirted, and played the bulk of the next two seasons, ultimately winning tournament MVP honors as her last hurrah in 2007.

Second Team
Jenn Butsch, F, class of 2003- Though she did not saturate the scoresheets quite as much as most of her peers on this list, Butsch was the Friars top scorer en route to the 2002 ECAC title. That was good enough for team MVP accolades and PC’s Top Female Athlete garland. And there’s certainly no cause to overlook the 35 points she pitched in as a senior en route to the inaugural Hockey East championship.

Ashley Payton, F, class of 2005- Like Butsch and Stephenson, Payton was always statistically eclipsed by her topmost scoring associates. Nevertheless, she would aggregate 112 career points and hardly lost her touch after injuries kept her out of action throughout 2004-05. Rather, she exercised the option to push off her senior year and ultimately notched 33 points in 35 games.

Sonny Watrous, F, class of 2007- The first PC player to claim the WHEA’s top rookie award in 2004, Watrous ultimately polished off her stay with a seamless point-per-game career average (137 points in 137 games). Her five-point performance against Boston College in the 2005 Hockey East semifinals is still in a three-way record knot with former teammates Kelli Halcisak and Karen Thatcher. As a junior, Watrous led all Friars in the way of shots (161), goals (19), and plus/minus (+16), and as a senior led all Providence forwards with 31 points.

Meredith Roth, D, class of 2004- Just like Zimmerman, while Roth seemed to make a hobby of collecting penalty minutes (171), she also had a penchant for making the opposition pay when they had a player in the box. Out of her 24 career goals, 11 were cultivated on the power play. Out of 51 aggregate assists, 29 were attained with an extra teammate to work with, including 11 apiece in both her junior and senior campaign.

Erin Normore, D, class of 2009- Subconsciously following in the skate tracks of Halcisak, Roth, and Gigliotti, Normore made maximum use of a well-rounded high school athletic background that included swigs of basketball, badminton, volleyball, and soccer. There was not a single night that she did not suit up, allowing her to knot Katelyn Laffin’s program durability record with 143 games played. And there was never a night (at least from what this author witnessed) where she did not take the puck on at least one 200-foot tour with little worry of falling out of control. Such boundless habits amounted to a reckonable 92 points and dibs on the team’s most recent MVP award.

Amy Thomas, G, class of 2005- After backstopping the Friars to their last possible ECAC title in 2002, Thomas’ sophomore jinx hit in the form of losing her starting job to Bugden. But when Bugden went down, the good-sported Thomas filled in for a sparkling senior campaign, appearing in 35 of 36 games, going 20-10-5, and getting the nod for PC’s first NCAA tournament venture.

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com