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

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Hockey Log

Martin highlights a mixed bag
Captain scores, bolsters PK in shortcoming effort

Report based on Live Stats

Potsdam, N.Y.- Her volcanic bushel of six registered shots versus Maine a week to the date and her constant venturing into opponents’ corners must have been the foreshock. After all, when PC women’s senior captain Colleen Martin discharged her first of two bids in last night’s visit to Clarkson, it proved to set off a double drought-splashing tsunami as it tuned the mesh with 4:02 gone in the second period.

First off, it equaled a power play conversion, the Friars’ first on 12 whirls this regular season after they went a mildly toe-curling 0-for-9 in their two-game set with the Black Bears and missed on their first two opportunities in the opening stanza last night. But on a more jutting personal level, it was the once-routinely stay-at-home blueliner’s first strike since the stretch drive of her freshman season (February 25, 2007 versus Connecticut), shattering a spell at the age of 74 games.

If there were any fertile offerings of solace in the eventual 3-2 overtime loss, that had to be the peak of the list. Elsewhere, the penalty killing brigade neutralized the Golden Knight power play all night, goaltender Genevieve Lacasse (27 saves total) stopping all six shots faced in those segments and her associates zapping four other attempts, including one block of a Carlee Eusepi shot attributed to Martin during one of Clarkson’s busier grinds late in the middle frame.

When it came to confronting the ever-familiar Dominique Thibault, the Friars, on the one hand, reiterated that they generally know the answers to the ex-UConn scoring beacon, restricting her to three shots and zero points.

However, Thibault’s left side linemate, Juana Baribeau, was allotted an overwhelming seven shots, two of which she lashed through for a 2-1 lead late in the second and the walk-off connection at 1:26 of the bonus round.

Solving the Saints
A full collegiate generation has run its course since the Friars last outdueled today’s adversary from St. Lawrence (3:00 face-off at Appleton Arena). Ever since a 5-1 home triumph Nov. 7, 2004, every annual reunion has been All Saint’s Night, especially PC’s last visit to Canton two years back when the Saints sledged out an 8-0 decision and yet another two years prior, when it ended with a vinegary 6-1 upshot.

Over each of the last four meetings, the Friars have mustered no more than a single goal and have been aggregately blown away 19-3.

But ask PC head coach Bob Deraney, who was previously 3-2-2 in this series before the Saints issued the ongoing hex, and he’ll eagerly bank on another 180-degree tweak of luck.

“It’s a different year. That’s the best thing about it,” he said earlier this week. “Every year is a new year. It’s not like professional sports because people have to graduate after four years. You’re happy to see some of their great players go. We’ve also lost some good players, but it’s a different year with different personnel. We’re going to bring our best hockey and see what happens.”

Quick Feeds: Ashley Cottrell’s equalizer with 5:19 to spare in regulation granted her a team-best three goals on the year…Jessica Cohen, Jean O’Neill, and Alyse Ruff all picked up an assist apiece…Last night’s reported attendance at Cheel Arena was 346…Laura Veharanta, who tied fellow forwards Cottrell and Arianna Rigano for a team-best four shots on the game- was the only Friar with a positive plus/minus rating on the night. Seven other skaters finished even in that department…St. Lawrence faltered last night in its season opener versus UConn, spilling a 1-0 lead when it was barely five minutes old in the second and ultimately allowing the Huskies’ Amy Hollstein to finalize a 2-1 decision at 2:44 of the third.

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com

Friday, October 9, 2009

Hockey Log

Knights bear a sharp lance in Thibault
PC women to face ex-Husky in Clarkson sweater

By default, senior scorer Dominique Thibault’s unusually late transfer from Connecticut to Clarkson will still hardly amount to an escape from Hockey East affairs until around Halloween. The Golden Knights’ first eight intercollegiate engagements of the season are against WHEA tenants, continuing tonight with a drop-in by the Friars (7 p.m. face-off) and tomorrow from none other than the Storrs Skating Sorority.

For their part, PC will thus provide the prelude to the expectably anticipated old-friend-new-uni drama. Tonight will be all about rekindling a healthy rivalry between a face and a crest. And, much like it commonly was when she was a Husky, it will be largely about neutralizing the nucleus of the opposition –Thibault.

"Thibault’s a great player,” said PC team captain Colleen Martin. “Whatever school she plays at, she’s still going to be the great, dominant player that she is. So we just have to bring our game and work period by period, shift by shift."

Up to this point, the Friars’ approach has worked gratifyingly well in confronting the acetylene twig that earned Thibault 112 points in 99 games with the Huskies, plus a Hockey East Player of the Year garland in 2008.

Versus PC, Thibault has charged up four goals and five assists in 11 meetings, seven of which were Friar triumphs. That includes two goal-assist value packs, but also five thorough goose-eggs, including two shutouts by Genevieve Lacasse last season.

To date, her only formal strike at Lacasse’s expense was a vital equalizer midway through the third period Feb. 1 last season at Freitas Ice Forum, when host UConn deleted a long-standing 1-0 deficit and ultimately tipped the scale in overtime.

Other than that, Lacasse has dealt with 23 Thibault bids in four formal encounters and turned away 22 of them. Additionally, she must have faced countless others over the summer at Team Canada’s U22 camp.

Still, a new supporting cast is likely to alter the picture –for easier or tougher. PC skipper Bob Deraney pointed to the Golden Knights’ new top two center punch of Thibault and senior captain Britney Selina (113 career points in 109 games) as a reprise of the Huskies’ one-time Cyclopean duo of Thibault and 2008 graduate Jaclyn Hawkins.

"They’re a very talented team and we’re going to have our work cut out for us," he acknowledged. "Any time you go up to play Clarkson and St. Lawrence, it’s always a tough road trip, whether it’s a men’s or women’s game. They’re a formidable foe, but we’re looking forward to the challenge."

Clarkson, uniquely coached by the husband-wife tandem of Shannon and Matt Desrosiers, is vying to resurge from a barely supra-.500 showing (16-14-6) in the couple’s first campaign, which came only after program patriarch Rick Seeley had amassed two 20-plus win runs in three tries. In 2008-09, they put forth altogether commendable data on defense with a collective 1.94 goals-against average (third in the ECAC), but were more in the middle of the league leaderboard when it came to scoring with a nightly 2.61 median and roughly 30.6 shots per game.

Already this season, they are on the heels of outscoring Boston College, 6-2, in a matter of two twig-locks and thrusting a cumulative 75 registered shots over 125 minutes of action. Thibault personally pitched in 15 of those shots for an even 20 percent of the team output and logged a 1-2-3 scoring transcript in last Friday’s 5-1 mismatch, which factored heavily into the Eagles’ plunge out of the national Top 10 and the previously unranked Knights’ ascension to No. 7.

Early as it may be, an impression is an impression, and now PC –which has not garnered a genuine ranking since January of 2006 and has been long-plagued by destructive jitters when confronting ranked competition- is keen on reversing the roles. That applies both to tonight’s confrontation at Cheel Arena, and tomorrow afternoon’s shuffle over to Appleton Arena, where the fifth-ranked St. Lawrence Saints shall await.

"They’re definitely statement games, especially with these teams, especially at the beginning of our season," said Martin, assessing the magnitude of the weekend. "Hopefully we play our best and we come out on top, but I think that this will definitely have an impact on the rest of our season."

Quick feeds: Tonight will be PC’s first showdown with the Golden Knights since they dropped a 4-2 upshot at Cheel Arena on Nov. 6, 2005. In its "modern era," the seven-year-old Clarkson program is 1-0-1 all-time versus the Friars…The Friars will take part in three Skating Strides Against Breast Cancer games in January. The New Hampshire installment will be conducted on Saturday, Jan. 16, and both the Friars and Boston College Eagles will host their respective chapters as part of a home-and-home set Jan. 23-24…Contrary to their showings overall and at home, the Friars have made more sturdy first impressions on the road in recent years. Under Deraney, they are 6-3-1 (and 24-8-1 all-time) in road openers.

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Hockey Log

Covell, Schwarz make a smooth swap

On the cusp of the 4:30 mark of last Friday’s first period, with the first penalty kill of the season nearing completion, Providence sophomore Lauren Covell perched herself in the high slot directly in front of Maine puckslinger Amy Stech’s shooting range and struck a rather hasty goalie-like pose.

It worked, though. Covell would get her twig on Stech’s subsequent attempt and deflect it down into the far corner of the Friars’ zone. Within another few seconds, the puck was errantly fouled out of play and by then, the Black Bears had but 18 seconds to work with on their power play, which would come to no use.

Covell’s quick thinking set a solid tone for her first year as a designated defender, a positional tweak that comes after she went through 24 games with a mere four shots on net and zero points as a rookie last season.

Ironically, just one period later, she would attain that elusive icebreaker point when she settled the puck along the near point and forwarded it to Jess Cohen, who nimbly lashed it home for the eventual game-winner at 4:35.

That scoring play, along with two others, factored into a team-best plus-3 rating on the night for Covell. She would sprinkle another point onto that the following day when she was on the ice for Ashley Cottrell’s decider in a 2-1 win. As a result, amongst all Providence skaters, she currently boasts the best rating at plus-4.

As an added bonus, she is one of the eight skating Friars yet to receive a penalty.

“It’s interesting,” remarked head coach Bob Deraney. “Last year, I thought she was a terrific two-way forward, especially a very defensive forward, so it was kind of natural to move her back. We liked what we saw in her as a checking type of forward last season and we felt that she could make the transition back to defense very seamlessly. She’s a very responsible player and I know she can continue to get better if she perfects her position.”

Well, for Covell, no real glitches managed to crack the surface over opening weekend. And as green as any data is bound to be at this phase of the season, all of this only bodes well for a youngster seeking a more rigidly established spot on the game night roster.

Similarly, and on an inverse to Covell’s flip-flop, fellow sophomore Breanna Schwarz finally got her chance to build on a redshirt/MIP campaign that she had spent primarily practicing as a defender –except she is building on it by taking a post on the left wing.

All night Friday, she and senior Pam McDevitt flanked rookie Nicole Anderson on the third line. And on Saturday, with the returns of Kate Bacon and Abby Gauthier, she and McDevitt were rotated in as two remainders attached to the three full forward units.

Schwarz’ results have yet to show up as much, but she at least saw generous quantities of ice team in both even strength and special teams segments.

“Again, I could say the same thing about all of the 22 players in our locker room,” said Deraney. “She worked extremely hard (in the offseason) on the things that she needed to work on –her weaknesses. She’s improved them so much that she can play a role for us.

“You can never have too many responsible players. If you’re responsible, there’s always a place for you in our lineup.”

Quick feeds: Cohen garnered the league’s distinction as Rookie of the Week for her two-game transcript of 2-1-3 in the Maine series…The Friars shall officially remain in first place of the Hockey East standings for at least two more weeks as all action in the coming weekend will be nonconference. PC will engage in six consecutive interleague affairs between now and a Saturday matinee versus Boston University Oct. 31…The Friars picked up six points for an honorable mention in yesterday’s US College Hockey Online poll. Upcoming adversaries St. Lawrence and Clarkson are both ranked at Nos. 5 and 7, respectively.

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com

Sunday, October 4, 2009

On Hockey

They can now say they’re getting it done

A somewhat proud and quite paradoxical mantra ought to be churning in the PC women’s hockey locker room on the heels of their opening weekend sweep over Maine.

At least there is no more sighing and uttering “At least…” Or, more specifically, there is at least nothing along the lines of “At least we played well,” which was the most pleasant resort they could afford around this time a year ago.

If anything, one who is armed with a first aid kit and scoping insistently for a strategic lesion, can say, “At least we held on” after the Friars abolished one penalty after another to finalize yesterday afternoon’s 2-1 victory at Schneider Arena in Part II of the series.

“Maine played extremely well, and you knew they would after what happened yesterday,” said Friars’ head coach Bob Deraney. “That didn’t surprise me. What surprised me was that we took some of what I think were uncharacteristic, lazy penalties, and made it real difficult on ourselves. We were just fortunate that a real good Maine team wasn’t able to take advantage of it.

On a total of seven partial or full-length opportunities, including three in the third and two five-on-three segments, Maine’s power play brigade nabbed an early 1-0 within the first four minutes of the game, but thereafter whiffed on a cumulative seven shots.

“They’re the players of the game for us,” Deraney said in commendation of any given PK quartet (or trinity). “We had everyone kill. We needed to because we took so many penalties, and everyone stepped up, made plays where we needed, our goaltending has been terrific, and I think the penalty kill starts there.”

Maybe so, but technically, Providence stopper Genevieve Lacasse did not have to toil as much as she could have. Clinging to their 2-1 lead to commence the third period, the Friars would detonate their discipline beginning at the 7:09 mark and would be shorthanded for the next three minutes and 34 seconds, including their third 5-on-3 deficit of the weekend for 26 ticks.

But in that stretch, Lacasse only had one shot reach her immediate area while PC mustered two shorthanded bids. And her praetorian guards would keep her idle over the next two-minute kills between 14:05 and 16:05, while Arianna Rigano thrust another shorthanded shot at Maine’s Brittany Ott.

And to both kindle and quickly snuff their own dramatic flame, the Friars took one more citation with 44 seconds to spare, only to have Jean O’Neill draw a subsequent tripping call on Myriam Crousette, forcing the Black Bears to revoke their extra attacker and take last face-off in their end before a brief 4-on-4 sequence.

Ott, Lacasse’s former associate on the Detroit Little Caesar’s U19 team, did not exactly have the same luxuries as the Scarborough Save-ior. Though her team only granted Providence four power plays over the course of the day, she had to face 15 shots in those stretches.

And she stopped every single one of them. The Friars were thus left utterly empty on the power play for the whole weekend.

Then again, unlike in Friday’s 4-0 win, they were at least piling on the attempts (42 total compared to Maine’s 15). And they dented Ott just enough for a favorable difference. And they had a diverse array of contributors, particularly junior defender Amber Yung, who recorded a whopping nine SOG, and senior captain Colleen Martin, who notched six. In all, designated defenders, many of whom took turns imitating Erin Normore by shoving their nose deep into the corners, accounted for 19 PC shots.

It was Yung whose late first period bullet from the far circle top capped a stimulating end-to-end transition, drew a 1-1 knot, and splashed a personal scoring drought dating back to February 17, 2008. Counting the McGill exhibition one week prior, Yung now has a point in each of her first three games this season.

“That’s an integral part of the way we play,” said Deraney. “We expect more production from all five players when they’re on the ice. It’s not just three forwards and two defensemen. It’s five players going out there for a common goal, and that’s to score.”

The Friars had authorized the game’s first five shots, the first four over two Maine power plays, but were seething afterward. For the remaining dozen minutes of the first period, they owned the shooting gallery, 10-2, and over the course of the second, they ran up a 23-4 count in that category.

Ott was responsive on a majority of those, including six on PC’s own 5-on-3 advantage to start the middle frame. But one exception fell at the 7:06 mark when another ex-U19 teammate of hers, Ashley Cottrell, parked herself on the porch, vacuumed a careless Maine clearing attempt, and nimbly lifted it home, spelling the 2-1 difference.

And the way the Friars menacingly threatened in several other visits to the Bears’ zone, it could have been a more gaping differential. In any case, they are officially 2-0, given that a handful of programs currently ranked in USA Today’s Top 10 –Boston College, Boston University, and even Wisconsin- have all taken some actual clips to the chin this weekend, there’s a theoretical chance PC could ascend when that poll is revised tomorrow, or at least garner more honorable mention votes.

“To be honest with you, it really doesn’t matter right now,” said Deraney. “We’ve got play a lot better than we played (this weekend). The fact that we won two games is the most important thing. We don’t really care about polls right now. Really, polls matter come second semester, when things really start to take shape. Nothing’s taking shape right now.”

But at least now they have been afforded a learning experience that has not cost them valuable points.

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com