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Saturday, October 17, 2009

Women's Hockey 4, Colgate 1

One special night
Timely power play strikes, PKs pace Friars

With the tap of a puck and the flick of a wrist, the same old fleeting maneuver that Slap Shot’s Tim McCracken (supposedly) used to fork out his adversary’s eyes, the Friars validated any use of the “Drill, baby, drill” motto in hockey practices on the cusp of the second buzzer last night.

Already up 2-0 on the Colgate Red Raiders, with Raiders’ defender Ali Edell caged for body-checking, and an impending face-off with 3.1 seconds to spare, head coach Bob Deraney emphatically urged four of his attackers to conglomerate around the inner hash marks while Ashley Cottrell prepared for the face-off in the near circle.

Cottrell would win the draw and zip it right back to teammate Nicole Anderson, who nimbly lashed it home within the opposite post with now 1.2 ticks on the clock. And expectably, within one more face-off, a whole dressing room’s worth of pleasantly surprised grins vanished into the PC runway for intermission.

“We play a lot of situational hockey. And the last three seconds, that’s a perfect example of why you do a lot of situational stuff in practice,” said Deraney.

“That’s a big goal right there. Instead of it being 2-0 and with one goal they get back in it, now it’s 3-0, and not that we’re feeling pretty confident, but it gives you a little bit more cushion. We did a good job of adding on tonight. We’ve been doing that all year, adding on and creating separation, so that’s good.”

Ultimately, the 3-0 lead that Anderson brought about on her first collegiate goal morphed into a 4-1 final highlighted by two power play conversions and one late 5-on-3 kill that closed a fairly negligible scrape before Colgate could so much as smell the blood.

Anderson’s line, supplemented by sophomore wingers Kate Bacon and Abby Gauthier, symbolically led a gradual but smooth-paced breakout on the night. Coming in, none of the three had mustered any points in PC’s first four games, and last night’s first period was characterized by a whole tempest of whistles (three penalties to each side) and a mutual shortage of offensive threats (shots 8-5, Colgate). Between the six calls, three 4-on-4 sequences and one brief 4-on-3 in favor of the Friars, the opening frame saw but a cumulative 12:07 worth of full strength time.

But in the second, while the sugar rush to the sin bin tapered off, the Friars’ stick rack cracked out of its chrysalis for 17 tests of Colgate stopper Lisa Plenderleith (27 saves). Gauthier and Bacon made quick to break out, too, collaborating on the first goal at the 4:30 mark.

On a seemingly harmless scramble for possession in the slot, all three forwards got their twigs on the puck before Gauthier suddenly whipped an ice-kisser through the five-hole.

By night’s end, the third line had combined for 10 shots and a point apiece.

“The fact that Gauthier and Bacon missed the first couple of games, obviously they would be behind in game shape, and they’re just starting to come around now, so that’s exciting,” Deraney noted. “And Anderson is really starting to find her stride,” he added.

Less than nine minutes after Gauthier’s icebreaker, a delayed Colgate penalty would soon fizzle to irrelevance as Alyse Ruff thrust a pass out the near corner to a lone ranger Amber Yung on the far point. Yung’s shot banked off of Plenderleith’s boot and united with Jess Cohen, who thrust home the rebound into a gaping goal mouth.

After Colgate was granted about five minutes of hope to commence the third period, cutting the difference to 3-1 on a breakaway power play goal via Katie Stewart at 1:51 and being allotted one more opportunity immediately thereafter, Ruff and Yung would get in on the night’s multi-point club to finalize the 4-1 upshot.

With a savory 90-second 5-on-3 segment at their disposal, the Friars went on a protracted buzz in Raider territory, with Yung recording each of the first two attempts. Finally, only seconds after Edell’s jailbreak cut the advantage to 5-on-4, Yung thrust the puck directly to the porch, where Jean O’Neill took a hack at it before Ruff lobbed it in over a flopping Plenderleith with 6:29 remaining in regulation.

The upper hand all but safely raised, Providence proceeded to take its own pair of penalties and grant Colgate a 5-on-3 for 52 seconds. Nothing doing. The Raiders mustered four attempts, one of which would be blocked, the other three stoned by goaltender Genevieve Lacasse (30 saves).

“They play a torpedo style and we talked about it all week in practice, but until you really experience it against somebody that’s perfected it, it’s different,” said Deraney. “It took us a while to get adjusted to that, but once we did, I think it actually helped us. I was really proud of the way our kids adapted and exploited it.”

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com

Hockey Log

Syracuse looking stealthy

Not even 18 months ago, the Syracuse Orange women’s hockey program was assembled in a fashion collegiately equivalent to an orthodox NHL expansion club as they geared up for entry into the Division-I College Hockey America conference.

And now, having packed in a fairly conventional growing-pain gelling campaign (9-16-3 record, two of those wins against Division-III Saint Anselm), Paul Flanagan’s foundation has perked up many minds to commence Year II.

Coming into today’s visit to Schneider Arena (4:00 p.m. face-off), the 0-4-1 Orange have indubitably gorged on moral victory, having held almighty Minnesota to two 4-1 decisions, deleted a 3-0 deficit to tie Boston College, nearly beaten New Hampshire in the infamous Lake Whittemore, and absorbed a 3-2 nick at the hands of Connecticut just last night.

When asked if he was surprised, PC head coach Bob Deraney let out a convinced “No” with twice the speed of a Zdeno Chara slapper.

“The great thing about women’s ice hockey is the transfer rule. We don’t have one,” he said. “So kids that might be not happy in a place where they are right now, no matter where you come from, if you’re a junior or senior, you’re older and you’ve got a lot of experience. So now they can go to a program like Syracuse, get a lot of playing time, and be a valuable asset to them and allow them to be a contender right away.

“That’s what’s so wonderful about our sport. You can get good really quick for all the right reasons, and Syracuse is a good example of that.”

Deraney, who arrived here in 1999 while Flanagan was just settling into his old office at St. Lawrence, will end only a one-year hiatus in business engagements with the Syracuse skipper. While with the Saints, with whom he stayed for nine years, Flanagan went 5-3-2 versus the Friars.

“He’s a very good coach. Paul’s a good man and he’s a terrific peer in every sense of the word. That program’s in real good hands with him and it’s exciting to see him come back with a different team. I know those guys will be prepared and we’ll have our hands full again.”

Cottrell curbed
Colgate managed to snap Ashley Cottrell’s season-long goal-scoring streak last night, though they could not bar her from assisting on Nicole Anderson’s goal late in the second period, extending the sophomore center’s hot streak to a 4-2-6 transcript in the first five games on the year. Additionally, Cottrell had one of her better nights at the dot, winning 18 out of 26 draws, including the quickee that set up Anderson’s stimulating strike.

Rookies raid Colgate
Anderson became the third Friar frosh in as many seasons to pick up her first NCAA goal at the Red Raiders’ expense. Last season, Cottrell slammed home her first for the game-winner in a 6-2 triumph at Schneider Arena. The year prior, Alyse Ruff pitched in as part of a 5-5 tie over in Hamilton, N.Y.

Both Ruff and senior captain Colleen Martin prolonged their prolific tendencies when engaging Colgate. Martin assisted on Abby Gauthier’s goal at 4:30 of the second period, giving her four helpers in as many meetings. Meanwhile, Ruff collected a goal-assist value pack for a career log of 3-2-5 in three encounters.

Quick feeds: Freshman Jess Cohen was credited with her second game-winning goal in her young career…Last night was senior forward Pam McDevitt’s 100th career game…Second-line winger Arianna Rigano again led all Friars in shots on goal with five last night…Nine individual Friars added a point to their plus/minus rating…Tickets for the December 1 U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame induction ceremony, which will include the seven PC alumnae who helped Team USA to gold in the Nagano Olympics, are now available on an individual basis for $125 apiece. Additionally, single table reservations and bronze, silver, and gold medal packages are available at respective prices of $1,250, $2,500, $5,000, and $7,500…This afternoon’s projected Syracuse starter, Lucy Schoedel, previously faced the Friars as a New Hampshire freshman on January 28, 2007, repelling 16 shots en route to a 2-2 draw.

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com

Sunday, October 11, 2009

On Hockey

Technically, they’re close enough for comfort

Canton, N.Y.- This will mean nothing to NCAA legislators, but Friartownies can appreciate the fact that, through four games, their women’s hockey team technically has yet to lose in regulation.

With a 3-2 overtime slip at No. 7-ranked Clarkson Friday night and a 3-3 draw versus No. 5 St. Lawrence yesterday, PC (2-1-1) returns home today from the oft-treacherous locale of upstate New York with a generous dish of intangible gains to go with the invisible nonconference point.

The first and foremost item was a good psychological cleansing. Yesterday’s engagement was in Appleton Arena, a bane of a building for the Friars in a way similar to New Hampshire’s Whittemore Center. In the program’s two previous visits here, they had bowed reverently and handed their hosts an exquisite 8-0 decision in 2007 and a 6-1 triumph in 2005.

Initial jitters that came with reentering the Saints’ barn –assuming there really were any- proved a pressing issue only in the penalty section of the scoresheet. The Friars paid a toe-curling four trips to the sin bin in the opening frame and fell behind on their second kill at 11:03.

Other than that, sophomore stopper Genevieve Lacasse blanketed all the blemishes, kicking out another six St. Lawrence power play bids, and froze the 1-0 difference through intermission.

From there, Providence continued the same basic pattern from Friday’s half-full outing at Clarkson, repeatedly falling behind, though never authorizing a multi-goal gap. Second-line left winger Arianna Rigano, the first booming candidate for Pleasant Surprise of the Year, issued five shots on net to extend her team lead to 18.

And she slugged home two of them with five seconds to spare in the middle frame and again with 5:34 gone in the third, drawing 1-1 and 2-2 knots, respectively. Already, the transfer out of Division-III St. Anselm has bagged one more goal (3) than she did all last year as a junior still acclimating to a new level.

The Saints’ Jamie Goldsmith was nearly Saturday’s answer to Clarkson sizzler Juana Baribeau when her second strike of the day equaled a 3-2 lead with 3:22 left in regulation. But none other than Ashley Cottrell, who a year ago in this matchup was denied her would-be first collegiate goal on a penalty shot, avenged her robbery by beating Brittony Chartier with precisely 90 seconds to work with. Cottrell is now tops on the team with four firsthand points and two game deciders –one clincher and one equalizer.

Technically, this all could have ended a dollop better, and it would have required only one or two flicks of a stick to do so. Technically, the Friars are still letting the likes of ranked and nonconference adversaries bar them from invaluable Ws. At 0-1-1 in nonconference games, they thus have a winning percentage of .250 and will have 11 more opportunities to spike that well above .500, all but a core requirement for March bracket membership.

But the way they put forth two heated arm wrestling bouts against one roaring Golden Knight team (which dismantled Connecticut 4-0 yesterday) and a seven-time NCAA tourney attendee, no lack of victory ought to dock them many votes in the polls this week.

More vitally, though, the Friars got to know themselves during this northern excursion. They know that the requisite resolve is there for whenever they choose to pluck it off the shelf. And they know what they will need to add, going forward, to tip the scale all the way in their direction next time around.

What they really need in that regard is a productive pick-up from roughly half of their active roster. Of the 17 skaters to have dressed so far, nine have at least one point to their credit, seven have at least two. Three designated defenders in Amber Yung, Lauren Covell, and Colleen Martin have combined for a 2-3-5 scoring log out of a team total 11-13-24.

It is the nominal bottom half of the offensive brigade and the other three defenders who still need to thaw out and round out the Friars’ depth chart. Heavier, vaster wealth can go a long way towards terminating an overtime frame the right way, or better yet, ending overtime before it begins.

No time like the present to start on all this, for the upcoming five-game homestand will include four interleague affairs and promises even more intriguingly rigid competition. This coming weekend’s visitors from Colgate and Syracuse, especially the latter, have made similar statements in recent days, laying claim to moral victories against theoretically stronger opponents.

One should be especially wary of the Orange, a second-year program founded by ex-St. Lawrence skipper Paul Flanagan two summers ago. To date, Syracuse has restricted almighty Minnesota to four goals in each of two visits to Ridder Arena last week, deleted a 3-0 deficit to tie Boston College on Friday, and taken a 1-0 lead into yesterday’s third period against New Hampshire before the Wildcats mustered a rally on the strength of two power play goals.

Just so long as the Friars know what they’re confronting, and this weekend implies that they’re pretty good and professional about that already, October can finally go down as a technical winning month, and as the seasonal springboard they have been long lacking.

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com