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Saturday, November 21, 2009

Hockey Log

Groth, Vella break in
Last off the IR, two frosh make debut

Friars’ head coach Bob Deraney ended up crafting quite a regular “Can’t wait any longer” line to round out last night’s depth chart. He took senior Jackie Duncan, one week removed from her belated season debut, and partnered her with rookies Emily Groth and Jess Vella, both of whom were likewise injured prior to the season and kept to the sidelines through last week owing more to an already-full roster than to their own game-ready condition.

With Groth assuming the center, flanked by Vella on the left and Duncan to her right, the line only got around to taking one face-off, which Groth lost to Northeastern’s Rachel Llanes at 1:50 of the first period. Mere seconds after that neutral zone draw, Duncan took the unit’s only registered shot of the game. And later, at the halfway mark of the period, Vella took PC’s first penalty (holding), going off simultaneously with the Huskies’ Julia Marty (hooking) when the two tangled in the near corner of the offensive zone.

Other than that, there was nothing else to pull out from the database, especially as the game intensified and their shift frequency decelerated. But, given their circumstances, the recovering and recapturing trinity made a satisfactory impression on the skipper. (Perhaps most importantly, all three players completed the night with an even plus/minus rate.)

“I was very happy with them,” said Deraney. “For the amount of time they played and for a first college game, I thought they did a good job. That’s a good Northeastern team, No. 9 in the nation, and I thought they did a nice job (against them).”

Cottrell keeps cooking
First-line center Ashley Cottrell, who will journey up to New Hampshire as a Hockey East All-Star tomorrow, grabbed a goal-assist value pack for her second consecutive multi-point game. She now has a 4-6-10 transcript to speak of in an active five-game point streak and a team best 10-8-18 log on the year.

Both Cottrell –who also won 16 out of her 26 face-offs- and new leftside linemate Nicole Anderson picked up their fourth respective power play goals last night while right wing supplement Laura Veharanta has collected a helper in each of her last two outings.

A little closer to Earth
The marquee goaltending card of Genevieve Lacasse and Florence Schelling took some conspicuous dents last night. Lacasse, who repelled 25 out of 29 shots faced, saw her save percentage dip from .920 to .916 and her goals-against average nudge up from 2.10 to 2.23 in a matter of 60 minutes. In the same time span, Schelling resisted 24 stabs but had her save percentage docked from .970 to .964 while her GAA was swollen from 0.81 to 0.99 as she endured just her second multi-goal game of the year. Ironically, though, both of those were winning efforts, the other being a 3-2 triumph at Boston College on October 13.

Wohfeiler a real winner
Northeastern junior Alyssa Wohfeiler notched her third game-clinching goal last night, thus tying her with teammate Lindsey Berman and Newport County native Kailey Nash of Vermont for the league’s distinction of clutch capstone.

Quick feeds: Jess Cohen’s icebreaker early in the opening stanza was her first goal since October 17 against Syracuse and quickly halted a four-game point drought…PC remains winless when tied after two periods, having dropped to 0-3-3 in that scenario. They are also, uncannily enough, 0-2-0 when leading after the first 20 minutes…For the first time in 10 games, the opposition had a better disciplinary record than the Friars. Providence was cited for seven minor offenses last night while Northeastern was flagged on five occasions…Five of Northeastern’s six freshman forwards picked up a point last night, including Danielle Kerr’s first overall (an assist on classmate Casey Pickett’s goal midway through the second)…Forwards Pam McDevitt and Bre Schwarz were healthy scratches in favor of Groth and Vella. Alyse Ruff filled McDevitt’s customary role of drilling backup goaltender Christina England during the second phase of the pregame warmup…The Friars will round out the month of November and the first half of their regular season next weekend with a two-night home set versus Wisconsin (Friday and Saturday, both 7 p.m. face-offs). The defending NCAA champion Badgers, who are missing head coach Mark Johnson and five valuable players attending to Olympic duties, are 8-4-1 going into tonight’s tussle with St. Cloud State, their last engagement before they venture out east.

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com

Northeastern 4, Women's Hockey 3

Friars get goals, then get gouged
Healthy lead turns to deflating loss
Last night’s unscheduled promotional theme: Grand Larceny Extravaganza, with a twist.
First, the Friars ravaged the reputation of Northeastern’s Florence Schelling, potting three goals on nine shots against the nation’s statistically regal goaltender before the game was 13 minutes old.
Then, the visiting Huskies responsively dished out a little eye-for-eye justice, scorching Genevieve Lacasse to ultimately nab a 4-3 edge early in the third.
And in the climactic chapter, with Lacasse benched and a six-pack attack churning in her neighborhood, the redeemed Schelling laid down a firm exclamation mark as Jean O’Neill thrust a feed from behind the net to Laura Veharanta, who had enough of an open net when she nudged at the puck, but not when Schelling slid to her right and swallowed it, halting play with 49.6 seconds to spare.
Northeastern held up and cemented the 4-3 victory at Schneider Arena, thus robbing the Friars of sole claim to first place in the Hockey East standings. With their empty wallet and Boston College’s 4-3 shootout triumph at Vermont, they have actually descended to third on the league leaderboard at 5-4-1.
“It’s the toughest (loss) of the year –for me it is, and I think it is for our team too,” said head coach Bob Deraney. “How often have we had a three-goal lead against a really good team? Not very often, so it’s kind of unchartered territory for our team. It’s as hard to play with a lead as it is to play down a goal, so it’s a learning experience.”
Coming in, the Friars had mustered a mere four first period strikes in 14 games on the year. Schelling had similarly authorized three in her 11 preceding starts.
But PC was coming off an assertive four-goal third period outburst in Sunday’s 6-2 thrashing of Boston University. And they got right down to reheating their leftovers, mollifying the Swiss Save-ior, and sculpting a startling 3-0 edge in a matter of seven minutes.
To start, Kate Bacon settled a fugitive puck just to the right of the slot and watched as Jess Cohen tilted her low-riding wrister to the left of Schelling at 4:33.
Precisely three minutes later, and 19 seconds into their first power play, Veharanta, Ashley Cottrell, and Nicole Anderson collaborated on a play visually identical to Anderson’s last of three strikes on Sunday. The former two set things up in the far alley while Anderson waited along the near post to nimbly bury the biscuit behind an unwary Schelling.
Summoned back to duty for a 4-on-3 segment with 10:18 gone, the power play converted once more when Cottrell absorbed Amber Yung’s shipment down the far lane and spooned a bad angle bid that dripped home at the 11:28 mark.
“It’s nice to see our power play clicking,” granted Deraney, who has seen his pupils capitalize six times in their last three games after going arid in the previous three. “If you’re going to be a good team you need to score on the special teams.”
Almost immediately afterward, though, things began to steadily balance back Northeastern’s way. The Friars took back-to-back penalties, starting just 28 seconds after Cottrell had connected, which amounted to 3:49 of uninterrupted shorthanded play.
They got through that tribulation unscathed, but the Huskies pounced on their third power play with just 1:37 to spare, Kristi Kehoe keenly vacuuming Katy Applin’s rebound and roofing it over Lacasse’s blocker.
Northeastern threatened without hesitation to commence the second, virtually matching the Friars’ tone-setting sugar rush that started the opening frame. And while Schelling reassembled her normal persona, stopping all of the nine shots she faced in the period, her mates recompensed her previous errors to draw a 3-3 knot by the 17:47 mark.
Rookie Casey Pickett, one of the many puckslinging pups who are finally beginning to ripen their twigs for the Huskies, sawed the difference to 3-2 at 10:41 when she piloted an end-to-end rush and thrust home an innocent-looking floater from the right circle-top. Seven minutes later, classmate Kelly Wallace nailed the equalizer from around the same hot spot.
Providence spilled a carry-over power play opportunity in the third, and 72 seconds after Julia Marty’s jailbreak, Rachel Llanes and Alyssa Wohlfeiler carried out a two-on-one to the left of Lacasse. Lacasse draped her full self around the post and got her boot on Llanes’ wide-angle stab. But with a gaping goal-mouth at her disposal, Wohlfeiler shoveled home the rebound.
PC’s desperation in the remaining 17 minutes translated to 13 shot attempts, only seven of which actually reached Schelling’s clutch. O’Neill briefly stimulated the home congregants when she hustled for a shorthanded breakaway in the sixteenth minute and Alyse Ruff nearly had a last-ditch bid right on Schelling’s porch before the buzzer, but her palms were by then too sweaty to get a grip on the puck.
And that was that.
“The fact that we could get three goals on (Schelling) is monumental in itself,” Deraney said. “But give Northeastern credit. They never let up, they chipped away, and in the end they made one more play than we did.”
Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Hockey Log

Cottrell the PC women’s idealized attacker

Ashley Cottrell has been barred from only three out of 14 scoresheets thus far in her sophomore season. Less than two weeks ago, when the laser-beamed Northeastern Huskies and their regal netminder Florence Schelling thoroughly curbed everybody else, Cottrell slipped home an unassisted goal that proved ever-so-vital by the time the Friars walked off with a shootout win.

Providence collectively reignited last weekend, charging up nine goals and 12 assists between 11 individuals in their split series with Boston University. But even before that cathartic flare-up, Cottrell already had the swagger everyone else was pining to pick up. After all, she had participated in each of PC’s three goals in the two preceding games.

With a firsthand strike at Agganis Arena last Saturday and a 1-3-4 transcript on Sunday, she spiked her hot streak to a 3-5-8 showing in her last four games and morphed her season totals to 9-7-16. Right along with her, the team accelerated from having scored but nine goals in their previous seven ventures to potting nine in just two swirls.

“It’s really refreshing to know that we’re starting to execute more and get the job done,” she said. “I think it’s just us not getting frustrated with (our past performances), working through all the hard times, and knowing that eventually things will come out in our favor.”

In a sense, the Friars have been in need of an intense offensive rejuvenation for the entirety of this collegiate generation, not just during these recent weeks where they went 0-3-4 with a shallow nine-goal output to speak of. All signs –namely her atypically consistent presence on the board since opening night- point to Cottrell anchoring that resurgence.

Consider this: with 16 points through 14 games –which makes her the lone Hockey Easterner outside of New Hampshire with a point-per-game median better than 1- she is on pace to score roughly 38 by the end of the 34-game regular season. That alone would amount to the richest single-season feat by a Skating Friar since Kristin Gigliotti put up a 17-21-38 log in 2006-07.

And just individually, that would be mere ice chips shy of doubling Cottrell’s 21-point performance as a rookie.

“My confidence last year wasn’t as high as it is this year,” she said. “I think now I’m more comfortable playing at the college level, and my teammates are helping me out a lot. We’re getting along really well and starting to get to know each other (as players) on the ice.”

In terms of goal output, no one in the PC program has broken 20 since Sonny Watrous (21), Karen Thatcher (25), and Rush Zimmermann (26) all did it in 2004-05. At the rate she is going, Cottrell ought to finish with at least 21 strikes, not counting anything she might muster in postseason action.

Already, Cottrell has surpassed the five goals she charged up in 2008-09. She has thrust 35 shots on goal and connected a rewarding 25.7 percent of the time. As a frosh, she was one of the less frequent shooters in the PC stick rack (73 SOG) and had but a 6.85 percent accuracy to speak of.

Lately, though, she has been a bit more like the Cottrell that PC head coach Bob Deraney saw firsthand at the inaugural U18 World Championships in 2008. That version of Cottrell balanced her goal-assist distribution for a 5-5-10 showing in five tournament games en route to gold for the Americans. She similarly concocted 56 goals and 61 helpers in her final U19 campaign with Detroit Little Caesars.

And now, albeit a year late, she has brought that balance to the college game.

“It’s something me and (Deraney) have been working on, because last year I didn’t shoot the puck as much as I should have,” she said. “I guess it’s been working out.”

In perking up her own twig, Cottrell has not needed to compromise any of her already-established assets either. Her playmaker persona sprung back to life on Sunday when she assisted on all three of radiant rookie and new linemate Nicole Anderson’s goals. At the dot, she has won 196 out of 356 face-offs for a passable .551 winning percentage.

Additionally, just as she ended the 2008-09 campaign with the best plus/minus (plus-9) amongst all PC forwards, she again leads her fellow frontliners in that department with a plus-4. (Naturally, as a whole, the Friars could stand to buck up their aggregate minus-1 rating, but that can be remedied with nothing more than a regular outpouring of offense.)

Cottrell and Co. will vie to build on their renewed viability tomorrow night against none other than Schelling, the league’s testiest walking, talking Shooter Tutor. Afterwards, Cottrell will take brief leave –opposite teammates Genevieve Lacasse and Amber Yung- to New Hampshire, hoping to embolden her international credentials as a Hockey East All-Star versus the U.S. Olympic squad.

“It’ll be a really fun chance to see how we rank up against Olympians,” she said. “It’s just a time to go out there, give them some competition, and get them ready for the Olympics.”

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com

Monday, November 16, 2009

On Hockey

Right on target
PC women reignite offense, halt winless spell

Yesterday afternoon, Leigh Riley donned formal game day attire for the 75th time in her career, and for nearly the full breadth of her tenure with the Friars, she has accepted the role of a publicity peasant that so often comes with being a defensive specialist.

Her scoring transcript through 74 games: zero firsthand strikes and four helpers, none of those having fallen at any point this season.

Meanwhile, PC was at best tantalizing its followers having just notched a three-goal game for the first time in eight tries in Saturday’s 5-3 loss at Boston University. Prior to the weekend action, they were riding a 0-3-4 slump with a cumulative nine goals to speak of in those seven games.

Then, with yesterday’s match deadlocked at 1-1 in the wee stages of the second period, Riley stood unguarded along the near point, all but clamoring for a feed from Arianna Rigano. Rigano let her shipment zip out of the far corner with relative ease to Riley, who nimbly leveled a one-timer past the trapper of BU goaltender Alissa Fromkin at the 2:45 mark.

“It’s just nice to see her shoot the puck and not just dump it into the corner,” said head coach Bob Deraney. “It’s confidence and working hard at her game. I think that’s fruits of her labor in her three years of being committed to becoming the best player she can be, and I think she saw some results today, so I’m really happy for her.”

In retrospect, one could take Riley’s milestone play as the Friars’ second offensive foreshock, the first being their two-goal third period effort to at least compress the abysmal bleeding of Saturday’s loss. But a cathartic avalanche was yet to come.

It happened between the fifth and eighth minute of the closing frame. Only 12 ticks after Melissa Tetreau retied everything at two-apiece, Nicole Anderson restored the advantage on her second strike of the day.

Thirty-six additional seconds and suddenly Providence was on a power play, BU striker Jillian Kirchner having been cited for cross-checking Jean O’Neill to the right of Fromkin’s cage.

Ten more seconds and the towering rookie Anderson had rounded out her first collegiate hat trick. And so, in a matter of 58 seconds, the Friars had spilled a brittle 2-1 edge, only to hurriedly push ahead by two –their first multi-goal advantage since they topped Colgate, 4-1, one month ago to this date.

By day’s end, they were 6-2 victors, having piled on four unanswered goals to spell the difference and only requiring a modest seven shots on net to pull it off. By the time of the game’s semi-climax, the Terriers were feverishly piling a rubber blizzard on Genevieve Lacasse, only to see their shots grated to manageable morsels by the PC defense and to have the Scarborough Save-ior slow them down by summoning whistle after whistle.

In the latter 40 minutes yesterday, BU owned the shooting gallery, 37-15, but were outscored, 5-1, in that space. In other words, they inherited the Friars’ old skates for at least one day.

Uncannily, PC had run up an identical 19-7 shooting advantage in Saturday’s third period. It was the last of 12 periods during their eight-game winless hex where they charged up at least 10 registered stabs, but never scored more than one goal at a time.

“You don’t get instantaneous gratification,” Deraney said. “I think our kids have worked extremely hard at becoming better shooters and smarter shooters. Yesterday and today is just a dividend of how hard you have to work in front of the net, but also how smart you have to be in front of the net.”

Anderson ultimately personified the attacking zone street smarts better than anyone yesterday, when she connected on three of her four shots (translation: 75 percent connectivity) and, with a 3-1-4 scoring transcript, doubled her totals on the year to 6-2-8.

Less than five minutes after the Friars fell behind, 1-0, around the halfway mark of the first period, she cut down the near alley while linemate Ashley Cottrell toured the puck along the other lane and convinced Fromkin to nudge all the way around the far post. Parked right on the distracted Fromkin’s back porch, Anderson swatted Cottrell’s pass home for the equalizer.

Later, in the third, Anderson was again within brushing distance of Fromkin when she batted in another Cottrell set-up for the eventual winner. In another minute, she supplied an insurance strike –and her third power play connection on the year- simply by hovering around the near post while Cottrell and Laura Veharanta set things up on the other side and waiting to slug the puck in once it arrived.

“When you’ve got a young lady that size (six-foot-even), with that type of reach, you want her to be close to the net,” said Deraney. “As long as you stay off the goalie and in a good position in the slot, a big person like that is going to get a lot of terrific opportunities just from standing still because of that reach. I think she’s learning what it takes to score at this level.”

So, too, are countless other members of the PC Skating Sorority. In all, eight individual Friars touched yesterday’s scoresheet, with a four-point performance each for Anderson and Cottrell. And the points are being spread amongst all positions and all lines. Even Jackie Duncan, two games into her belated start after a prolonged injury, nabbed an assist on Alyse Ruff’s door-slammer with 1:18 to spare.

Between their two games on the weekend, the Friars lit it up nine times, matching their whole output in the previous seven games and improving their goals-per-game from a 2 to 2.29 median.

Not to mention, they finally polished off a regulation win and responsively salvaged their viability in the upper half of the Hockey East standings. This morning, they stand tied with Northeastern (11 points apiece) for first place.

“Obviously you love to win, but it really comes down to playing well,” said Deraney. “And (on Saturday), we didn’t play very well, especially in the first two periods, and then we really played well in the third. And what I’m excited about is that we put together four really good, quality periods.”

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com