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Monday, December 27, 2010

On Hockey

PC women should have Patriotic attitude

Just to deck this ho-hum point out of the way, Bob Deraney is hardly a duplicate of Bill Belichick, and for that reason the New England football press corps should feel free to envy this author.

Public personas aside, the coach of the PC women’s hockey team would be advised to emulate the approach of the Patriots’ skipper as he pilots his pupils into 2011. The circumstances and resources at hand are similar enough.

In the growingly distant wake of three titles in four seasons, the Patriots have not hoisted a Lombardi Trophy since 2005. Likewise, the once-dynastic Friars are going on five years without a Hockey East pennant or an NCAA tournament passport.

As is mandated at the college level and as is practically natural in a 21st century sports world where so few athlete-franchise marriages have any sanctity, PC and New England have undergone a gradual personnel overhaul since they were last on top of their respective leagues. (Although the hockey gods know if Deraney could keep sidekicks Karen Thatcher and Erin Normore in uniform beyond practice the same way Tom Brady, when healthy, has been a mainstay at quarterback, he would.)

And just like the newly confirmed AFC regular season champions, the 2010-11 Friars were indubitably competitive before they went into action, but have since achieved enough to pleasantly surprise even themselves.

For the better part of their slowly dying four-week holiday, they have enjoyed being No. 9 in USA Today/USA Hockey’s national leaderboard and a tie for eighth with North Dakota in the uscho.com poll. They own the sixth best overall record in the country at 13-5-1 for a .711 winning percentage. Only Cornell, Wisconsin, Boston University, Mercyhurst, and Boston College are living larger. The almighty likes of Minnesota and Minnesota-Duluth are a miniscule stride behind PC, but a stride behind nonetheless.

When sized up with the other 33 Division I programs in the country, the Friars are a respectable No. 9 on the penalty kill. Their offense is seventh-best with 3.26 goals per game and defense is No. 8, allowing only 1.89 opposing strikes per night.

The only team stat pining for an upgrade is the power play, which has converted a mere 15 of 96 opportunities in PC’s first 19 games.

Which cracks open the most pivotal Patriots parallel at hand. This generation of Deraney’s pupils has yet to hallmark itself. It will not until it stamps fresh numerals on the NCAA tournament banner that glides over the team’s defensive zone at Schneider Arena.

Furthermore, although their posture and pace in the national standings could arguably warrant an at-large bid, the Friars will need at least one more dollop of punch to hack through what’s left of the regular season.

And the half-New Year’s champagne, half-leftover fruitcake news is this: the most taxing phase of the homestretch comes first. Minute-munching goaltender Genevieve Lacasse will be living a hard-earned dream with Team Canada at the MLP Cup while her college companions pay a two-night visit to the exponentially improving Maine Black Bears this weekend. Likewise, while the Scarborough Save-ior is wrapping up her business trip to Switzerland on Jan. 9, Boston University will still have sizzlers Marie-Philip Poulin and Jenn Wakefield back on campus raring to host Providence.

No matter how much loot the unripe Christina England and/or Nina Riley can safeguard, or how many a strike force complete with healed co-captain Jean O’Neill can whittle away, one would like to think the Friars will gain something intangible out of the next three games. And whatever that is, it can come in gratifying use over the next 11 ventures before the ice chips settle on the playoff picture.

The question is, how gratifying? It all depends on what they pick up to build on both in the Hockey East standings and on their national resume, a priority far more vital than the former.

Yes, they theoretically go hand-in-hand. The higher PC finishes within the league, the more reverence it is bound to garner from the soon-to-be selection committee.

But even if PC made good of home ice advantage and took two of its three unopened meetings from Boston College, odds are the first-place Eagles are not going to concede many more points to the rest of the league. And even with a four-point gap and two games in hand on BU, a win on Jan. 9 still does not assure a permanent pole-vault into first-round bye territory.

So instead of overexerting on the two anointed aristocrats of Hockey East, the Friars should focus a little more on asserting itself against fellow mid-to-heavyweight Northeastern when they meet late next month. It should be sure to remind the Black Bears that they still have a few more rungs to climb. It should not shy away from kicking ice chips over rival New Hampshire while they’re down. And, of course, they ought to consider the concept of sweeping the season series with the downright disappointing Vermont.

They do enough of that, and the Friars can be a thrilling third-place team, one that could make Boss Bertagna justifiably proud of his league’s progression.

Of course, they are free to make their case to crash the presumptive Comm. Ave. party on the first weekend of March. But before they get there, perhaps they’d like to go up secure in the notion of having an at-large bid within tasting distance.

That’s where Belichick could rightly envy Deraney, for the latter might not even need a conference championship trophy, just a return to the exclusive Elite Eight, to replenish his sense of excellence.

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Women's Hockey Midseason Player Reports

Nicole Anderson- At one point, the towering winger had a team-leading 2-3-5 transcript on the power play, which cooled off over November along with her. A last-minute perk-up before the break, however, could bode well for the second half.

Kate Bacon- In her third full season, and first injury-free, Bacon is using her turbine blades without fail to charge up a rapid career year and a team-best 14 goals, 20 points, and 92 shots on net. One only wishes that “opposing penalties drawn” could be adopted as an official statistic, for she would facilely be a team, if not league or even national leader in that category.

Corinne Buie- Not much more can be asked of Buie in the second half, except of course that she not let her self-enhancing profile get to her head and self-destruct. If she stays on pace, she ought to finish with roughly 24 points for the second-best rookie campaign by a Friar in the Hockey East era, trailing only Veharanta’s 2008-09 output.

Jess Cohen
- Her insipid numbers –two goals and no helpers on 23 shots on net- are symptomatic of last year’s Laura Veharanta syndrome. She along with classmates and linemates Anderson and Jessie Vella ought to be the making the most vocal New Year’s pledges in the PC Skating Sorority.

Ashley Cottrell
- While not quite on the same productive pace (seven goals, 12 points) as her sizzling sophomore season, Cottrell is still of doubtless value and playing a routine role in the clutch. She has scored three game-winning goals, assisted on another two, and had a hand in two critical equalizers, both of which immediately preceded game-clinchers for the Friars.

Lauren Covell- After flexibly hopping between positions on demand, the junior grinder can expect to assume a full-time forward assignment once Jean O’Neill comes back, giving PC a long-awaited quorum of 12 forwards.

Jen Friedman- Now beyond the halfway mark of her career, the towering defender has established herself as a prototypical point-based puckslinger. With a 4-10-14 transcript, including 2-3-5 on the power play, she is worth emulating to her blue line colleagues.

Abby Gauthier- Has fed off a resolute regimen of summer training and the contagious seasoning of her linemates. Not only has Gauthier joined in on the career year crowd with a 4-8-12 scoring transcript. She has inserted three power play goals in 19 games on the year after going without anything of the sort in a combined 67 contests her first two seasons.

Emily Groth
- More than anything, the sophomore center is pining for a full-time pair of linemates, which should be coming on the other side of the break.

Christie Jensen- Had a booming finale to the calendar year by posting a plus-4 rating during the recent three-game homestand, which liberated her from the red in that category.

Genevieve Lacasse- The nation’s leader in cumulative minutes played (1147:57) and a not-too-distant No. 3 in terms of aggregate saves with 555. Only Ohio State’s Lisa Steffes (559) and Sacred Heart’s Alexius Schutt (558) have repelled more rubber, although they have also authorized more goals. The Cyclopean task thus left to Christina England and/or Nina Riley for the first three games of January speaks for itself. But once Lacasse is back from the MLP Cup, she will be one start-to-finish game away from 5,000 career minutes, which would place her second on the Friars’ all-time leaderboard ahead of Sara Decosta.

Rebecca Morse- The rookie blueliner, playing under Friedman’s wing on the second unit, is anything but shy about pinching in the offensive zone and has scraped out a respectable six points as a result.

Jean O’Neill- O’Neill has barely had a full regular season game to set the tone for her finale, but it was a promising pledge as evidenced by her opening night hat trick. Her probable reinsertion the first weekend of January will essentially follow a miniature summer of replenishing her game, which ought to let her lend a ration of genuine depth without delay.

Maggie Pendleton- Compared to the majority of her peers, Pendleton has more progress to make. Then again, this was only her first semester. The aforementioned Jensen should be tasked with continuing to help hone her young defensive partner.

Leigh Riley- Riley has never seen much of her name on either side of the scoresheet in her first three seasons. This year, though, she is sneaking in to the scoring half a little more with four assists, but her game remains Lady Byng-like with only two minor infractions.

Alyse Ruff- The senior co-captain has eclipsed an otherwise curious dip in goal frequency with a team-best 13 assists and a league-best plus-19 rating, the latter stat a plain testament to her two-way value. And not unlike her fellow top-six center Cottrell, she is regularly on the scoresheet when the decision is made, nailing three game-clinchers and setting up another two.

Laura Veharanta- Has patently regained her confidence, as evidenced by her already exceeding her 2009-10 output under the goal (three last year, six this year) and shot (57 last year, 65 this year) headings.

Jessie Vella- Defensive efficiency has earned her substantial time on the penalty kill, but is not exactly reflected in her plus/minus, owing entirely to a modicum of offensive output.

Amber Yung- The Friars’ leading blueliner, like her partner Riley, has continued to demonstrate commendable discipline with only two minor penalties in the first 19 games. It’s also hard to gripe over her plus-12 rating, a sign that she is filling Colleen Martin’s skates.

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com

Monday, December 6, 2010

On Hockey

Heaven in ’11? Don’t doubt it
Friars close 2010 slate in contender’s form


PC women’s hockey head coach Bob Deraney unintentionally covered his team’s entire outlook when he assessed the 5-1 takedown his team pinned on Connecticut yesterday.

“We’re a pretty good team, that’s what it’s showing,” he said. “And I think our conditioning is very good in that we’re pretty good closers right now. At the beginning of the year, we weren’t closing games out as cleanly or as efficiently as I thought we could, and we’re doing that now.”

Actually, the closure these Friars have flexed is not limited to assertive third periods. Yesterday, whether or not they admit to wanting it, they cultivated a snug surplus of closure as they resurfaced their rivalry with the Huskies, who abruptly dislodged them from last year’s playoffs at Schneider Arena. (Notably, senior defender Leigh Riley did proclaim that “Because of what happened last year, there was a fire lit there.”)

Towering sophomore winger Nicole Anderson, along with classmate and linemate Jessie Vella, brought a timely close to their respective cold streaks as they bolstered a third period surge that morphed a delicate 2-0 edge into the said 5-1 purge. Anderson was pointless in her previous 10 games until she pounced on a misguided UConn pass in her own end, traveled along the far wall, and zapped home a stunning snapper to make it 3-0 with 12:14 to spare.

In the final minute, Vella, with only one point to her credit in the previous 10 outings, played a skating Speedy Gonzalez as she took the puck on a protracted circle tour around the Huskies’ cage and into the high slot, then handed it to Rebecca Morse. Vella’s toil earned her an assist when Anderson tilted Morse’s point shot home.

Now with four weeks free from game action, Anderson and Vella splashed their respective droughts at a well-advised time. They can join their team in feeling a collectively seamless psyche made possible by a 13-5-1 record and carry-over four-game win streak.

That’s where this closure motif beams at its brightest. First halves have been the perennial bane of this Skating Sorority since its last merry March in 2005. It was always about passively accepting growing pains, thawing out from those, and then cramming in vain for an NCAA tournament passport.

But when this group reconvenes for practice after the December deceleration, the objective will not be improvement. It will be enhancement.

“I think it’s a well-earned break,” said Deraney. “But it’s also an opportunity for us to get even better. We learned a lot about ourselves in the first half here. We have to increase our conditioning and also some systematic and technical plays. We’re really looking forward to using the next four weeks as a great benefit to springboard us into a terrific second half.”

Development-wise and results-wise, Providence is still a few conspicuous strides behind the likes of Boston College and Boston University, the aptly anointed favorites in the Hockey East pennant race.

The Friars will want a little more depth to complement its tireless top six –led by Kate Bacon, who potted her 14th goal and second game-winner of the year yesterday; highlighted in part by co-captain Alyse Ruff’s team-leading 13 assists and league-best plus-19 rating; and stressed by a handful of career years (Bacon, Abby Gauthier) and a radiant rookie in Corinne Buie. None of them –nor Ashley Cottrell nor Laura Veharanta- need to change anything, but a champion can’t subsist on two lines alone.

In a related vein, they certainly want to shore up their power play, which has converted a modest 15 out of 96 aggregate chances.

The reinsertion of co-captain Jean O’Neill will help on both fronts. O’Neill, confined to the sidelines since Game 2 of opening weekend with a lower body injury, will wisely treat the next month as a mini-summer to focus solely on replenishing her game. Not to mention, belatedly building on her opening night hat trick against Robert Morris and her 29-30-59 scoring transcript in 104 career games.

“We expect Jean to be back the next game we play,” Deraney said. “She should be a sight for sore eyes, and I hope that’ll be the case.

“She’s worked extremely hard to get back. She was real close, but it’s not worth it to get her back too early, especially when we have this month to really solidify her conditioning and physical strength and ability. So it’ll be a nice shot in the arm for a second-half run.”

Come what may, the Friars now have an irreproachable winning percentage of .711, good for seventh-best in the nation. They are No. 8 in the way of offense (3.26 goals per game) and barely No. 9 on defense (1.89 goals allowed per game, trailing three teams each with a 1.88 median).

Suddenly, an at-large bid to the Elite Eight is anything but an apparition. And the Friars, currently third in the conference standings behind the Comm. Ave. cohabitants, will have games in hand on everybody except Maine when they return for the 14 contests yet to come.

On the one hand, they are still guaranteed nothing in this overpopulated landscape of contenders. Then again, almost nothing but preventable complacency can drop this promising vase to total shards.

“I know everybody’s going to take care of themselves,” said Riley. “We know how to prepare in the off-time and I think we’re going to come back stronger.”

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Women's Hockey 4, New Hampshire 2

Friars best Wildcats in finishing department

The trends are likely to breach at some point. But for the moment, the PC women’s hockey team is a wholesome 4-0-0 when conceding a 1-0 deficit and 3-0-0 when trailing at the first intermission.

“We’re definitely resilient. There’s no doubt about it,” said head coach Bob Deraney in the wake of yesterday’s rallying 4-2 triumph over New Hampshire at Schneider Arena.

Notorious for sometimes spilling precious points when drunk on their own success and facing a statistically second-rate adversary, the Friars probably needed UNH, now losers of its last seven games, showing up yesterday like novice skiers need a ring of fire before them on their first downhill endeavor. But for once, they didn’t wait to perk up too long; just enough to only give their fans a startled jolt.

The Wildcats struck first at exactly 3:00 and held fort until long after the Zamboni’s first shift, and they later deleted a 2-1 deficit while the Friars suffered from a brief hangover after scoring their own go-ahead goal. But for the climactic phases of the game, the refined Rhode Islanders imposed their will on the survivors of the bygone Granite State Goddesses.

“You have to take into consideration the mentality of both teams,” said Deraney. “UNH is on an uncharacteristic losing streak right now, and I’m just glad it didn’t end today against us.

“The game played out the way I thought it would play out. I wasn’t really nervous about the first five minutes, but I thought after that, we dominated the game from start to finish.”

Based on their level of inspiration in those first five-plus minutes, the Friars all but warranted a pre-holiday pep talk from Matt Foley the Motivational Santa. The Wildcats registered the game’s first five shot attempts, three on net, and one in the net at the three-minute mark on a much-too-facilely executed play. Forward Kristine Horn, standing unsupervised on PC’s porch, whiffed on her attempt to tip in Courtney Sheary’s bullet from the far point, but linemate Julie Allen had no trouble swooping in and spooning the rebound through the roof.

Providence didn’t test opposing goaltender Kayley Herman (27 saves) until near the end of the sixth minute, though from there until intermission they led the shooting gallery, 8-2. Unable to establish anything close to a sustained flurry, the Friars’ strike force spent the day sniffing out seams and charging for the gusto on fleeting rushes.

Herman was ready for them all, until there was 8:40 gone in the middle frame and less than a minute to spare on PC’s second power play. Goaltender Genevieve Lacasse (17 saves) wiggled out of her crease to field a UNH clear and lobbed the puck to a lone ranger Corinne Buie in the far alley. On cue, Buie and Kate Bacon concocted a two-on-one rush, culminating in Bacon one-timing Buie’s cross-ice dish along the near post for the equalizer.

“We were just forechecking really hard the whole time,” said Buie, who ultimately scored three assists and took five shots on net. “To finally put that one in, it really helped us as we tried to keep rolling from there.”

Amidst their first of three penalty kills, the Friars savored and squandered their first lead of the day. Ashley Cottrell morphed a turnover in her own end into a shorthanded breakaway with 7:53 remaining in the second period. But one play and 27 ticks later, Hannah Armstrong buried her own interception around the Providence cage for the 2-2 knot.

“I think we handed them both goals,” Deraney said. “We had the puck on our stick on the first one and we batted it right to their kid and the second one we deflected in front of our own net. So I think we scored five goals and assisted on the sixth.”

In the third period, though, all of the remaining salsa-based biscuits were force-fed to the floundering Wildcats, who have now allowed more closing frame goals (19) than what they’ve authorized in the first 40 minutes (17).

Point patroller Jen Friedman drilled in her second consecutive game-winner at the 3:30 mark, beating Herman over the blocker on a straightaway blast. And a mere 2:16 of game time later, Laura Veharanta finalized the 4-2 difference, cutting to the slot and slugging in a one-timer off Buie’s upward feed.

“We took the victory today,” Deraney concluded. “They didn’t hand it to us, we took it from them and I was very excited about that. We have people who are willing to make the tough play, sacrifice their body even though they know there might be some harm taking it to the front of the net, and that ended up scoring the fourth goal. It was a wonderful play by Buie taking it to the paint and Veharanta putting it top shelf from in tight. That doesn’t happen if Buie doesn’t take it to the front of the cage.

“A lot times we’ve been going behind the net. Now I’m seeing people take it to the front of the cage for a change. And we got rewarded for that.”

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com

Hockey Log

Friedman charges power surge

For only the second time since Halloween weekend, the PC women’s power play converted twice in a single game yesterday. Were it not for an extra five seconds last Sunday against Union, it would have been the third occasion and point-based puckslinger Jen Friedman would have had an integral role both times.

In last week’s 2-1 triumph, Friedman slugged home an insurance -strike-turned-decider with 12:21 to spare in the third period just as an opposing Marissa Gentile was coming back into the equation at the conclusion of her tripping minor. It was simply one of those old keep-the-swarm-going conversions.

Yesterday, from the same straightaway position, Friedman nailed a true 5-on-4 tally, granting the Friars a 3-2 lead with 16:30 remaining en route to a 4-2 victory over New Hampshire. It went down as her second consecutive game-clincher, her third goal in as many games, and her fifth power play point on the year, tying her for second on the team with Alyse Ruff and Nicole Anderson, all with 2-3-5 transcripts apiece.

“Jennifer Friedman, she and (fellow point patroller Ashley) Cottrell are really getting some chemistry back there and it’s really nice to see,” said head coach Bob Deraney. “I think we’re growing and that bodes really well for the future. Also, we’ve moved around a little personnel based on how people are developing, so I think we have a pretty good combination.”

Over the course of seven opportunities yesterday, the Providence power play brigade took nine registered stabs at New Hampshire goalie Kayley Herman. A leading three of those were off Friedman’s twig, which ties her with Corinne Buie for second on the team with 17 power play shots this season.

In all, Friedman has landed 35 SOG, eight of them coming just within her last two games and 15 coming in her last five. And after she had established herself as a long-distance playmaker to start her junior year with 10 helpers in her first 12 games, she is now pleasing her coach with suddenly broader horizons and more firsthand contributions in the attacking zone.

“She’s always been able to shoot it, we’ve always encouraged her to shoot it,” said Deraney. “Not only is she shooting it, but she’s shooting it intelligently, with some accuracy, and when you have that type of talent, the fact that she’s using it really excites me. She may not score every time from the point, but boy is she going to give our forwards a lot of wonderful opportunities to get some goals around the net.”

Fresh sheet for UConn matchup
This afternoon, PC alumna Heather Linstad’s pupils from Connecticut will make their first business trip to Schneider Arena since they dislodged the Friars from the 2010 Hockey East semifinals.

As is his custom, Deraney repelled any suggestion of icing a vengeance-minded pack in the rematch.

“We’re chasing something bigger than winning a hockey game,” he said. “We’re chasing a style of play, something that will be indicative of the type of team we are. The past has nothing to do with it. This is a different team with a different mentality and different ability.”

Still, the likes of Friedman admit that there is still some residual sting from last spring’s Husky-inflicted dog bite, regardless of how it factors in to the team’s 2010-11 endeavor.

“This is a new season, but yeah, we always remember what happened last season,” she said. “So we would like to get revenge. Looking back to last year, we always want to build off each season, but it’s a new team, new season, so we’re just going to go from where we are.”

Not unlike yesterday’s visitors from New Hampshire, the Huskies are on a startling slide. Yesterday’s 4-0 loss to Boston University docked them to 6-9-1 overall.

Charitable recognition

A pregame ceremony yesterday had the Friars’ coaches and captains presenting a $540 check to the Sojourner House in Providence, all compliments of the domestic violence awareness fundraiser that took place around the Oct. 23 game versus Princeton.

Quick Feeds: Ruff was credited with an assist on Laura Veharanta’s insurance strike, giving her a team-leading 13 helpers on the year and one in each of her last three games…Yesterday’s game was the 125th of Ruff’s college career. Defender Amber Yung will achieve the same milestone today…Sophomore Kristina Lavoie, one of the few sizzling specimens at New Hampshire, led her team with five shots on goal…The Friars and Wildcats split in the face-off department, winning 33 draws apiece…Goaltender Genevieve Lacasse notched her fourth assist of the season, setting up the rush that amounted to Kate Bacon’s second period equalizer. The Scarborough Save-ior now has seven helpers to her credit in 82 career games…Bacon grabbed a goal-assist value pack and drew four out of seven New Hampshire penalties, including each of the first three…Buie took the quick Crash Davis resort when asked about her playmaker hat trick. “My teammates did a really good job of finishing everything off,” she said.

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com

Saturday, November 27, 2010

On Hockey

They should make more shots count

Yesterday, for the sixth time this season but the first time in six games, the PC women discharged at least 35 shots on goal. And they could have upped that bushel well beyond 40 had they more fuel in the climactic phases of a narrow 3-2 Mayor’s Cup triumph at Meehan Auditorium.

“Narrow” is a much more operative term than “triumph” for this one, although given the Friars’ recent road woes and inconsistent output in the standings, there are still some luscious contents in this cup of lessons.

The Friars were leading the shooting gallery, 12-5, by the time Laurie Jolin scored her first of two goals to pull Brown University ahead, 1-0, with 16:11 gone in the first.

After defender Jen Friedman drew the 1-1 knot at 5:19 of the second, they issued quite the assertive follow-up flurry. Five different skating Friars pelted goaltender Katie Jamieson with six shots in a matter of two minutes. The madness was disrupted when a suddenly vulnerable Brown team went to the box on a roughing infraction to Kelly Kittredge. But there was still no mutation on the scoreboard.

By the second intermission, things were drawn at 2-2 and PC led, 28-17, in the way of registered stabs. Out of 17 active skaters, 14 had already taken at least one.

Translation: the quantity was there, the diversity in participation hardly warranted complaint, but there was not enough at the heart of the stats sheet to instill any due comfort to Bob Deraney’s coaching cabinet.

The tension only tightened in the last three quarters of the closing frame. When there were 14 minutes to spare in regulation, the Friars had 33 shots to the Bears 20. They mustered only three more afterward –the last one being Ashley Cottrell’s cathartic clincher in the final minute- with those shots each spaced apart by no fewer than four minutes. In that stretch, goaltender Genevieve Lacasse handled eight shots from the newly energized Bears.

Partial credit is owed to Jamieson for keeping it interesting early on, but PC owes every ounce of its acclaim to Lacasse for preserving the potentiality of a cardiac win. And going forward, the strike force owes its trusty backstop a return, or at least a halfway drive back, to the thick of October, when 40-plus shots and four-plus red lights on the other end were more the norm.

When the second period clock hits 10:00 during tomorrow’s tangle with Union at Schneider Arena, the Friars’ 33-game regular season schedule will be half-finished. And generally speaking, at this point, most anybody with fewer than five goals and/or 10 points on the year are those who could either stand to pick up the pace or elevate her own individual standards.

Junior Kate Bacon, who kindled a momentary 2-1 lead at 9:32 of the middle frame yesterday, is the PC Paramore’s only exception. Or at least the only undisputed one. Her latest goal is No. 12 in 16 games on the year, equating her combined output in 62 games as a freshman and sophomore.

Furthermore, Bacon has been doling out multiple servings of salsa-based rubber on a constant basis, her latest platter being a team-best seven shots yesterday. She now has 75 of those for an even 16 percent connectivity rate.

Not much more to assess over there. Bacon remains the team’s singular paradigm of quantity and quality. And Cottrell, last year’s top gun, is not far behind. She now has six strikes out of 50 shots for an exact 12 percent accuracy.

The Friars’ second- and third-busiest puckslingers, Corinne Buie (60 shots) and Laura Veharanta (56), are both still on pace to bag at least 10 goals before the playoffs. But there is no sense in settling down. And Buie, in particular, is slowly showing the need for a Bauer blow dryer to reverse the threat of freshman frostbite.

Everybody else just needs to let more out in the hopes of putting more in. Right now, everyone outside of the aforementioned has yet to reach 40 in her SOG column and they all have fewer than five tallies.

Collectively, the sub-Bacon crowd sketches a plain illustration of the team’s outlook, as did yesterday’s Divine City dance.

The prognosis: they’re good, but to meet their potential, they can’t afford to pass on a slight, simple upgrade.

At 10-5-1, the Friars are all but in a watertight position to take fulfilling confidence rather than frenzying consternation into the December deceleration. But odds are they will not find themselves escaping unscathed if they juggle with torches the way they did yesterday at any point in the Hockey East pennant race.

So instead of daringly juggling their acetylene sticks, they should refuel them and direct them solely at the adversary from here on out. No one in that dressing room needs to be told that Hockey East goalies are usually a tad tougher to mollify than Jamieson.

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com

Sunday, November 21, 2010

On Hockey

Better by chances
PC offense redresses self by pouncing more


Outside the door to the PC women’s hockey locker room sits a simple, hand-drawn placard reading “0-0.” The attitude it preaches –in a novel diversion from the trite “no lead is safe” pep talk- is quite fitting for a team like this.

Through 14 games in their 2010-11 season, the Friars have gone up, 1-0, on 12 occasions. They have outscored their adversaries, 13-3, in the first period. And their defense, fifth in the nation with an average of 1.79 opposing goals per game, is especially reliable when granted a multi-goal cushion.

Such a luxury has technically not been lacking of late, but it has been a little less automatic than it was in the middle three weekends of October. When it doesn’t come, whiffed opportunities and foregone chances are to blame. In turn, a few radiant chances to win and opportunities to ascend the conference and national rungs have been spilled.

But yesterday, Bob Deraney’s strike force exploited an unlikely victim in Northeastern stopper Florence Schelling, using a productive jumpstart to set the pace for a 4-1 triumph at Schneider Arena.

It was the first time in seven total encounters that the Friars put more than three pucks behind the Swiss Save-ior. And it was the first time in six outings that they tuned anybody’s mesh more than thrice, after it had been the norm in their first eight games.

“I’m just glad to have our team back,” said Deraney. “I don’t know where they were the last couple of weeks, but we played the type of hockey today that I’d like to see on a consistent basis.

“It was fun to watch,” he added.

Rarely does such an assessment occur to someone with a direct stake in the action. Partisan and nonpartisan spectators can accept and indulge in the tension of a contest with leads and momentum prone to swaying at the rate of a New England weather forecast. But the people in control of the game want, well, more control of the game.

“It’s just important that we have the momentum right at the start of the game and when we get that first goal, we have to keep the momentum going from there,” said top gun Kate Bacon, who inserted her 10th and 11th goals of the season, both on the power play.

Amidst a timely nine-day break away from game action that ended on Tuesday, Deraney stated his desire to “not be our own worst enemy.” Indubitably, in the team’s five “non-wins” on the year, the offense has been PC’s foremost self-inhibitor simply because it was subconsciously satisfied with brittle, early 1-0 advantages.

But yesterday, Bacon and defender Rebecca Morse each beat Schelling a mere minute and 45 seconds apart before the game was nine minutes old. Bacon struck again at 3:06 of the second period, intercepting a Northeastern clearing attempt at the brim of the zone and snapping a low 5-on-3 conversion to the right of Schelling.

“We talked about it this week,” said Deraney. “We have created scoring opportunities, but we never really created scoring chances, and there’s a big difference. If you really looked at the quality of our opportunities, they weren’t scoring chances, they were just opportunities. Today, we tried to take those opportunities and turn them into chances, and because of that we were rewarded.”

The whole principle couldn’t be simpler. The greater the gap, the higher the pressure on the adversary to start kindling something of their own and the less time they have to do so.

“We let them jump out to a quick two-goal lead and it’s tough to bounce back from that,” said Huskies’ head coach Dave Flint. “Especially with the goaltending they have. You know you’re not going to get a bunch of goals against (PC goalie Genevieve Lacasse).”

Ironically, Flint was away serving as one of Mark Johnson’s U.S. Olympic sidekicks when, exactly one year to the date of yesterday’s meeting, his pupils deleted a 3-0 deficit and laced a 4-3 albatross around Lacasse and Co.

But those Friars were still thawing out from the residual numbness of growing pains. These Friars know how to keep their challengers in a deeper hole, assuming they dig it for them first.

Yesterday, Flint watched his pupils dig desperately through the third period, ultimately pelting Lacasse with 26 shots on goal. The Scarborough Save-ior repelled everything but a power play conversion via Katie MacSorley with 13:10 to spare.

With a game total 39 stops, Lacasse leap-frogged Molly Schaus of Boston College for the top save percentage (.945) in Hockey East. But it could have been a less pleasurable workout, perhaps one like the 20-shot second period against Dartmouth this past Tuesday or the 26-puck salvo via Boston University two weeks ago.

The difference this time: a bulkier differential in her favor on the scoreboard.

“I don’t know if you stress it,” Deraney said. “Every time you come that’s the goal, is to get one and just continue to build on it.”

Kind of like how the Friars got one more assertive victory –their first in a while- and would be wise to build upon that.

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Hockey Log Extra: Rookie Report

Author’s note: In its NHL Team Reports section, the current edition of The Hockey News is focusing on impactful rookies. In a nod to that, the Free Press offers a similar report on the PC women’s team.

In only her second twirl wearing game time attire for the Friars, Corinne Buie stepped up to fill a void left by Jean O’Neill, who withdrew from the second of two exhibition games with McGill University due to a mild ailment before the third period. Little did anybody know Buie would answer the same ring under the same circumstances almost as soon as games started to matter.

After the senior co-captain O’Neill went down by way of a lower body injury in Game 2 of the regular season, head coach Bob Deraney promoted junior Kate Bacon to the first line and assigned Buie to supplement the top six. For what little he had seen of her, it was a reasonably comfortable decision, given that she inserted three goals in two bouts with Robert Morris.

Since then, in 11 games on the second line right wing, the frosh from Edina, Minn. has worked entirely with juniors and seniors. But she has let the seasoning rub off on her for the better, charging up a 2-3-5 scoring transcript, leveling 44 shots at the opposing net, and garnering regular minutes on the power play.

Through 13 games overall, Buie is second on the team only to Bacon with 51 SOG and has been allotted no fewer than two shots on a single night, a testament to consistent individual effort.

Maybe more critically, as an early testament to her two-way proficiency, Buie bears a plus-10 rating, tied for third-best among all Friars with left side linemate Laura Veharanta.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Hockey Log

Shootout advocate Deraney cites tie epidemic

Women’s hockey head coach Bob Deraney, being an archetypically civil Division I hockey coach, is hardly the smug type. But in the wake of a weekend that saw a pair of knots drawn in two other Hockey East series –namely Boston University versus Vermont and Maine versus Northeastern- he did offer a blunt, told-you-so statement in defense of the long-gone shootout.

The Black Bears and Huskies arm-wrestled one another to a 0-0 decision last Thursday and followed that up with a 2-2 final on Friday. Meanwhile, in the Hub, the Terriers deleted three one-goal deficits on the weekend to salvage 1-1 and 2-2 splits with the Catamounts.

For Deraney, that’s as good as a virtual win and a loss apiece for all parties involved, when under the abandoned system somebody could have extracted four precious conference points out of the weekend while forcing their adversaries to settle for two.

“All the coaches that voted against the shootout surely wish they had the shootout now,” he said yesterday. “You’re looking at a coach who wanted the shootout, believed in the shootout. It would alleviate a lot of the problems that are coming down the pike right now. So, hey, the coaches got what they deserved as far as I’m concerned.”

The main problem, of course, is the specter of parity-induced gridlock across the New England Eight standings. If there were still three-point games after a 65-minute stalemate, Deraney reasons, it would be slightly easier for teams to create breathing room in the pennant race. Accordingly, come February 20, when the ice chips settle on the regular season, there would potentially be less chance of a messy, off-ice tiebreaking process to determine playoff seeding.

Already, out of 21 games played so far between Hockey East cohabitants, eight have ended in a deadlock. New Hampshire is the lone tenant that has yet to hatch the goose-egg in its “T” column. Five teams have been involved in at least two draws, the Catamounts leading with four to their credit and a 0-4-4 league record coupled with a peculiar 1-4-7 overall transcript.

“It shows the parity in our league,” Deraney said. “You have BU, the (then-) No. 4 team in the country and yet Vermont ties them (twice), so it shows the first tie wasn’t a coincidence. It shows they’re a really good team, so from top to bottom I think we’re the best league in the country right now.”

In its two years of experimental operation on this coast, the Friars went an aggregate 7-4 in Hockey East and interleague shootouts, none more epic than a record-setting 13-round triumph of Northeastern on November 8 of last season.

And with the consistently composed Genevieve Lacasse, who encountered nine shootouts and stopped 28 out of 35 bids to go 6-3, they indubitably would have welcomed more one-on-one lightning rounds. Ditto the likes of NU with Florence Schelling and Boston College with the peerless Molly Schaus in their cage.

At the same time, Deraney says, there is a plus point to stress for his team, which still has a league-leading 18 conference games yet to come.

“What happened this past weekend opens a door for us,” he said. “Basically with BU tying two games, they split with Vermont, so that puts another loss in their loss column. Northeastern did the same thing. So if we can just continue to take care of business, the door has been cracked open a little bit. We have to make sure we can walk through that door and push it open a little wider. So I was really excited to see what happened.

“We’ll take anything that other teams are willing to give us. There’s an opportunity there for us, we’ve got to make sure we take advantage of it.”

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

On Hockey

Clearing the ice on their outlook
Lengthy gap between games equals assessment time for PC women

No need to be shy about asserting it this time. The Friars’ pluses patently outnumber the minuses after their first dozen games of the 2010-11 season.

With a brief intermission at hand after the first period of their 33-game schedule –they don’t play again for another six days- the Friars are best advised to savor the sweet spots of the tone they have set and translate it to the energized pursuit of improvement.

It is rarely an accident when a team leaps out to an 8-3-1 start and, after six weeks of knocking on the door between the honorable mention section and the Top 10 leaderboard, is finally recognized in a relevant national poll. PC was tied for 10th with Harvard in the eyes of uscho.com, as told in Monday’s revision. And last night, the Friars picked up three more votes for a total of 13 in the USA Today/USA Hockey poll, four notches shy of the No. 10 Crimson.

One can argue that they ought to be 10-1-1 and might have crashed the rankings a tad sooner. But the fans’ ability to gripe over regurgitated cupcakes against Robert Morris and Rensselaer only speaks to this team’s promising posture.

Providence isn’t tops in any conventional category on the Women’s Hockey East stats spread, but the invaluable balance is plain. With freshman blueliner Maggie Pendleton’s assist on Corinne Buie’s goal Sunday, which for her redeemed a helper two games prior that was ultimately retracted, every Friar who has seen action this season now has at least one point to her credit. Among the New England Eight, only New Hampshire can make the same claim.

PC boasts a league-leading seven skaters with at least three goals, including co-captain Jean O’Neill, whose lower body injury has restricted her to merely two games played.

In a credit to their collective play on both sides of the puck, all but two Friars have a positive plus-minus rating. As a group, they are plus-19, second to no one on this coast.

And goaltender Genevieve Lacasse, the only Hockey East stopper to have consumed all of her team’s crease time, has handled her peerless workload well enough to rank second behind Boston College’s Molly Schaus with a .944 save percentage.

Lacasse is often the best personification of this program’s highs, lows, and medians. Suffice it to say, this is one of those moments. She like her teammates has earned the breather that comes with this nine-day gap between Sunday’s 3-1 triumph over Maine and the next extramural engagement with Dartmouth.

“The first third of the season is grueling from a school standpoint, a schedule standpoint, just-trying-to-get-acclimated standpoint,” said head coach Bob Deraney.

“These nine days we can use very effectively to work on the things that we need to, get the rest that we need to, and hopefully on the other side of it become a much better team. So we’re excited about it.

“The bottom line of the goal is to be a better team at the other side of the break.”

To that point, with this reward comes responsibilities. Beneath a passable 2-1-1 record over the last 10 pre-break days sat evidence of fall frostbite in the Friars. Deraney had his reasons for interchanging his top two centers, Ashley Cottrell and Alyse Ruff, going into last weekend’s action. His strike force had gone from nailing four-plus goals in each of its first five regular season ventures to reaping two or fewer in four of the last seven.

In fairness, defensive games are bound to increase in frequency as the Hockey East pennant race revs up. But more notably, in the last four games, including its first three against conference cohabitants, the PC power play went a cumulative 0-for-15, including six spilled opportunities in the first 40 minutes against Maine.

All that came after the 5-on-4 brigade converted nine of its first 50 chances, equaling an 18 percent success rate. That rate has since dipped to 13.8 percent.

Then again, it’s not as if the opportunities have been abundant of late. Over their first eight games, the Friars drew a nightly average of 6.25 infractions on the opposition, contrasted to a mere 3.75 in the latest four.

For that reason, it is vital that Providence recharge its flustering flare at even strength as much as it reheats the acetylene sticks for those numerical advantage segments.

Rest and reflection, on top of a standard block of about four or five practice days is exactly the recommended formula here.

“I know a lot of people feel a little run down,” said Ruff. “But we just need to make sure we keep playing the same way that we’re playing, keep the intensity up, and keep our legs fresh.”

“So it might be a nice break, but hopefully it won’t hurt us. And I don’t think it will because we are a pretty good team and we’re starting to come together as a team and starting to figure out who we are.”

Then the question is: how will they continue? Keep your eye on the cooler, but do not open until next Tuesday.

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Boston University 4, Women's Hockey 1

Friars fail to finish off BU

BOSTON- As uncontrollably eager as the PC women may have been to think otherwise, the Boston University Terriers could not be fazed frozen by any of the would-be speedbumps they faced yesterday.

“I think they had a very good game plan against us,” mused head coach Bob Deraney in the aftermath of a vinegary, fall-from-ahead, 4-1 loss at Walter Brown Arena. “Nothing that we didn’t know was coming. I just don’t think we handled it as well as we could have

The absence of their top three point-getters –Jenn Wakefield, Marie-Philip Poulin, and Tara Watchorn, all serving Team Canada in the Four Nations Cup- wasn’t enough to curb BU for a full 60 minutes. Neither was the added challenge of protecting an unripe goaltender in Alissa Fromkin, curiously getting the start in lieu of the hot-handed Kerrin Sperry.

Not even a five-minute bodychecking major issued to rookie blueliner Kaleigh Fratkin with 5:34 to go in a deadlocked second period could biff the Dogs into a suffocating, broken Whack-a-Mole hole. That was probably because the Friars never applied the mallet.

PC would squander four minutes of its all-you-can-score buffet on two penalties to Alyse Ruff and one to Rebecca Morse, and by the time Fratkin’s sentence was through with 34 ticks till intermission, Boston was savoring a 3-1 lead.

With five seconds to go, blueliner Kathryn Miller made it 4-1. By day’s end, the Friars had spent a cumulative 3:24 of clock time on the power play (three chances) when they could have spent as much as 7:27.

“I didn’t have a problem with any of the penalties that (the referees) called or the way they called them,” Deraney insisted. “Probably the worst thing that happened to us was getting that five-minute major penalty called against BU, because it looked that we kind of let down a little bit.

“That’s the one thing that we need to do a better job of: trying not to let down our guard. We trap ourselves that way. It’s that 10 minutes again that we talked about earlier in the year. There’s a 10-minute span where we just kind of get a little lost or a little loose, and all of their goals were scored in 11 minutes. It’s that 11 minutes where we’re learning to play a full 60 and until we do that, we’re still trying to find the team we’re capable of becoming.”

The prototype Deraney desires, or something close to it, was visible enough in the first period, wherein the Friars ran up a 14-4 edge on the shot clock and etched an early lead at the 5:30 mark.

Goaltender Genevieve Lacasse (season-high 41 saves) safely vacated her crease to play rolling BU dump-in and lobbed a feed up along the wall to Ashley Cottrell in front of the PC bench. Cottrell strode into the Terrier territory and roofed her third goal –and the Scarborough Save-ior’s third assist- of the season.

Cottrell’s strike, in effect, snapped an early rut of end-to-end air hockey-paced action in favor of a Friar-issued flurry. In response, Fromkin (27 saves) brought forth a strategy more conservative than the Tea Party. Within the last 10 minutes of the opening frame, four out of eight whistles were summoned when the BU stopper either lassoed in a shot or elected to smother a loose rebound or dump-in.

Accordingly, she kept her worthily poised mates in the game, and they put a 180-degree spin on everything in the middle stanza, discharging 26 shots at Lacasse, four behind Lacasse.

With 8:03 gone, not long after another brief segment of fleeting back-and-forth play, captain Holly Lorms snuck undetected into the deep and absorbed a feed from Meghan Riggs to slip home the equalizer.

And then, 40 seconds into the Friars’ major power play –as it happened, their last 5-on-4 chance of the day- Ruff was flagged for tripping. She was released as soon as Louise Warren shoveled a backhander into the top right corner of the net with 3:19 left in the period and still 2:45 left in the Fratkin penalty.

Morse drew a citation for holding 39 seconds thereafter and was joined right off the next draw by Ruff, booked for interference. Now with a 4-on-3 advantage available for as long as 1:57, the Terriers only needed 33 seconds to set up world class point patroller Catherine Ward, who magnetically absorbed the remnants of Lacasse’s stick save and slugged home her first NCAA goal.

Miller, credited with the lone helper on each of the previous two goals, collected her own on Jenelle Kohanchuk’s upward feed, which she drilled low from the right point into the opposite post to complete the eruption.

“They picked up the tempo of the game,” Deraney said of the decisive middle frame. “They started stretching, they started skating, things that we’re accustomed and that we usually handle well. But for some reason today, I don’t think we handled their adjustment as well as we could have.”

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com

Hockey Log

Hockey Log
Black Bears looking better


BOSTON- For the University of Maine women’s hockey team, few developments are more indicative of improvement than a couple of early wins against opponents not called Sacred Heart.

The Black Bears and first-year coach Maria Lewis visit the Friars at Schneider Arena this afternoon at 4-5-0, their best nine-game start since they sprinted out to 5-2-2 in 2005-06, which was three coaches ago (Guy Perron, followed by one year under Lauren Streble, then three years of Dan Lichterman).

Although 18 of their 32 goals were scored over a two-game throttling of the independent Pioneers, the Mainers are still flaunting faint signs of long-term life on offense. Save for a 3-1 win at Niagara on October 22, they have capitalized on at least one power play every night for a respectable 22.8 percent success rate. And that includes three conversions a pair of growing-pain losses to almighty Mercyhurst.

Sophomore forward Brittany Dougherty, the Black Bears’ top point-getter with a 6-7-13 transcript through nine games, has already surpassed her rookie log of 3-6-9 in 28 games and only been barred from the scoresheet twice. Her classmate Chloe Tinkler already has two goals and three assists to her credit after mustering nothing but two helpers as a frosh.

Senior Jennie Gallo (8-3-11), along with juniors Myriam Croussette, Danielle Ward, and Dominique Goustis are likewise all on pace to cement quick and easy career years. It’s a notion with enough credibility, seeing as none of them have notched any fewer than three points in their first seven post-Sacred Heart games.

Finally, the potential to supplement the work of a sympathetic stable of goaltenders long relegated to 40-, 50-, or 60-plus shot nights from opponents who pace themselves to close victories.

“I’ve watched some tape on them. They work extremely hard, they make you earn everything,” said Friars head coach Bob Deraney. “We’re going to have our hands full. One of the best goalies in the league is coming in Brittany Ott. And we’ve got to play a lot better than we did (in yesterday’s 4-1 loss to Boston University), that’s for sure.”

Centers switched
Deraney tested his first major voluntary (i.e. not forced by injury) line chart tweaks yesterday, having centers Ashley Cottrell and Alyse Ruff swap lines. Cottrell started with Kate Bacon and Abby Gauthier on the wings while Ruff ran with Laura Veharanta and Corinne Buie after the two pivots had played the reverse roles for eight games.

“Just trying to create a little bit more offense for us,” Deraney said. “And I thought there were some good results that came out of it. But we’re trying to jumpstart our offense to go to another level. We haven’t scored a lot of goals lately.”

Sizzling Bacon cools

Bacon, still the top gun and now the only Friar currently boasting a point-per-game average higher than one, went scoreless yesterday for the first time since October 1, halting a nine-game production streak that saw her roll up nine goals –including one power play, one shorthanded, and one game-winner- and three assists. The opposing BU Terriers also confined Bacon to a mere three shots on net for the second time in as many meetings.

Quick feeds
: Bacon drew a five-minute major on an opponent for the second time in four games yesterday, when she absorbed a strident bodycheck from Kaleigh Fratkin during a footrace into the right corner of the BU zone. She previously endured a hit from behind via Princeton’s Rose Alleva back on October 23…The Friars scored the first goal for the ninth time in 11 games and are 5-3-1 in that scenario…Terriers goalie Alissa Fromkin, putting in her first appearance in a month after overcoming a lower body injury, earned her first win since she beat Maine in last year’s regular season finale…Providence was confined to one goal for the first time in 14 meaningful games, the last time being an identical 4-1 road loss to Connecticut on February 13 of last season…Veharanta led all Friars with five shots on goal while Jill Cardella, Lauren Cherewyk, and Catherine Ward registered seven apiece for BU…Gauthier was the only Friar to earn a plus-1 rating on yesterday’s scoresheet…Today’s opponent from Maine is the only team in Hockey East still yet to play overtime, to lose after scoring the first goal, or to win after shedding first blood.

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

On Hockey

Veharanta has turn on balance beam
Born-again scorer contributing to, feeding off deeper roster

Report based on Live Stats

New Haven, Conn.- With the first period of the PC women’s 33-game regular season schedule nearly completed, Laura Veharanta holds a 5-2-7 scoring log. This puts her on pace to finish her junior campaign with no fewer than 16 goals, the same bushel she bagged in 36 games as a radiant rookie.

Granted, it’s a notion easy enough to lose touch with, given her not-quite-queenly stance on the Friars’ dense scoring charts. Even after her two-goal outburst in the first period made the difference in last night’s 3-1 victory over Yale at Ingalls Rink, she still trails three of her teammates in the point department.

This is owed primarily to Kate Bacon, the primordial frontrunner for this year’s team MVP award, and the fact that four other forwards are seeing action on the top power play unit.

But beneath those ice chips, it is plain that Veharanta has thawed out from last year’s letdown, which saw her dip from a 16-15-31 log to a 3-9-12 transcript, from a team-best 140 shots on goal to a mere 57, from a plus-seven rating to an even.

Before last night’s match was but five minutes old, Veharanta had already attempted five shots. Four were on net, and two were in the net. She ultimately logged nine attempts on the night and put six on goal. (Only the top gun Bacon, who inserted an empty netter with 55 ticks left in the third period, registered more stabs with eight. Bacon, by the way, has now set herself a career high with nine tallies on the year.)

At 4:17 of the first period, Veharanta inserted her fourth goal of the season, converting linemate Ashley Cottrell’s pass and instantly exceeding the three she accumulated during her sophomore slip. Just 10 seconds later, she nailed her second multi-goal game of the year.

Her second strike would eventually go down as her second game-winner of the season and was also her 50th college point.

Veharanta entered last night in a tie for third on the team in most every relevant offensive category. With a 3-2-5 scoring transcript, she had joined Nicole Anderson, Jean O’Neill, and Alyse Ruff in a four-way knot for third on the Friars in goals. Her five points were matching those Cottrell and defender Amber Yung, good enough for seventh on the team. She and Cottrell had 32 shots on goal apiece, trailing only their linemate Corinne Buie (36) and Bacon (40).

On the other side of last night’s horn, she is tied with Buie for second under the SOG heading, each of them brandishing a 38.

Translation: with not quite one-third of the schedule consumed, Veharanta is already two-thirds of the way towards equating her sophomore output of 57 bids. She along with Anderson, Bacon, Buie, and Cottrell are all on an early pace to break triple digits in that category. Providence has not had five strikers each amass 100-plus shots in a season since 2003-04.

Much more critically, the Friars as a whole have not averaged more than three goals per game since the 2005-06 season. As of this morning, through 10 games, they boast a 3.64 median with 13 individual goal-getters and at least one point for everyone who has seen game action –goaltender Genevieve Lacasse (two assists) and all.

If everyone stays on course, Veharanta and classmate Abby Gauthier will likely join Bacon in posting a career year in goals while at least eight veteran Friars could set themselves new bars under the points heading.

The important note to take here: Veharanta is but one ingredient on a healthily offensive-minded squad, unlike in 2008-09, when she jutted as a performer beyond her years pledging the future of a rebuilding program.

The mere difference this season is that Veharanta is getting fewer turns to stand out. But her volcanic inclination last night was contagious, particularly during the productive first period jumpstart.

The two sophomore Jessicas, Cohen and Vella, had a mere 10 and nine shots, respectively, on the year going into last night. Vella would pelt Yale goaltender Genny Ladiges four times, Cohen three within the 20 minutes alone. Cohen tested Ladiges once more in the third.

In all, the three-party input of Veharanta, Vella, and Cohen constituted 69 percent of the Friars’ first period, 16-shot salvo. In the previous nine games, they had contributed 51 of the team’s 306 SOG for 16.7 percent. During those other games, it was simply Anderson, Bacon, Buie, Cottrell, Gauthier, O’Neill, and/or Ruff doing the bulk of the work.

But if this is an awakening for the likes of Cohen (one goal and no assists so far, Vella (two goals and a helper), then maybe they will join in on the collective quest for new standards.

Odds are Veharanta would take whatever that brings to her 7-2-1 team over the lonelier limelight of her freshman season.

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Hockey Log

Day-by-day routine
PC women centered solely on immediate future

Friday night’s clean, classic 2-2 tie with the almighty Boston University didn’t quite cut it for the Friars to advance in USCHO’s weekly poll. In fact, upon yesterday’s revision, the deadlocked and gridlocked Providence team had one vote fewer (10 total) than it did last week as it stayed in the honorable mention slab, carrying half the points of the No. 10 ranked Harvard.

Odds are the Friars were one goal away last Friday from tipping the scale and crashing the glamorous echelon of the national leaderboard for the first time in the 2010-11 season.

But if they get their way on the ice all this week –starting tonight with a visit the 0-2-2 Yale Bulldogs, continuing with Saturday’s BU rematch at Walter Brown Arena, and rounding out in a home date with Maine on Sunday- any dispute should have some traction if they are not ranked at this time seven days from now.

No guarantees, of course that they’ll earn their spot come next week –regardless of one’s definition of “earn.” What is certain is head coach Bob Deraney won’t devote any breath to debate if his pupils fall short again.

“Don’t really care,” he said. “Honestly, I just want to continue to play better. I really don’t care what people think of us. All I care about is that we continue to be better.

“In order to be great, you have to play great against great teams. You have to know what it’s like and what it takes, and I guarantee you our kids will be preparing harder because they now know what’s out there.”

Naturally, the flipside to this week’s stakes is the ever-present danger of dawdling through a bout with statistically weaker opponents. That label fits the Bulldogs right now, with their winless transcript and a combined 12-6 score working against them through four games.

In the same vein, a wasted opportunity against the Black Bears –in spite of their surprisingly irreproachable 4-4-0 start- would likely prompt the pollsters to confiscate every table scrap the Friars hold until further notice.

Bottom line at ice level: PC just wants to play to win and check what happens on paper later.

“It’s just another game on the schedule,” Deraney said. “Another game in which we need to play great and try to get better. And I’m not giving you clich├ęs, that’s our mentality.

“We have to get better. We have our sights set on a lot of different things this year and you can’t get there unless you take care of what you need to do today.

“I think it’s a really healthy mindset. It doesn’t allow you to take anything for granted, it doesn’t allow you to get too complacent, and it doesn’t allow you to get down. It’s just a really healthy way to go about it and we’ve got a terrific team that I think all the way through feels the same way. We’re just trying to be the best we can today.”

Lacasse splits weekly crown

Goaltender Genevieve Lacasse, who tied a season high with 40 saves last Friday, garnered her second Hockey East Defensive Player of the Week laurel in three opportunities yesterday. She shared this week’s prize with New Hampshire junior Lindsey Minton, who repelled a cumulative 39 shots in two shutout wins over Niagara.

Minton and Lacasse are Nos. 1 and 2 among Hockey East stoppers and rank second and third, respectively, in the country with .955 and .949 save percentages. Lacasse, though, has worked up a denser sweat. She leads the nation in total saves with 281 on 296 shots faced.

Quick feeds: Yale assistant coach Jess Koizumi, part of the first-year Joakim Flygh staff in New Haven, inserted four goals for the CWHL’s Boston Blades in a pair of weekend victories over Burlington at the Whittemore Center. PC assistant Karen Thatcher assisted on her game-winner in a 3-0 triumph on Saturday…The Friars are winless (0-4-1) in their last five annual meetings with the Bulldogs, snapping a four-game losing streak with a 2-2 tie at Schneider Arena last autumn. PC’s most recent win at Ingalls Rink was a 2-0 decision on December 10, 2000. The Friars have since gone 0-3-1 in that barn…Among active Friars, junior forwards Ashley Cottrell and Laura Veharanta lead the program with a goal and an assist apiece in their career against the Bulldogs…A win tonight will assure Providence a winning nonconference record (currently 6-2-0) for the first time since 2002-03, when the team went 9-5-5 in interleague games.

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com

Saturday, October 30, 2010

On Hockey

Matchup was “knot” what it promised

For one party, the unsurpassed tradition saturating its rivalry with New Hampshire is irrevocable. For the other, everyone by now ought to have carpal tunnel from underlining November 20, when the revamped women’s Battle of Commonwealth Avenue has its first showcase of the season. Both programs alike have their reasons for healthy, mutual spite with Northeastern.

But last night’s 2-2 draw between Providence College and Boston University at Schneider Arena confirmed an equal, if not greater, matchup concocted with succulent mirror imagery and intensity.

Going in, the Terriers and Friars alike were just polishing off the most productive Octobers either incumbent coach has ever enjoyed. Now at 6-2-1, Bob Deraney is enjoying his best start in 12 years on the Divine Campus. BU’s founding father Brian Durocher has his program off to its best start in its six-year history at 6-1-1.

Why? Both teams are overstocked on offense. Both have stability in the cage. Both are keen and capable on each side of the special teams’ spectrum. Both have shown that they prefer to omit the word “quit” in their dictionary.

And especially in the wake of last night’s seesaw sibling-smoocher, both know they have their wrinkles to flatten in advance of their rematch a week from today up at Walter Brown Arena.

“They’re obviously a well-coached team, and they play real hard,” said Durocher. “Early in the game, I thought every time we got near the puck, they got a stick on it or had an arm or a hand on us and we weren’t quite ready to match their intensity. So for 10 minutes, they were kind of in charge and giving us fits. After that, I think we got grounded and played a pretty good game.”

When asked what he expects next time around, Deraney said, “Two heavyweight fighters in the middle of the ring duking it out. They have great players, we have great players, they’re going to execute, we’re going to execute. Whoever makes the most of those opportunities is the one who’s going to win.”

Last night, the Friars had the bulk of the early opportunities. Freshman blueliner Rebecca Morse spawned them a 1-0 lead at 14:46 of the first and PC drew each of the game’s first three power plays all within the first 11 minutes of the middle frame.

Trouble was, BU is not one to be fazed by 1-0 deficits. After last night, the Terriers are 3-1-1 when authorizing the first goal and they have only trailed by multiple goals once this season.

Furthermore, their penalty kill is tops in the nation with a 95.6 success rate. And in those three shorthanded segments, they blocked four out of seven PC shot attempts and forced two others to go wide.

On the flip side, once the Friars started going to the box, they awakened a thawed-out, star-studded strike force. In two unanswered deployments, Boston’s top power play unit –comprised of Jenn Wakefield, Marie-Philip Poulin, and Jenelle Kohanchuk up front with Lauren Cherewyk and Tara Watchorn patrolling the points- leveled seven shots at PC stopper Genevieve Lacasse.

The seventh of those went in off the stick of Wakefield, who one-timed Catherine Ward’s feed from the far outer hash marks into the opposite shelf with 1:03 left in the second.

Apart from that and Wakefield’s go-ahead goal with 3:59 gone in the third, Lacasse stood firm for a 40-save dolphin show. Of the Terriers she met this past summer at Team Canada camp, she repelled four other Wakefield stabs, blocked all six bids by Poulin, and four each from Kohanchuk and Ward.

“She played fantastic,” said Durocher. “We got a lucky goal, the second one, which took a lucky bounce and was in the toughest spot to stop. I don’t think she nor anybody else saw it bounce, but it did.

“You take herself and (Molly) Schaus and (Florence) Schelling at BC and Northeastern, and we’re going to have a run at tough goalies as the year goes along, that’s for sure.”

That would be something for the Terriers and Friars –averaging 4.25 and 3.78 goals per game, respectively- to each bear in mind during the Hockey East pennant race. They taught each other that lesson last night in their first intraleague contest.

BU freshman Kerrin Sperry nearly enhanced her young career record to 6-0-0, denied the full two-point package only by Providence speedster Kate Bacon’s equalizer with 8:25 to spare in regulation.

Then again, Sperry may have endured her first loss had the Friars sculpted a heftier lead during their 15-shot flurry in the first. Or if they had poked one in on one of four power plays. Or if, at 8:47 of the second, Jessie Vella had put on the brakes in time to avoid a crease violation that waved off a delayed-penalty goal that would have made it 2-0.

“Put a couple of goals in there, and maybe it’s a different game,” said Deraney. “Against a team like that, when you get opportunities to score, you need to score. If you don’t, it could come back to haunt you. That’s what happened tonight.

“But a lesser team, too, when they went ahead, 2-1, would have said ‘Hey, good effort tonight. Let’s look forward to the next game.’ Not our kids. They’re going to fight until somebody tells them they can’t fight any longer.”

Complementing that, Durocher and Co. can ask for little more than a better jumpstart and a slightly more assertive finish next Saturday. It will be especially crucial for his pupils to step up while Poulin, Wakefield, and Watchorn represent their country at the Four Nations Cup.

“I expect both teams to be playing hard and we’ve got to ramp it up right from the get-go,” he said. “We’re going to have to play a smart game, an intelligent game, and make sure we match their intensity.”

As if these two weren’t matching each other enough already, another good promotional omen for Hockey East.

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com

Friday, October 29, 2010

Hockey Log

Friars: BU just another adversary

Where the fans should be seeing stars tonight, Bob Deraney and his pupils plan to simply see a band of skaters wearing a uniform different from their own.

Where pollsters see the potential for the Friars to hop over the dasherboards separating them from the Top 10 crowd, the pucksters just see another opportunity to whet their blades.

Really? Is there no absolutely aroma of intrigue behind the fact that the reloaded Boston University Terriers will come back to Schneider Arena for the first time since raising the Women’s Hockey East playoff trophy here last March and give the Friars their first league test of the season? Not to mention, the fact that PC is likewise offering the No. 5-ranked, 6-1-0 Terriers their first intraleague opponent?

“Just looking forward to our next game, no matter who it’s against,” said Deraney. “We come to play and we want to play the best. That’s what we talk about all the time. We wanted RPI to bring their best (last Friday), we wanted Princeton to bring their best (last Saturday), and we want BU to bring their best, because the only way you’re going to get better is if people play their best against you.

“We don’t want people to have a crappy night. We want people to bring their best because whether you win or lose, it doesn’t matter, it’s going to make you a better team.”

The last time BU confronted a Women’s Hockey East cohabitant was a revolutionary battle at Schneider Arena, culminating in a 2-1 overtime win over Connecticut for the program’s first conference crown.

Nearly eight months and one Cyclopean recruiting spree later, the Terriers come to start defending their title with the likes of ex-New Hampshire Wildcat sizzler Jenn Wakefield, Canadian Olympic hero Marie-Philip Poulin, and graduate defender Catherine Ward, another gold medalist from the Vancouver Games.

All has gone according to plan in the first month of action for Brian Durocher’s capstone class. Poulin –the scorer of both goals in Canada’s 2-0 gold medal triumph over the United States- leads the NCAA with nine strikes and the team with 16 points. Wakefield boasts an 8-5-13 transcript in her first seven college games since transferring from Durham.

As a team, the Terriers have had 11 different scorers contribute to a median of 4.57 goals per game. The power play likely still has yet to hit its stride, but already has a 21.9 percent success rate. On the flip side, Poulin, Wakefield, and junior defender Tara Watchorn have combined to give the team a frightful pile of six shorties.

BU has even hinted at answering its topmost question in the crease. Freshman goaltender Kerrin Sperry is a seamless 5-0-0 and has authorized merely eight goals on 107 shots faced.

That should be plenty from goal line to goal line to test the 6-2-0 Friars and their own nascent well-rounded roster. And while the collective data probably anoints Boston as the favorite on all betting lines, Providence may have one advantageous X-factor in goaltender Genevieve Lacasse.

The Scarborough Save-ior enters tonight’s matchup armed with familiarity. She spent large ice chips of her summer, as well as the last weekend of September, training under the Mighty Maple Leaf with the likes of Poulin, Wakefield, Watchorn, and reckonable BU junior Jenelle Kohanchuk.

Yet even from Lacasse, the word on the matchup still translates to “nothing special.”

“We’ve been doing a little bit of trash talking, I guess,” she said. “It helps a little bit, I know their moves, but who knows if they’re trying to play mind games? If they’re not going to pull their moves on me, pull something different? So I’m just trying not to think about it, pretend like they’re any other opponent.”

Lacasse was pressed further to imagine a potentially bigger-than-usual audience tonight, which would be drawn particularly by the presence of Poulin.

“It might,” she said. “I’m excited for it. Whatever comes our way, we’ll take it.”

Quick feeds: Last year, BU won the season series with the Friars for the first time since its 2005 inception, claiming two of the three meetings. Counting their two Hockey East playoff wins, the Terriers are 3-7-0 all-time at Schneider Arena…In her two seasons at UNH (2007-09), Wakefield mustered an aggregate 3-2-5 scoring log in seven meetings with Providence…Both BU alums, Deraney and Durocher will ironically square off only two nights after their former college coach –men’s skipper Jack Parker- received a share of the 2010 Lester Patrick Award at the TD Garden. Parker, who has taught the Terrier men since 1973, was honored on Wednesday along with fellow recipients Jerry York (Boston College men’s coach), Cam Neely (Hall of Fame player and former Bruin), and Dave Andrews (president of the AHL).

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Hockey Log Extra: Writer's backcheck

Author’s note: In its NHL Team Reports section, the current edition of The Hockey News is having its contributors “look back at their favorite moments covering their team.” In a nod to that, the Free Press offers a similar report on the PC women’s team.

Nobody who was on hand November 8, 2009, when Schneider Arena morphed into the OK Corral, can still rightly stand by the notion that defensive hockey is dull hockey.

The budding personal rivalry between Friars goaltender Genevieve Lacasse and Northeastern stopper Florence Schelling hit a fast new height when the contesting sophomores pushed their third career showdown to a 13-round shootout.

Schelling had already repelled 36 regulation shots, Lacasse 27. Each only had to deal with one opposing stab in the five-minute overtime to retain a 1-1 tie and secure at least on Hockey East point for her respective team.

Odds are nobody was thinking about a record-length shootout when the 65th minute of standard hockey action expired. But if, in that second year of shootout usage in the league, one had to guess the goaltending card that would set a runaway record, which other two goalies would one pick?

The first six shooters on each side whiffed. By that point, the record was already in place, but there was still not a single red light in the bonus round.

Then, in the top half of the seventh, Northeastern’s Danielle Kerr nudged the Friars to the brink of gut-socking defeat by beating Lacasse on a low-rider shot. But PC’s Alyse Ruff coolly countered by cutting down Broadway and letting the vital equalizer trickle through Schelling’s five-hole.

Another five scoreless rounds ensued. And by the time Lacasse denied Casie Fields, the Huskies 13th shooter, the Friars –shorthanded by an ongoing smattering of injuries- were but four rounds away from returning to Nicole Anderson at the top of the order.

In the meantime, stay-at-home defender Christie Jensen was spontaneously tapped to try her luck, and with all the open ice, she would reveal an inner portion of herself that neither 5-on-5 nor 4-on-4 nor even, most likely, 2-on-2 would ever permit.

Jensen –who at the time had no regulation goals in her career- took the puck from the center dot and made a dramatic swoop to her left, making no use of the smoothed lane the Zamboni had left specifically for her and her fellow shooters. She gradually cut back to center until she was face-to-face with Schelling, and spooned the game-winner over the Swiss phenom’s catching glove.

A hard-earned two-point package for the victors, well-deserved partial credit for the runner-ups. A bout like that can irrefutably justify what is often maligned as the “loser point.”

Epic battle? That’s an understatement. This author was quick to dub this contest “A Game Worth 10,000 Words.” That is, if we only had the space for it.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Women's Hockey 4, Princeton 0

Coming back together
Friars stay buckled, tame Tigers


When his pupils went into yesterday’s second intermission carrying a brittle 1-0 edge and still nearly half of a five-minute, all-you-can-score buffet courtesy of a hitting-from-behind major to Princeton defender Rose Alleva, PC head coach Bob Deraney opted to screen the Zamboni in the dressing room. Namely, the choice between the specter of squandering the juicy combination of a fresh sheet and interminable power play or cashing in for a bonus breath of momentum.

“You don’t want to talk about that because what happens is, if you don’t score, now all of a sudden, it takes on a different meaning,” Deraney said.

The urge to repel any pressure only heightened at 1:58 of the third period, when Abby Gauthier’s power play goal was placed under review to confirm it was not converted on a high-stick.

While referees Bill Doiron and Robert Tisi made the crucial call upstairs, Deraney huddled his entire team at the bench.

“I said to them, no matter what happens, if they call the goal back, it doesn’t matter, just continue to compete and that’s what I was most proud of. For 60 minutes, we were able to compete as hard as we did from start to finish. Much different than last night.”

As it happened, the goal stood, granting the Friars a 2-0 lead. And in the 18:02 of clock time that remained, they paced themselves to an assertive 4-0 triumph at Schneider Arena, rapidly redeeming Friday’s fall-from-ahead, 3-2 loss to Rensselaer.

“It was really nice because we all played together this game,” said Gauthier, credited with her second goal in as many nights. “(On Friday), we were playing really individualistic. Today we played together, and my goal came from all my teammates. It just shows you can’t do it alone.”

Some of the common themes from the Friars’ previous three weekends back on display after Friday’s hiatus: a few power play strikes, one or two double-digit shot bushels in a single period, a point for at least one member of each full forward line, and a final margin of three goals or more.

“It was really good,” said goaltender Genevieve Lacasse, who charged up a game total 35 saves for her 11th college shutout.

“We played great defense. All over the ice, we were really quick. First period, we dominated. We just started off way better than (Friday). (Friday’s) game wasn’t us at all. Today we came out and showed who we really were.”

After a relatively uneventful first period, characterized chiefly by minimal penalty calling and a digestible flurry of 16 shots at Princeton stopper Cassie Seguin (40 saves), the Tigers turned around and stirred the better half of the offense through most of the middle frame.

But the Friars, bolstered by Lacasse’s 17-save performance, constantly salted the ice for their opponents. All but one of Princeton’s four second period power plays, including a rich 1:57 carry-over from the opening frame, was terminated prematurely by an infraction of their own. That slippery slew climaxed in the five-minute sentence to Alleva, drawn by Kate Bacon as she went to retrieve the remnants of her shorthanded bid.

“I guess it was just a momentum builder,” said center Ashley Cottrell. “We always talk about keeping our feet moving, using our speed to our advantage, and if we use our speed, take them wide. That draws penalties and it always works to our advantage.”

Amidst the cunning power play chopping spree, all five skating Friars touched the puck en route to their icebreaker at 6:24 of the second. Christie Jensen made the moving breakout feed from in front of her net to fellow blueliner Jen Friedman. Venturing up the far lane, Friedman found Laura Veharanta, who carried the disc into Princeton territory and left a drop pass for Corinne Buie, whose shot was guided into the opposite corner of the cage by Cottrell’s tip.

Once Gauthier broadened the lead by swatting home Bacon’s bloop shot from the opposite post, Providence increasingly flustered the Tigers. Within 40 seconds of Gauthier’s goal, Krystyna Bellasario was whistled for a blunt checking infraction, having blown both mitts in the face of Nicole Anderson in the near corner of the Friars zone.

Less than six minutes later, successive tripping and checking minors to Sally Butler and Paula Romanchuk gave PC a 32-second 5-on-3 segment. With 19 seconds left in Romanchuk’s sentence, Anderson won a face-off back to Lauren Covell, who fed her point partner Friedman for a blast over Seguin’s trapper, making it 3-0 with 10:08 to spare.

When 3:29 remained, a fresh-out-the-box Jessie Vella finalized the 4-0 upshot when she absorbed Cottrell’s pass along the near wall and strolled in to bury an empty netter.

“Obviously, we were hoping that we had learned a lesson from (Friday’s) game and I think we did,” said Deraney. “We played well from offense to defense to where our goaltending was superb to our special teams where our power play scored two goals, which is terrific, and we obviously shut them down on the penalty kill. It was a total team effort.”

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com

Hockey Log

Friedman puts defense on board

Although none of his blueliners had contributed firsthand in the first seven games of his program’s offensive renaissance, PC women’s head coach Bob Deraney was quick to commend their combined 20 assists and additional intangible contributions.

“I think we’ve gotten tremendous shots from the point,” he said. “And that’s what we want to see. Our defenders have taken good shots, but they haven’t hit the net.”

That finally changed at 9:52 of the third period yesterday when Jen Friedman, the nation’s leading helper coming into the weekend with nine assists, slugged a high-flying puck from the near wall over the glove of Princeton goaltender Cassie Seguin. As it happened, fellow junior defender Lauren Covell was credited with her second assist on the play.

And there was a slight positional role reversal in Friedman’s goal. Deraney singled out one of his forwards, Jessie Vella, for promptly bolting the face-off circle to screen Seguin, all within the three seconds it took for the puck to drop and to ultimately find its way home.

No point for Vella there, but an integral part of the goal, Deraney said.

“That’s a terrific shot, and a lot of people won’t see it with Vella going to the net and basically taking away the goalie’s eyes. And it’s just a great shot by Friedman to walk into it and put it top shelf.”

Friedman’s goal was her fourth power play point of the year, already matching both her freshman and sophomore totals.

Cottrell steps back up

Junior center Ashley Cottrell, the team leader last season with 14 goals and 31 points, stamped her first multi-point game of the season with a goal-assist value pack yesterday. With that, she bumped her 2010-11 scoring transcript to 2-3-5 through eight games.

Although still a few strides behind six of her teammates and not yet producing at quite the pace most had expected, Cottrell takes comfort in the depth of her crew.

“I don’t think there was any pressure (on me),” she said. “Points don’t really matter to anyone on the team as long as we’re winning, working together as a group.”

Cottrell, the only player to attain a plus-2 rating yesterday, does have one jutting distinction. After posting the icebreaker in yesterday’s 4-0 win, she has two clinching strikes on the year, joining her with teammate Alyse Ruff and only 10 other NCAA skaters already with multiple game-winners.

Towers tangle
Sophomore forward Nicole Anderson had not received a penalty prior to yesterday’s game. That changed promptly on her first shift when she had a chippy encounter with her fellow six-footer, Princeton defender Sasha Sherry, behind the Tigers’ net. Both were escorted to the sin bin for coincidental roughing minors at the 2:40 mark.

The injured Jean O’Neill and freelance forward Emily Groth are now PC’s last two skaters yet to do time for a single offense this season.

PK perfect again

In all four of their regular season home games, the Friars have gone 21-for-21 on the penalty kill. The Princeton power play came up empty yesterday on five opportunities, whiffing on eight total shots.

The Tigers’ promising moment came after PC’s Laura Veharanta was called for cross-checking at 3:52 of the second period. They mustered a cyclonic three stabs within 25 seconds, but by then their 5-on-4 time had ended prematurely with Paula Romanchuk going off for slashing.

On the other side of the special teams’ spectrum, the Friars piled on 17 power play shots –their most since heaving 20 at Robert Morris on October 1- over nine opportunities, converting twice.

Quick feeds: Ruff was retroactively credited with an assist on Abby Gauthier’s goal in Friday’s 3-2 loss to Rensselaer, keeping her tied with Friedman for a team-leading 10 points…Kate Bacon launched a team-high nine shots on goal yesterday and extended her point-scoring streak to seven games with an assist on Gauthier’s third period goal…PC and Princeton played an aggregate five minutes and 13 seconds of 4-on-4 action…As a team, the Friars own the best plus-minus rating in Hockey East at a collective plus-15…The defending Hockey East champion Boston University is next on PC’s agenda, slated to visit Schneider Arena this Friday. The Terriers tied a program-record six-game winning streak yesterday, warding off Clarkson at Walter Brown Arena, 3-2.

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Rensselaer 3, Women's Hockey 2 (OT)

Rest-hungry Friars zapped in OT

Kate Bacon –who is garnering attention and accolades in the young weeks of her junior season as fast as she can pull off a Noremorean end-to-end rush- bought herself a surplus of chances to be the Friars’ hero last night.

She drew five of the opposing Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s seven penalties on the night, all of which could have been cashed in to grant PC another trendy multi-goal lead. She directly augmented a 1-0 edge with her team-leading seventh goal of the year in the first minute of the middle frame.

And even after RPI deleted that 2-0 difference, Bacon nearly buried the winner in the dying seconds of regulation, just failing to corral the pass in front of a gaping left slab of the net.

Ultimately, the Friars as a whole seemed too preoccupied with looking through a catalog of Halloween queen costumes to symbolize their recent five-game winning streak. As a consequence, that hot streak wilted in the form of a 3-2 overtime loss at Schneider Arena, the Engineers’ first win of their season after absorbing an acrid 0-3-2 transcript coming in.

“You can’t go by records and I think we underestimated them,” said Friars’ skipper Bob Deraney.
“We played the record instead of playing the team. I knew they were a good team, we told them they were a really good team.

“I think it was a combination of both their desperation and us undeservedly feeling good about ourselves.”

That would explain a lot. All things considered, the first period ended much closer than it could have as a thorny RPI defensive force killed four unanswered penalties, allotting PC six power play shots in that space.

By night’s end, Providence had whiffed on all seven of its advantages, taking eight vain stabs at the net in a cumulative 12:16 worth of 5-on-4 time. None of those failures jutted more than when the Engineers’ Kristen Jabukowski went off for hitting from behind at 14:19 of the first, and then was joined by Katie Daniels (cross-checking) at 16:08, spawning a 12-second 5-on-3 segment and 3:49 straight minutes of lopsided action.

Before Jabukowski’s arrest, the Friars were ahead, 1-0; ditto after Daniels’ jailbreak.

“We had some opportunities there,” said Deraney. “We could have had a bigger margin there, and we missed it. They made a nice adjustment afterwards and we made an adjustment, but I think that played a lot into the game, us not scoring on the power play early.”

The Friars did muster one even strength strike to nab the initial lead at 12:21 of the first. Defender Leigh Riley shipped a sound diagonal feed from the far point to the porch of the net, where an unbothered Abby Gauthier poked in her first goal of the season.

Gauthier promptly chipped in again to commence the second period, accepting Amber Yung’s pass out of her own end and touring down the far alley. Once parallel to the net, she sent a cross-ice pass to Bacon, who maneuvered around an unstrung, seat-sliding goaltender in Sonia van der Bliek (27 saves) with 44 seconds gone.

Through the rest of the stanza, the Engineers controlled the shooting gallery, 9-5, after being romped, 11-4, in that department in the first. Carrying their newfound energy into the first two minutes of the third, they converted twice on three hacks at PC stopper Genevieve Lacasse (24 saves).

Center Alisa Harrison got the rally going at the 0:48 mark, skulking undetected to the far post and raking in a cross-ice pass from winger Jordan Smelker.

Right off the subsequent face-off, RPI nearly buried the equalizer when Harrison swooped the puck in from the far lane and dished an assertive lateral pass to Clare Padmore. Lacasse foiled that one on a rod-hockey-goalie-like slide, but was less fortunate following the next draw.

With 1:44 gone in the period, the persistent Engineers stormed Lacasse’s estate and Jakubowski, looping behind the back of the cage, fed Toni Sanders for a one-time conversion behind the unprepared goalie.

The visitors reran that congesting, dirty-nose act in the bonus round, with Jill Vandegrift setting up Taylor Horton to roof the winner and send the Friars into mental retooling mode.

Deraney admitted that today’s do-over with Princeton dropping in for a 4:00 p.m. tangle is timely enough.

“It’s done. You can’t change it,” he said of last night’s drawback. “We need to learn from it and move forward. It’s the hardest season in the entire NCAA: Division I college hockey. It’s a grind. There’s too much parity, men or women, it doesn’t matter. Every time you show up, you have to come ready to play because anyone can beat anyone on a given night, and that’s the lesson we learned tonight.

“If we learn something from this, I’ll take it if we can win more hockey games because of it. I’ll sacrifice this loss for 10 more wins.”

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com

Hockey Log

Gauthier in a groove
Veteran winger hints at more fruitful year


Compared to her linemates, and many of her peers for that matter, PC women’s hockey starting right winger Abby Gauthier has been several strides behind in the productivity department.

Entering last night’s showdown with Rensselaer, Gauthier’s two left side partners, the now-ailing Jean O’Neill and her successor Kate Bacon, had combined for eight goals and two assists in six games on the top line. Centerpiece Alyse Ruff had charged up a succulent 3-6-9 scoring transcript.

Meanwhile, Gauthier had scraped out a mere three assists, slotting her in ninth place on the Friars’ scoring charts.

Still, through six games, that gave her an irreproachable median of half a point per night. And after last night, with a goal and an assist in the losing effort, she is suddenly on a stark pace to make like many of her fellow upperclassmen and cruise to a career year.

Gauthier, once a hype-magnet for battering the record books at St. Mary’s of Lynn High School, mustered a mere 10 points as a rookie and followed that up with nine last year. But this season, she suddenly has five points in seven games. It took her 15 games to reach that height as a frosh, 19 games as a sophomore.

“I think that Abby’s really come along nicely,” said head coach Bob Deraney. “Even from the beginning of the year, she’s been doing some terrific things out there that she hadn’t shown in her first two years. I think it’s a credit to her work ethic, her preparation for the season, and it’s nice to see her rewarded for that. She deserves it.”

Gauthier’s multi-point performance was the fourth of her college career and the fourteenth pulled off by any Friar this young season. Additionally, she was one of only three PC players –along with senior defenders Leigh Riley and Amber Yung- to finish last night with a positive plus-minus rating.

Covell drops back

After filling one of the two line chart cavities in the forward department, two-way connoisseur Lauren Covell stuck strictly to patrolling the points last night, effectively giving the Friars a bonus blueliner and 10 forwards –i.e. three full lines with a remainder of one.

The third line simply had the likes of Nicole Anderson, Jess Cohen, Emily Groth, and Jessie Vella, rotating in and out each shift. Covell likewise partnered with a variety of designated defenders, most strikingly starting the overtime period with Yung at the other post.

With O’Neill still out indefinitely with her injury, only time will tell when Deraney can deploy a quorum of 12 strikers. So for the time being, Covell is likely to alternate her position on demand.

“We use different players in different situations based on who we’re playing and personnel groupings,” the coach explained. “There’s no rationale behind (switching Covell’s position). We’re just trying to put people in positions that’ll be successful.”

The drawing board
It is not an official statistic at any level of the sport, but odds are Bacon reached a career high in drawing five opposing penalties last night, including three out of four in the first period and both of the Engineers’ third period infractions. Four of the whistles were for bodychecking, the other a cross-checking citation to RPI defender Katie Daniels.

In addition, Bacon’s second period goal expanded her career-high point-scoring streak to six games. One more strike will match her career high with eight on the year.

Promotions today
Two special events will surround this afternoon’s game versus Princeton (4:00 p.m. face-off). It will be the one annual game wherein all money raised through ticket, concession, and contest sales go to domestic violence awareness charities. After the final buzzer, the Friars will also invite fans to skate with the team.

Quick feeds: PC has scored the first goal in both of its losses and 3-2-0 overall when striking first…Corinne Buie, Laura Veharanta, and Yung led the team with four shots on net apiece last night…Until last night, the Friars had been riding a 12-game unbeaten streak (2-0-10) in OT matches. Their previous sudden death loss was a 3-2 falter at Clarkson on Oct. 9 of last season…For the third time in as many regular season home games, the PC penalty kill was flawless, repelling all four of the Engineers’ power plays and granting them six shots…The Friars had their best night at the dot so far, winning 40 out of 64 face-offs with all four centers taking the majority of their draws. Ruff went 18-for-29, Ashley Cottrell 11-for-15, Bacon 6-for-11, and Vella 5-for-9…Princeton, this afternoon’s opponent, commenced its regular season last night with a 2-1 loss at Northeastern. Paula Romanchuk potted the Tigers’ lone goal…Prior to last night’s game, junior defender Christie Jensen, the mastermind behind September’s “Road Hockey Rumble” event, assisted in presenting a $700 check raised from that tournament for the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Rhode Island.

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com