MVP, Jean O’Neill: Together with the team, O’Neill’s stats surged in the second half of the season and she ultimately tied Ashley Cottrell for the club lead with 14 goals. Save for one three-game funk, she appeared on the right side of the scoresheet in all of the latter 15 games. In that span, she charged up 11 goals and nine helpers and had a credited hand in six game-winning plays.
Even on nights when the team in general was out of commission, out of synch, or out of sorts, O’Neill still had what it took to smuggle the puck into the net. Two particular examples: she had the lone goal in an otherwise vinegary effort against Vermont on January 29 and she briefly stimulated the Schneider masses when she cut Connecticut’s lead to 3-2 late in the season-ending conference semifinal loss.
And amongst all of the regulars in the PC lineup, O’Neill saw nearly the least of the penalty box time, committing only six minor infractions all year.
Runners-up: It’s tough to overlook O’Neill’s classmate, old U19 friend, and off-and-on linemate, Alyse Ruff, who likewise had a solid finish en route to a career year. And Cottrell did top the team’s scoring charts, although her productivity rate actually lessened a little bit in the second half. Behind the strikers, while she didn’t quite duplicate her freshman stats, minute-munching goaltender Genevieve Lacasse warrants some sort of recognition for starting all 35 contests, finishing 34 of them, and keeping the Friars in most all of them.
Seventh Player, Arianna Rigano: The criteria for this award are officially described as going to “the player that performs beyond expectations and is an integral part of the team’s success.” With that in mind, be honest. Could anyone have expected Rigano to build as much as she did on a rather humble beginning to her abbreviated Division I career? Did anyone expect her to go from dressing in 26 games and sprinkling a mere 2-2-4 log on her junior transcript to playing all 35 contests this year and upping that scoring bushel to 7-7-14?
Better yet, did anyone expect Rigano to lead the team in shots on goal for as long as she did and ultimately finish with 94 registered stabs (58 more than the previous year)? And did anybody expect that she would lead all Skating Friars under the plus-minus heading with a sound plus-10, especially when she was a minus-6 to curtain her junior campaign?
Case in point.
Runner-up: Upon making her belated debut on the cusp of Thanksgiving, freshman forward Jessie Vella showed next-to no residual pain from a summer ACL injury. She had her first helper in only her second appearance, picked up her first two goals in her fourth game at none other than New Hampshire’s Lake Whittemore, and ultimately stamped a 5-7-12 log on a rather small load of 20 shots.
Most Improved Player, Jess Cohen: A case of freshman frostbite lasting from about Halloween to New Year’s temporarily inhibited the winger’s promising rookie season. But then, Cohen earned the right to link up with the proven producers O’Neill and Ruff and earned the right to stay with them on the top line for the entire homestretch. In particular, she rediscovered the playmaking penchant she had flaunted throughout her U19 career, contributing nine assists throughout January and February.
Runners-up: If we weren’t already bestowing her with the Seventh Player prize, this hunk of hardware would likely belong to Rigano as well for the same reasons mentioned above. At the same time, one has to credit sophomore defender Christie Jensen, who not only closed the gap on her plus-minus rating (minus-8 at midseason to even at the end), but also left her stay-at-home comfort zone to contribute six points.
Unsung Hero, Jen Friedman: Regardless of which team was getting the citation, PC’s towering sophomore defender was almost always among those lining up for the next face-off after a penalty call. In the process of logging all of those minutes on both halves of the special teams’ spectrum, Friedman pitched in 24 shots and four points on the power play and had the blue line brigade’s second-best rating at a plus-5 (trailing only Leigh Riley’s plus-7).
Runners-up: The aforementioned Riley, her defensive partner Lauren Covell, and senior center Jackie Duncan were all sparsely used compared to most of their peers. But their inner fight always flashed in the ice time they did afford, and it occasionally spilled over to the stats sheet.