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Sunday, September 26, 2010

On Hockey

Sizzling weekend for Bacon
Speedy winger, linemates bolster preseason sweep


Odds are Jim Gaffigan is not a major hockey fan, much less one following the women’s team at Providence College. But for the rink-going Friartownies who do exist, now may be the time to channel one of the food-loving funnyman’s most notable bits.

“I want more. More bacon.”

Kate Bacon, that is. The junior winger has entered this campaign as one of the heavily hyped class of 2012’s members still trying to really crack her chrysalis. And for what the somewhat slim window is worth, she exited this weekend of exhibition play with a 1-4-5 scoring log coupled with 12 shots on goal in two games.

More markedly, in yesterday’s come-from-behind 6-4 triumph over McGill University, Bacon not only led the Friars with a 1-2-3 transcript and a plus-3 rating. She also turned on her turbine blades with enough force to directly draw three of the six total infractions committed by the Marlets.

With a mere 12.9 ticks to spare in the first period, at which point McGill was savoring a 3-1 advantage, Bacon toured the puck along the far alley into enemy territory when defender Cathy Chartrand got her crook around her and paid with a two-minute sentence carrying over into the middle frame.

PC didn’t cash in on the fresh sheet, 5-on-4 advantage combo, but within a minute of Chartrand’s release, Bacon and Laura Veharanta set up linemate Ashley Cottrell for a deficit-cutting goal.

Later on, 10 seconds into a third period Friars’ penalty kill, Bacon tried to skate the puck beyond her own blue line, but was again impeded by Chartrand, who was flagged for interference. Chartrand’s illicit maneuver cost her team a whopping 1:50 worth of potentially tide-turning power play time. The fact that the Martlets were ultimately not credited with a single third period SOG could very well be attributed to the sudden loss of that power play.

And with 9:59 to spare, Bacon was advancing through the neutral zone when Logan Murray made the wrong kind of backcheck, bumping her from behind and receiving an interference minor. PC’s Amber Yung would score the deciding goal on the ensuing power play and, perhaps fittingly, Bacon was on the ice at the time.

“She is the fastest kid in college hockey,” asserted PC head coach Bob Deraney. “There is no doubt, hands down, it’s got to be undisputed. There is nobody who steps out on the ice and all of a sudden elevates the game the way she does with her speed. And yeah, I believe that’s something that’s going to be consistent throughout the year because she has also learned how to use it productively. It’s a credit to her.”

Bacon started producing yesterday on a play when she was late rounding out a line change and thus working with Abby Gauthier and Alyse Ruff by default. Hugging the biscuit deep to the left of the McGill cage, she momentarily darted with a fly’s sense of direction, but then found blueliner Rebecca Morse swooping in for a pass. Morse accepted Bacon’s feed and buried the game’s first goal to the right of goalie Andrea Weckham with 6:55 gone in the first.

After collaborating with her usual linemates to produce PC’s second goal, and after Yung slugged in an equalizer at 4:56 of the second, Bacon granted the Friars a new, 4-3 lead at 9:44. Hovering around the far side of the cage, she waited for Veharanta’s pass from behind and smuggled in a wraparound.

That would be all of the tangible contribution from the starting forward trinity this weekend. And all it consisted of was the aforementioned 1-4-5 log by Bacon, three goals from Cottrell, and a 1-3-4 line from Veharanta, who also made a good screen of herself on Yung’s game-winner.

“That’s why we put them together,” Deraney said. “They have all worked extremely hard. They all had skill, there’s no doubt about that, but the questions is how hard did they work in the offseason to become the players that they’re capable of becoming? And I think you’re just seeing them being rewarded for their hard work.”

“Ultimately,” he added, “they have a long way to go. They haven’t even come close to reaching their full potential and that’s the really exciting part that their having success now.”

If the 2010-11 season is to really unfold according to plan for the Friars, then Bacon currently stands as their ideal personification. After a decent 8-4-12, 111 SOG performance as a frosh, a few injuries early last year dulled her progression as she settled for 28 sophomore games with a 4-6-10 transcript and 54 registered shots.

If her chemistry with Cottrell –her former teammate with the U.S. U18 team- and Veharanta maintains its fizz, there is no reason to think she cannot hit double digits in both the goal and assist column. Likewise, as they reemerge one year riper with 13 juniors and seniors, there is no reason why the Friars shouldn’t at least come within tickling distance of a 20-win season, a prospect that has tantalized and eluded them since Bacon and her classmates first enrolled.

When asked for a 1-to-10 scale on his team’s preparation for their run, Deraney offered, “I think we’re about a five or a six, and I think that’s where you should be. You hope that you’re very best hockey is still far in the distance and that’s the way I see it. We have a lot to work on, a lot of great things to build upon.”

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com