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Sunday, October 3, 2010

On Hockey

Breadth and balance will buoy this team
Diversity key to PC women’s offense

Report based on Live Stats

PITTSBURGH- Well before the second intermission yesterday, all 17 Skating Friars in uniform had at least attempted a shot on goal. By that point, and by game’s end, everyone with the exception of Emily Groth and Jean O’Neill had pelted Robert Morris goaltender Daneca Butterfield once or more.

O’Neill’s emptiness under the SOG heading, in particular, may have been a tad startling in wake of her hat trick and four-point effort on Friday. But then again, the co-captain had doled out more than her share one night and a smattering of her mates took their collective turn the next.

Not so coincidentally, whereas Providence spilled multiple leads and lost, 5-4, on the night that their output didn’t trickle far beyond O’Neill, the Friars kneaded a redressing 5-2 victory yesterday with four individuals tuning the Robert Morris mesh and 11 personalities brushing the scoresheet.

Overall, with one meaningful weekend now in stone, the Friars have a combined 23 points shared amongst all 11 forwards to dress in their two-game set with the Colonials plus freshman defender Rebecca Morse and junior goaltender Genevieve Lacasse, who nabbed her fourth career assist whilst curtaining Saturday’s victory. And 16 skaters made at least two contributions to the weekend’s back-snapping bushel of 90 SOG.

This is what the priceless asset they call depth is all about, and this is what ought to be PC’s defining trait in its 2010-11 Hockey East crusade.

Boston College will have its Kelli Stack to bang in the bulk and feed her surrounding remoras. And the favored Boston University will have its volcanic strike force with Jenelle Kohanchuk, Marie-Philip Poulin, and Jenn Wakefield as the mere beginning.

Barring surprises, the Friars will not see anyone finish within even 10 or 15 points of those hot hands from the Hub.

So be it. Based on the progression and potential of each veteran forward, at least four of Bob Deraney’s pupils –Ashley Cottrell, O’Neill, Alyse Ruff, and Laura Veharanta- can make as many 35 points fall into place for themselves. Other returnees such as Jess Cohen and Nicole Anderson are capable of plunging into the 20-point range before the 33-game regular season is up. For the rest, forwards and defenders alike, the low-to-mid teens are a reasonable request, but more would be welcome.

If all of that happens, or something not far off the mark, Deraney should have the product he has been itching to harvest ever since he was rounding up the heavily leaned-on class of 2012. And it will happen if the Friars can keep up the fruitfully frenzied appetite they collectively showed yesterday.

The only aspect still squealing for attention is how quickly they start stuffing the basket. It took nearly 35 minutes, a wake-up call in the form of Colonial Cobina Delaney’s icebreaker, 54 cumulative attempts and 33 registered stabs before Anderson cracked the code. (Although, if the post didn’t have Butterfield’s back in the nineteenth minute of the opening frame, PC would have had the upper hand and rookie Corrine Buie would have had her second college goal in as many career games a little earlier.)

Once they had that icebreaker, though, the Friars were quick to avoid the same mistake that cost them the season opener on Friday. They collected swift insurance from Cohen, who broke the 1-1 tie Anderson had drawn 43 seconds prior, and from Kate Bacon, who tied rookie blueliner Rebecca Morse with six shots on the day.

Of the three full forward lines in action, the starting trinity of O’Neill, Ruff, and Abby Gauthier landed the fewest shots with six. But Ruff and Gauthier both penned their name on the scoresheet when they collaborated on temporary freelance forward Cohen’s go-ahead goal.

Ruff ultimately joined junior Jen Friedman (two helpers apiece) and Buie (two goals) in the day’s cozy multi-point club. Granted, the prospect of that becoming a regular occurrence is as likely as the Friars scraping out a median of 4.5 goals all season. But to reiterate, this team is more apt to be gauged based on the number of individual contributors than the number of individual contributions.

To date, the 2010-11 Friars have scored thrice on 39 shots against McGill, six goals on 44 shots at the same Marlets, four goals on 41 shots at RMU, then five on 49 bids versus the Colonials. That equals a four-game median of 4.5 goals on 43.25 shots for a 10.4 percent success rate.

The foremost reason one should expect the red light tempest to taper off a little is simply that there won’t be many more Robert Morris-esque cupcakes to savor (or carelessly regurgitate). Especially within Hockey East boundaries, most opponents will prove a little more resistant to the rubber blizzards PC has launched in its first two weeks of competition.

Still, the habit won’t hurt anything. And most critically, more players are gradually phasing themselves in to the equation. Morse along with fellow defenders Maggie Pendleton and Leigh Riley all etched multiple shots yesterday after having none on Friday. Similarly, the bottom half of the forward brigade was several strides ahead of its productivity in the McGill series.

More sources, more resorts, more reinforcement, more cushion. The Friars can be glad to have that assuming they prudently translate it to more wins prior Thanksgiving.

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com