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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