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Sunday, April 25, 2010

On Hockey

Glance at past reflects promising future
As underclass MVP, Lacasse’s feat bodes well for PC women


It comes as no real surprise that sophomore stopper Genevieve Lacasse left the Providence College women’s hockey awards banquet yesterday with an MVP trophy firmly in her clutch like an opponent’s futile slap shot. Some could even argue she was a year overdue for such recognition.

And although this part wasn’t the case, no one should have been perplexed if Lacasse’s latest hunk of hardware came with the special inscription “Please don’t change a thing.”

Lacasse is the Friars’ first non-senior to claim the team MVP prize since then-junior Karen Thatcher in 2005. She earned it by giving a perfectly passable follow-up on her freshman season that consisted of 29 games played, a Hockey East goaltending championship, and a league Rookie of the Year laurel. And she earned it by shrugging off a little added pressure that came with having one unripe backup in Christina England this year as opposed to the three elder colleagues with whom she shared the crease in 2008-09.

On an individual base, there wasn’t a whole lot more for Lacasse to prove in her second season, but she did it. First, she had to prove herself resistant to the urban legend they call the sophomore slump. Granted, her goals-against average crept up from 1.94 to 2.14, her save percentage did dip a little from .933 to .920, and she posted three fewer shutouts. But none of that seemed to prod head coach Bob Deraney into giving her a night off.

On the contrary, he put her in for every last game on the schedule, only forking her out for the occasional purpose of deploying a six-pack attack and for giving England one four-minute, 48-second shift of firefighting duty in a forgettable 5-1 loss to Brown University.

Accordingly, Lacasse followed up on those 29 freshman appearances with 35 swirls, thus tying Amy Thomas of 2004-05 for the program’s single season record. She consumed 2128:41 minutes for exactly 99 percent of the team’s crease time and, with 3799:09 worth of ice time on her career, ascended to No. 3 behind the barely mortal likes of Sara Decosta and Jana Bugden.

And those 878 shots she repelled over these last 35 games and 2128:41 minutes? That would be a new single-season record, surpassing the 794 saves Decosta made as a freshman in 1996-97. On the whole, her 1,634 career saves again rate her behind only her two bar-raising predecessors. Ditto those 64 career games, which is already more than half of the all-time leader Bugden’s 115.

And unlike last spring, Lacasse is now eligible for listing on the Friars’ career GAA leaderboard. At 2.05, she currently rates higher in that category than Decosta and Bugden.

That’s all compelling data, which makes a gourmet feast for the talkers and typists who love those feel-good record stories. But what has this amounted to for PC on the ice?

Try the fact that, with the Scarborough Save-ior on duty, the 2009-10 Friars surrendered a two-goal differential on only six occasions and went through a full seven-game winning streak in January without trailing for a nanosecond. Discounting empty netters, they confined the opposition to two goals or fewer in 23 out of 35 games.

All of that is reasonably reminiscent of Lacasse’s rookie year, when she only authorized seven multi-goal deficits in 29 appearances and finished what she started 26 out of 28 times.

Furthermore, one of the reasons she has rapidly piled on the minutes is because 11 of the Friars’ 35 games went to overtime last season. And she often played an unquestionable part in pressing those games on to a shootout.

She ultimately went 1-1-9 in the fourth period, stopping a cumulative 25 of 26 opposing shots in an aggregate 50 minutes and 55 seconds. Add that to the four OT games she worked as a frosh, when she stopped five of seven shots face and charged up 13:34 of bonus action.

Kind of makes one tempted to change that 64 to 65 career games, does it not?

Only at the halfway mark of her stay in Friartown, Lacasse shall enter next season much like she did the last one. Not an overwhelming quantity of questions, but a few biggies at that.

For the addicted cynics, can she fend off the “junior jinx” (if one is to believe in such a thing)?

More notably, she vacuumed 15 victories in her first year, then gulped down exactly 15 more Ws last season. Can she, together with the teammates she so often pampers, get her up to at least 16 or 17?

Then, of course, for all the accolades she has to herself, Lacasse has not so much as stretched her season beyond the Hockey East semifinals. Guess that kind of speaks for itself.

But whenever a team has its formally pronounced MVP returning to defend her title, as the Friars now will come September, that’s a decent starting point for a viable postseason run.

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com