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Sunday, February 20, 2011

Hockey Log

Next task is national relevance

The PC women have nothing further to gain in the Hockey East standings, yesterday’s 3-2 triumph over Vermont having ratified their claim to third place.

Not quite worthy of a ho-hum heckle, but not unexpected or original to the proud program, either. The Friars have now finished among the league’s top three for the eighth time in nine seasons. They have never finished any lower than fourth since entering the newfangled WHEA in 2002.

For something a little more ice-shattering, look up the team’s overall transcript. Yesterday’s win gave Providence its first 20-win campaign since 2004-05, the year of its first and still lone venture into the NCAA dance.

But, still lodged at No. 10 on the PairWise leaderboard, the 2010-11 Friars have more credits to fulfill if they are not to resort to the not-so-fail-safe automatic bid. For head coach Bob Deraney, that made the question as to the stakes in today’s regular season finale too obvious.

“Keep building a picture for the NCAA tournament,” he said. “We know we’ve been in the Hockey East tournament for a while now, so that hasn’t really been our focus, except trying to get the best seed possible. We’re still trying to create that NCAA championship resume, and that’s why (today’s) game is big.

“I know (Vermont is) going to play extremely hard to try to be the spoiler so we’ll be ready for the challenge, and I think we’ll play even better than we did (yesterday).”

Same game plan in goal
Contrary to previous seasons, wherein the opening shift on Senior Day has either been shared exclusively by seniors or at least featured each member of that year’s graduating class, goaltender Christina England will hold her usual post at one of the bench doors today.

With the aforementioned national record to think about, Deraney will give the same routine priority to junior Genevieve Lacasse.

“I’ve always coached it as a real game,” he said of the home finale. “It just so happened that those lineups turned out that way.

“If we didn’t do anything before the game, then that would be a way to honor our seniors. But because we do such a nice job before the game –honoring the seniors and their families and appreciate their contributions- I always approach it like a regular game.”

England, who saw no action but dressed for 30 games over her first two seasons, will not be exercising a redshirt option. She thus figures to conclude her stay on the Divine Campus with a pristine 1-0-0 record, her only decision in three separate appearances being a 2-1 win at Maine earlier this season on Jan. 2.

PC will return Lacasse and rising sophomore Nina Riley to constitute next year’s goalie guild. There is currently no indication of a third stopper on the team’s recruiting radar.

Anderson reignites
Nicole Anderson snapped a career-worst 12-game pointless streak by breaking the ice at 1:40 of yesterday’s second period. With that, the towering sophomore finally hit double digits in this year’s point column and instilled a little credibility to the latest line chart tweaks.

Two weeks ago, Deraney broke up the fettered trio of Anderson, Jess Cohen, and Jessie Vella, replacing Cohen at the pivot with senior Alyse Ruff. Three games later, effective yesterday, Vella was swapped out in favor of junior Abby Gauthier.

“I think we played really well together today and I think it should stay like that for a while,” said Anderson.

Who’s up next?
Entering the final day of the regular season, Northeastern, New Hampshire, and Maine are all potential quarterfinal visitors to Schneider Arena. The Hub Huskies are lodged in fifth place with 16 points, one ahead of the Black Bears and Wildcats.

A UNH win its season finale against Boston College combined with a Northeastern loss to Connecticut would have the Wildcats leapfrog the Huskies for fifth and thus send Dave Flint’s pupils here next weekend. Otherwise, the Huskies and Black Bears both have the tiebreaker, meaning if New Hampshire extracts any points today, but fails to surmount Northeastern, the Wildcats will be on tap for the Friars.

Conversely, if the Eagles win, UNH is out and Maine –which curtained its regular season yesterday- will be awarded its first postseason passport since 2006.

Quick feeds: Senior defender Amber Yung assisted on each of PC’s first two goals, giving her a dozen helpers on the year. Yung and Ruff shared a team-best plus-2 rating on the day…Kate Bacon and Rebecca Morse assisted on each other’s goals and all four of Morse’s goals this season have been on home ice against Hockey East cohabitants…For the second consecutive game, Laura Veharanta led all participating skaters with six shots on goal. Veharanta’s linemates, Bacon and Vella, registered five SOG apiece…Freshman winger Corinne Buie missed the first shift of the third period with her helmet out of commission. Cohen filled in for her…Junior defender Jen Friedman went pointless for the first time in four games…Today will be Gauthier’s 100th career game.

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com