Sunday, December 7, 2008

Women's Hockey 4, Maine 1: Friars Improve To 6-1-1 On The Road

Report based on CSTV Gametracker
 
Orono, Maine- On the heels of her team killing a carry-over penalty, one that may have otherwise invited the host Maine Black Bears to kindle an epic comeback, Friars’ two-way connoisseur Erin Normore improvised a dazzling, silent soliloquy to set the tone for yesterday’s third period.
 
Implanted at the center of a line with freshman Kate Bacon and equally crafty classmate Mari Pehkonen for even strength play, Normore spotted two consecutive shots on net before drawing a body-checking minor on Kaitlyn Zeek right at the 2:00 mark. From there, upon being reassigned to patrol the points with Brittany Simpson for the power play, she carried right along with another three lashes at goaltender Genevieve Turgeon (27 saves).
 
Nothing of that singlehanded rubber blizzard did anything to alter the scoreboard. But, off a draw forced by Turgeon when she closed down Normore’s fifth shot, the PC’s alternate captain turned things over to her superior C-bearer Simpson, who nimbly leveled the conversion at 2:53, augmenting the lead to 3-1.
 
From there, the Friars took a reasonably comfy ride to their second 4-1 knockoff at Alfond Arena in as many days. They thus swept their two-night visit to, and entire regular season series, with the Black Bears and can walk into their 23-day December deceleration with the notion that they are unbeaten (6-0-1) in seven of eight away games this season, the exception being their first road trip to Northeastern in mid-October.
 
Their incomprehensible command of hostile ice houses hit a climax yesterday, as was best reflected in goaltender Genevieve Lacasse’s unusually light workload of 11 total shots faced. Lacasse only needed to handle one stab –from Dawn Sullivan- in the early half of a scoreless first period, and then assumed an in-depth spectator role as her teammates eventually came to make their own goal count exceed the Black Bears’ collection of shots late in the second.
 
During that agonizing interval of inactivity, the Maine offense saw all of its ten sparsely distributed attempts blocked or telepathically guided wide of the cage.
 
To their credit, the Black Bears similarly filtered a majority of what the Friars discharged, forcing Turgeon to confront a personally shallow 21 shots before the 40-minute buzzer. But PC simply mollified Maine to a breakable state and finally broke through on their fourteenth registered try at the 8:19 mark, top gun Laura Veharanta making good of a feed from Ashley Cottrell.
 
Pam McDevitt, rotated back into the active depth chart after taking Friday off in favor of Stephanie Morris and Lauren Covell, collaborated with defender Jennifer Friedman at 15:32, to set up fourth-line associate Jean O’Neill’s backdoor conversion, rounding out the protracted tempest of 17 unanswered shots with a slightly more assertive 2-0 edge.
 
However, the frostbitten Lacasse sustained a reflective dent when Maine finally refurbished its stick rack moments after Gauthier’s goal when PC defender Amber Yung was flagged for holding at 17:04. In a matter of 24 seconds, the Bears’ pleasantly fruitful power play brigade splashed the team’s SOG drought on a lashing by Lexi Hoffmeyer, then cut the deficit to 2-1 courtesy Jenna Ouellette on the rebound.
 
But Maine’s twigs went numb once more to commence the closing frame, not to resuscitate until after the halfway mark, when they laid out three power play shots and two more immediately after Leigh Riley’s release from a two-minute body-checking sentence.
 
The Friars would cement the 4-1 tally through Arianna Rigano’s quick empty netter with 1:16 to spare, a mere four seconds after Turgeon had vacated her crease to make space for the desperate six-pack attack.
 
Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com
 
This article originally appeared in the Friartown Free Press

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Women's Hockey 4, Maine 1: Friars Clear Early Bump, Pin Black Bears

Report based on Gametracker

Orono, Maine- Thriving on a newfangled 3-1 edge near the dusk of the second period, the patient Friars finally afforded themselves a chance to exploit the Maine Black Bears’ feeble penalty kill.
 
With 5:34 remaining in the stanza, Jordan Colliton took her team’s first whistle of the night for holding and PC, which had already run up a 12-4 edge in the way of registered shots since coming onto a new sheet, peppered goaltender Genevieve Turgeon (31 saves) with four more until Colliton’s jailbreak.
 
Turgeon later withstood another three stabs while teammate Jenna Ouelette served a two-minute sentence for body-checking that carried over to the third. But when the Bears hiccupped once more at 3:40 –through another hitting infraction with Jennie Gallo held liable- the Friars’ strike force swiftly delivered the dagger.
 
Within a mere twenty seconds of the next face-off, Laura Veharanta and captain Brittany Simpson had collaborated to set up Mari Pehkonen for her first intercollegiate tally in a month, cementing a 4-1 victory at Alfond Arena that took a considerably short two hours and one minute to complete.
 
Nagged by a moderate bout of mononucleosis since she returned to campus from the Four Nations Cup in early November, Pehkonen had left her appearance of game time readiness up in the air during the practice week. But she would take a chance on donning the Friar attire for first time in five weeks, link up on the first line with Erin Normore and Kate Bacon, and connect on her lone shot of the evening.
 
Symbolically, Pehkonen seemed to zap the last of her not-too-distant illness memories whilst making the Black Bears forget a time, from about two periods prior, where they were sprinkling hints of pure command on last night’s scoresheet.
 
For the better part of the opening frame, the puck switched possessive teams in pigskin-length intervals. After Jean O’Neill spotted a fleeting one-shot deal for the Friars on her first shift of the game, Genevieve Lacasse (27 saves) got her gamely torture test in the form of about one-and-one-half of a near-continuous penalty kill.
 
Over the Friar bench’s too-many-players infraction, called at 4:09, and Kate Bacon’s tripping citation at 6:30, Maine’s power play, tops in the league to recompense their cellar-dwelling PK, a cumulative nine unanswered power play shots at Lacasse in a matter of three minutes. The crease custodian finally bent on that ninth lashing at 7:18 when Vanessa Vani, Maine’s top point-getter and solitary skating senior, converted a feed from winger Jennie Gallo.
 
Their wake-up call in clear and their discipline back intact, Providence proceeded to pay a lengthy return visit to the Black Bears’ estate, rapidly wrinkling the 10-1 shooting gallery deficit to 10-7 while Turgeon forced frequent whistles.
 
The Friars did nothing more than subtly soften Turgeon up for the moment. But when they rushed in again with just over five minutes till intermission, they punched in an equalizer courtesy Jackie Duncan and the aid of Colleen Martin –who heaved an uncharacteristic six shots of her own.
 
From there on in, every new entry within the scoresheet smiled upon PC. Veharanta, who has suddenly been more given to playmaking of late with assists on two of Alyse Ruff’s clutch goals and another pair of helpers last night, tallied for the first time in five outings at 0:28 of the second, granting the Friars a first time 2-1 edge.
 
Twelve minutes later, centerpiece Ashley Cottrell deviated her normal role of playmaking to accept Veharanta’s export and stash away her second goal of the season to enhance that lead to 3-1.
 
Veharanta thus charged up a breakthrough first three-point outing in her booming young college career and bulked up her team-leading scoring transcript to 11-6-17 over 16 games. And by carrying out the deciding strike singlehandedly, she knotted herself with Ruff with three game clinchers apiece on the season.
 
Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com
 
This article originally appeared in the Friartown Free Press

Friday, December 5, 2008

Women's Hockey Log: Mayor's Cup-Winning Friars Carry Bear Hunt On To Orono

By sheer serendipity, the puck prophets foresee the Friars’ chance to epitomize their new affinity for defensive nail-biters in this weekend’s two-night stay in Maine.
 
Over the three preceding weekends, Providence has run up a 2-1-1 log and mirrored that near-parity with a cumulative GF-GA discrepancy of 5-5. Meanwhile, from the time this year’s senior class broke in their first sets of collegiate blades, the Friars have drawn a .500 point-plucking rate concomitant with a 6-6 aggregate score in visits to Alfond Arena.
 
Now on the heels of a 1-0 nipping of Brown, which splashed a minor drought from Ws at Meehan Auditorium and nudged them back into the black overall (7-6-2), and bearing a similarly intermediate Hockey East record of 3-2-1, the Friars are yearning for a booming breakout before Christmas break.
 
“It’s very important,” stressed head coach Bob Deraney. “First of all, it’s a chance to sweep a (season) series,” noting the favorable 4-2 decision his team picked up in Maine’s lone trip to Schneider Arena on October 26.
 
Hardly a cinch, that will be. Every last on-ice constituent involved in this series, which kicks off tonight with a 7:00 opening draw, knows no drill beyond drawing a knot when these parties lock twigs on the Black Bears’ Alfond pond.
 
Their perennially plebeian status aside, the gritty Black Bears have mustered a tie in each of the Friars last four drop-ins at Alfond Arena, spaced over the full breadth of the past three seasons. PC’s half-full winless/undefeated streak in Orono dates back roughly four months longer than the program’s tantalizing fast from Hockey East championships, when they scraped out a set of 3-2 and 4-2 triumphs in November 2004.
 
Size all that up with the teams’ last four tangles on the Divine Campus, all of which the Friars have wrested by a collective tally of 18-6.
 
It’s not all specific to Providence, though. Maine enters this weekend empty on the road (0-8) but respectably level at home (3-3-1). Minus a 7-3 lashing via North Dakota in the first weekend of October and 7-1 submission to New Hampshire three weeks to date, the Bears have kept their home scores to a rate of minus-2 or better.
 
“They’re a much different team in their own building,” Deraney acknowledged. “They beat Boston College up there two weeks ago (5-3 on November 16). So it just shows that we’ll be playing a tough team. But at the same time, it’s going to make us tougher and I like our mindset. I like how tough we are, and how tough we are mentally.”
 
Nine of the Friars’ last eleven ventures have been decided by two goals or less. And lately they’ve appeared to duplicate the daredevil habits of these Black Bears by authorizing an overload of opposing shots at their net.
 
The difference: Genevieve Lacasse, unlike Genevieve Turgeon –whom she will likely confront in the cages tonight- has not made a habit of defaulting and relinquishing the game in the shadow of the buzzer. Tonight’s principal talking point, therefore, should be PC’s ambition to exploit that distinction in an OK Corral-like gathering and to buck the tying-Maine trend whilst prolonging the exhilaration trend.
 
“We find ways to win games,” said Deraney. “That’s what great hockey teams do. They find ways to win games, whether it’s 1-0 or 5-4. And the fact that we feel we can come from behind, or feel comfortable with a one-goal lead or when we’re down by a goal, those are all valuable things we need to draw on.”
 
Quick Feeds: Among all eight Hockey East tenants, Maine currently tops the chart in overall power play proficiency, converting at a 20.5% rate. But they are inversely inept on the PK, currently boasting a dead-last 74.1% in that category. A cumulative threesome of shorthanded goals on the opposition’s part doesn’t help the Bears’ cause either. They also rank eighth in the league’s special teams net…Turgeon’s minus-17 rating is the worst on the Black Bears’ stats sheet while her associate goaltender Candace Currier’s plus-6 rating is the program’s best…PC senior Mari Pehkonen, who has combated mononucleosis for the last month, was not skating full throttle or in full gear this practice week, a safe indicator that she will take a few more precautionary nights off this weekend…Part II of this weekend series is slated to commence tomorrow at 2:00.
 
Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com
 
This article originally appeared in the Friartown Free Press

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

On Women's Hockey: Lacasse Is Developing As The Friars' Nucleus

The time may have come for hockey to institute a set of criteria for a goaltender’s answer to the Gordie Howe Hat Trick, an unofficial accolade bestowed upon any multifaceted skater who brushes the scoresheet in the form of at least one goal, one assist, and one fighting major.
 
Let’s call it, say, the Patrick Roy Hat Trick. The core requirements: a shutout, an assist, and a two-minute minor.
 
For PC’s radiant rookie Genevieve Lacasse, it appears high time she received recognition of such a degree. Last Saturday, she neutralized the whole of a 21-shot firestorm at the hands of Brown University -14 of those shots spaced over five power plays, one of which was her doing through a tripping infraction at 3:54- then proceeded to push away 16 more stabs and assist on Katy Beach’s goal towards a 1-0 triumph at Meehan Auditorium.
 
Lacasse can be absolved, if not acclaimed, for blissful ignorance. Having only labored in the Friars crease for three months now, she likely didn’t feel the same trend-bucking task pressure that her elder teammates were. If the early Brown barrage signified ominous reminders of the notion that the Mayor’s Cup uncompromisingly switches recipients each year, Lacasse dismissed it with the same poise she has demonstrated en route to six wins and four tough-to-blame-for losses.
 
“She’s played terrific for us and that covers a lot of weaknesses,” said head coach Bob Deraney.
 
It was only eight evenings and one start prior that Lacasse confronted another brimful bushel of opposing ammo, when mighty Mercyhurst discharged 25 shots in the second period alone. And the two sandwiching frames that night were only facile by fanciful comparison. By the time the horn solidified a 3-0 defeat, Lacasse had done her part in the form of a 51 save dolphin show.
 
And this coming only five days after she had swallowed 30 bids by Connecticut to prop up a chronic zilch-nada deadlock until her praetorian guards gave her a break in the third, ultimately stamping a cathartic 2-0 win for Lacasse’s first career shutout.
 
A fraternal step-by-step twin of that game unfolded in the tip-over of Brown last Saturday. And by night’s end, Lacasse’s overall save percentage of .950 and GAA of 1.72 both rated second in Hockey East only to another early bloomer –Florence Schelling of Northeastern. (Incidentally, the Friars and Huskies alike are still getting reliable output from their incumbent crease custodians –Danielle Ciarletta and Leah Sulyma, respectively.)
 
Though Deraney was apt to commend his PK quartet –or, in a few brief cases, trinity- for doing their part in the initial tempest last Saturday, Lacasse was, by sheer nature, the last judge when the biscuit hovered within the net’s tasting range. This has been the case perhaps a tad too frequently for comfort since Lacasse’s debut two months ago. Over ten total appearances, she has yet to confront any fewer than 27 shots on a given night.
 
Yet, at the same time, she has yet to authorize more than three goals or nail fewer than 25 saves on a given night.
 
One dollop of trivial gravy to add to the budding Lacasse-Jana Bugden parallels: by setting up Beach’s decider, Lacasse is the first PC netminder to charge up a helper since Bugden collaborated with Erin Normore to set up Kathleen Smith in the 2006 Hockey East semifinal.
 
But even without her teammates fluffing her pillows –or, in the latest case, her helping herself- Lacasse has upheld the Friars’ viability and granted them the chance to regularly rework tension into exhilaration. Providence finished the month of November with a brittle GF-GA difference of 16-11 over seven games. But the more vital transcript reads 4-1-2, amounting to an improved 7-6-2 overall record on the year.
 
“The things you learn from playing tight games are invaluable,” said Deraney. “The fact that you can beat a terrific UConn team, 2-0, beat Brown, 1-0, and get comfortable playing in such small margin games like that pays dividends down the road.
 
“You win championships with defense, and the fact that we’re getting comfortable with that shows the mental toughness that you need to go into the playoffs. And I’m not just talking about the Hockey East playoffs. I’m talking about the NCAA tournament.”
 
Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com
 
This article originally appeared in the Friartown Free Press

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Women's Hockey 2, Niagara 2: Friars' Hourglass Turns Half-Full In Dramatic Draw

The red light flickered a tad prematurely while the seated Niagara goaltender Jenni Bauer failed to clamp down Laura Veharanta’s initial face-to-face shot on her porch.
 
But the way the dramatist Friars were already getting away with cramming, having just sawed a 2-0 deficit via Erin Normore’s power play conversion less than three minutes prior, the goal judge’s slippery fingers merely made for a minor spillage of the refreshing comeback potion.
 
As Bauer was hastily pulling herself back upright, Alyse Ruff seized the fugitive puck along the near post and wasted no time burying it home and drawing a 2-2 knot with 1:43 to spare in regulation time.
 
Ruff, the decider in three of PC’s first six victories this season and both of their last two, can now pad on an equalizer to her rapidly budding application for the College Hockey Clutch Capstones Club.
 
As an intangible bonus, when nobody clicked in the resultant five-minute bonus round, Normore proceeded to insert the only goal out of six aggregate shootout stabs, granting the Friars their first triumph in the one-on-one derby this season.
 
“(I’m) very happy with the last seven minutes of the game,” acknowledged head coach Bob Deraney in reference to the regulation climax that saw PC cultivate three power plays, two conversions, and a 5-1 edge in the way of shots. “I think the lesson that we take out of this game is that at the beginning of the game we got a few 5-on-3 power plays and we just didn’t go after them with as much determination as we did in the end, (initially) thinking that ‘We’ve got more time, if I don’t get this one, I’ll get another opportunity, there’s so much time left.’
 
“With seven minutes to go, all of a sudden we knew time was clicking down and we went after those pucks with more of an urgency and a vengeance than we did earlier. If we went after rebounds like we did late earlier in the game it wouldn’t have been as close. So that’s a lesson we’ll be able to feed off of later on.”
 
As Deraney noted, PC initially wrung out a commanding edge in the shooting gallery -12-4 as of the first intermission- and enacted a few reckonable rubber flurries, bolstered in part by four consecutive Niagara penalties spanning between the 2:21 and 8:50 mark. The Purple Eagles’ dysfunctional fa├žade reached an emblematic pinnacle when a whistle halted the Friars’ breakout setup to slap Alison Malty with a game misconduct for verbal abuse at 8:19.
 
But the visitors’ very last column standing, that being Bauer (39 saves), withstood all five Providence power play stabs and collected immediate compensation from her skating colleagues shortly before the period expired.
 
Churning along through their third power play on the evening, the Eagles tuned the net first at 19:21. Christina Jablonski thrust a wrister out of the far circle into a blinding collage before goaltender Danielle Ciarletta (17 saves) and strikers Autumn Stuntz and Melanie Mills promptly forked for a rebound. Mills ultimately bumped the conversion home within the near post.
 
From there, Niagara snuck in an additional goal at 4:27 –ccourtesy Mary McKinnon’s one-timer off a feed from center point patroller Jocey Kleiber- and mutual sluggishness settled in to take a suffocating toll on the general flow of the game.
In one protracted stretch between the 8:08 and 13:41 mark, the action wrenched choppily from end to end without a single stoppage until a scrum before the PC bench warranted a whistle, freezing the already old fogey play dead.
 
And even as the Friars sprinkled another dozen shots at Bauer, the sustainability that defined the wee minutes of the previous stanza was conspicuously absent.
 
“What happens is, when you control the play the way we did and get nothing for it, it kind of gets demoralizing for us and gives them a lot of confidence,” Deraney said. “And then, all of a sudden, they get a power play goal and we’re kind of scrambling. All of a sudden, they believe they can and we’re starting to doubt ourselves.”
 
But in the third, Niagara’s output regressed from eleven second period bids to merely three. And initial disturbances of an epic rally materialized when McKinnon’s obstruction hooking felony at 12:37 invalidated the final 20 seconds of an Eagle power play and rekindled the buzz around Bauer’s porch.
 
Six seconds after McKinnon’s jailbreak, teammate Leah Whittaker was flagged for mugging Veharanta after a whistle before her own net.
 
Forty-nine seconds later, Normore made a trademark venture beyond her point post to the near face-off dot, where she imported Katy Beach’s feed from the high slot and leveled it top shelf to bring the Friars aboard.
 
Deraney utilized his timeout with 2:42 when McKinnon was flagged yet again, this time for an open-ice cross check to Christie Jensen in the neutral zone. There, the likes of Veharanta and Ruff dutifully butted into Bauer’s personal space and rounded out the rally with Ruff taking a triumphant spill as she raked home the equalizer.
 
“To our players’ credit, they saw time ticking down and never gave up,” said Deraney. “We got one, and all of a sudden we believed we could and they started to question themselves.
 
“It’s a game of momentum. Go back to the beginning of the game, when we had opportunities to score but we just didn’t go at them with the same urgency that we should have like we did at the end of the game. If we had done that, we wouldn’t have been in that situation.”
 
PC’s revived resolve marched on through the overtime as they drew one more power play (10 total on the night) and heaved another five shots on net.
 
Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com
 
This article originally appeared in the Friartown Free Press

Women's Hockey Log: Ciarletta Redeems BU Falter In Second Shootout

Elements of statistical consensus were the prevalent theme between Danielle Ciarletta and the opposing Niagara Purple Eagles en route to last night’s 2-2 regulation draw at Schneider Arena.

First, Ciarletta relinquished her career-old shutout streak against the Eagles –after she had laid three goose eggs in as many confrontations over her sophomore and junior campaigns- at the game clock age of 199:21. Translation: 39 seconds short of 10 consecutive shutout periods.
 
But after her teammates absolved that drawback, plus another at 4:27 of the second, Ciarletta ultimately earned an invitation to whitewash the bittersweet finish to her previous outing. Three weeks prior, when she put in her last active appearance at Boston University, she submitted a 0-for-3 save rate in the shootout and spilled an extra point for the Friars in the Hockey East standings.
 
Uncannily enough, after giving way to Genevieve Lacasse for the next four outings, Ciarletta was the crease custodian on duty for PC’s next 65-minute-tie-enforced shootout. And this time, she fended off the likes of Melanie Mills, Emilie Castonguay, and Ashley Riggs, thereby pacing Erin Normore to the last-round clincher.
 
Ciarletta’s responsiveness was inessential on Mills’ attempt in the first round as it shanked wide of the left post. Castonguay gave a whirl at a Nathan Gerbe impression, turning her back to the cage halfway through her straightaway stride, only to see her thrust brush off Ciarletta’s trapper and drop over the cage.
 
Riggs, Niagara’s top gun, offered a harrowingly soapier, ice-kissing shot that initially eluded Ciarletta’s clutch and partially trickled to the top of the goal line before the goalie lashed out her right boot to clog it.
 
Both Laura Veharanta and Ashley Cottrell –who had each singed BU’s Allyse Wilcox three weeks back- fell short in their shootout strides for the Friars this time. Niagara’s Jenni Bauer tilted Veharanta’s attempt to her right and got a piece of Cottrell’s tricky floater before flopping back to wrest it from the jaws of the goal.
 
Morris’ milestone
Upon delving into her first shift last night, senior forward Stephanie Morris became the 60th female skater on record to have worn game-time Friar attire at least 100 times.
 
With that, all four members of this season’s graduating class who have stuck around for the full four-year time limit (Morris, Katy Beach, Erin Normore, Brittany Simpson) have fastened their membership in the 100-game club.
 
Juniors Colleen Martin and Pam McDevitt both have legitimate potential to hop aboard themselves before this season is up.
 
Quick Feeds: For the second consecutive night, a pair of too many players citations were distributed. Niagara was caught at 2:21 of the first, whilst laboring on their first power play no less, and the Friars at 17:31. On Friday, visiting Mercyhurst had been caught with an unauthorized six-pack of skaters at 15:16 of the first and 2:49 of the third…Both the first and second periods commenced in virtually the same fashion. Ciarletta shuffled out of her crease to play a relatively light Niagara dump-in, effectively etching them a shot on net both times…The starting line of Cottrell, Veharanta, and Alyse Ruff, combined for 18 of PC’s 41 registered shots last night…The Friars salvaged their all-time unbeaten transcript in visits from the Purple Eagles, who are now 0-5-4 in drop-ins to Schneider Arena since the birth of their program in 1998.
 
Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com
 
This article originally appeared in the Friartown Free Press

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Mercyhurst 3, Women's Hockey 0: Sparkling Agosta Zaps Friars

After a long night defined by slow suffocation induced by the Mercyhurst Lakers –led by internationally ornate scoring beacon Megan Agosta, whose two goals and single assist had factored into a 3-0 difference- the Friars’ discipline detonated late in the third period, and their tempo accordingly puffed out its final breath.
Flags drawn on Pam McDevitt for tripping and Erin Normore for elbowing –during a shorthanded rush to the porch of the Lakers’ net, no less- allotted the visitors a leisurely, cool-down, 5-on-3 twirl in the Providence zone for the last 75 ticks of the game. In effect, they smoothly solidified the 3-0 final, cutting off the Friars’ 4-0-1 unbeaten streak.
Yet in that brief winding-down window, PC coach Bob Deraney could distinctly be heard offering unfussy praise to his PK trifecta for at least making a Superball of the puck and persisting to grind till the buzzer.
After a lengthier-than-usual, fairly hushed post-game lecture in the locker room, Deraney initially stalled to answer the media’s first inquiry, which was build exclusively around superficial data. Namely, the unfavorable imbalance in the shooting gallery (54-23) and 10 empty power plays.
Toss in the fact that the Friars, dislodged from their No. 9 perch in the preseason national leaderboard after opening weekend, are now 0-3-1 against ranked adversaries. So unless the pollsters don’t see past freshman goaltender Genevieve Lacasse, who swallowed 50 shots in the by far sweatiest outing of her young career, nothing was likely gained in the way of national recognition.
Yet when posed the question of a presumed tablespoon of vinegar, Deraney’s vocal cords went dead for about 15 seconds before he offered, “Hey, they’re a good team and that’s what I said to the players afterwards. That’s the best game they’ve played all year.
“Our kids gave it everything they had. And not having Mari (Pehkonen) or Marty (Colleen Martin) in the lineup, against a team like UConn, you can get by. But when you’re up against who I think is one of the best players in the world, Megan Agosta, it’s really difficult when our own world class player isn’t out there.”
Over the latter half of a scoreless first period, and spilling over to the second, the Friars were afforded six unanswered power plays, but spilled the full vat of breakthrough invitations. Unable to penetrate the Lakers’ laser-beamed PK square, they spent the better part of those segments in hasty regroup mode in the neutral zone or hustling to stifle a shorthanded onslaught.
In the meantime, Mercyhurst finally lured Lacasse to default and broke the ice at the 2:54 mark. Agosta imported a long-ranged breakout feed from Melissa Lacroix in neutral ice, cut straightaway through the center alley, and slipped the eventual clincher home through the mouse-sized five-hole.
And moments after they had disintegrated PC’s sixth power play, Mercyhurst drew its third opportunity of the night –and first since the fifth minute of the opening frame- with a mere 1:13 till intermission and accordingly pounced to enhance their edge.
Agosta, withholding the biscuit about the near outer hash marks in a fairly stuffy slot, offered a left-wing lateral to an unoccupied Vicki Bendus in the far circle. Bendus nimbly slugged the conversion under a sliding Lacasse with 34.7 seconds left in the period.
“It’s just one of those nights,” Deraney shrugged. “They’re a good team, they had a good game plan, and they were very well-coached. They were aggressive, we found the open player a couple of times, didn’t cash in, the (pass) hopped over (the intended recipient’s) stick.
“In a game like that, where momentum is such a funny, fickle thing, they score the first goal, we get a couple of opportunities to score and we don’t, the game changes its complexion.”
The complexion, though, was stiff concrete by the 7:11 mark of the third. Only three minutes after PC had twice more failed to exploit the blunderstruck Lakers –whose Bendus went off a mere 14 seconds in for interference and who took their second too many players citation of the night at 2:49- Agosta, who alone finished the night with a Cyclopean 14 shots on net, strolled into Friar territory along the far alley to snap her second strike of the night home low.
Within the final four minutes, first-line centerpiece Ashley Cottrell drew one last power play, owing to Cassea Schols’ illicitly shepherding her en route to the cage. But Mercyhurst stopper Hillary Pattenden finished her night’s work nine seconds later, assertively snatching Brittany Simpson’s high, heavy floating blast from the center point.
Mercyhurst proceeded to sprinkle eight more unanswered shots in the remaining three minutes.
“I don’t think they can play much better than they did tonight,” Deraney granted. “Unfortunately, they were playing us.”
Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com
 
This article originally appeared in the Friartown Free Press

Women's Hockey Log: Friars Expect Full Bench For Mayor's Cup

At the 68-second mark of the third period last night, PC’s two-way connoisseur Erin Normore folded up in a toe-curling gesture after a freak collision behind her own cage. She proceeded to lug herself back to the bench unassisted, but with a grimacing, heat-of-the-moment look of ailment.
 
But Normore, who had been reassigned to strict defensive duties with the recent upper body injury to Colleen Martin, hardly missed a beat. In another minute and 41 seconds off the play clock, visiting Meryhurst took its ninth penalty of the night, and she promptly joined classmate Brittany Simpson along the power play points.
 
Given the Friars’ flustering lack of connectivity in the way of offense over the 3-0 loss, Normore finished her night with a decent two registered stabs at opposing goaltender Hillary Pattenden and took a late elbowing penalty whilst attempting to screen the goaltender in a shorthanded sugar rush with 1:15 left in regulation.
 
“She logs a lot of quality minutes for us,” said head coach Bob Deraney. “It was a rough game, and whenever we play anybody, Erin Normore is one of those kids that they’re going to pay extra attention to. Obviously, Mercyhurst paid extra attention to her tonight.”
 
More to the point, assured that there are no new casualties to pen to the IR roster, Deraney intends to keep Finnish flare Mari Pehkonen, still recuperating from mononucleosis, and project defender Colleen Martin, recipient of an injurious hit from behind at the final buzzer against Robert Morris two weeks ago, sidelined for but one more night when Niagara visits this evening.
 
“Mari’s feeling better, so it’ll probably be another week,” he said. Martin, meanwhile is technically good to go, but “Unfortunately, she got cleared only yesterday (Thursday), so it just wouldn’t have been right to put her in the lineup tonight and tomorrow after taking two weeks off. It would be disastrous if she were to risk getting injured again.
 
“So we’ll play it conservative here, and try to get through another weekend without her, and welcome her back on Monday.”
 
Which, if all goes according to plan, would mean dressing them both again when the Friars’ make the night trip to Brown a week from tonight.
 
Appetite for reconstruction
Deraney’s quick assessment of tonight’s adversary from Niagara: “They’re a tough team. We always play them tough. It’s going to be a dog fight, it’s going to be close.”
 
More to his viewpoint, tonight promptly offers a chance to rerun last night’s type of sprint to the buzzer, albeit, he hopes, with a revised upshot.
 
“That’s the great thing about college hockey. You can an opportunity to bounce right back twenty-four hours later, so we’re really looking forward.”
 
Quick Feeds: Danielle Ciarletta had her turn juggling the fiery ammo of Meryhurst strike force two years ago, posting a still-career-peak 45 saves in a 4-3 falter Oct. 28, 2006. With last night’s 54-shot salvo and 51-save count, Genevieve Lacasse has likewise placed her career bar on a bout with the Lakers…Mercyhurst and New Hampshire are each liable for two of the Friars’ last four home shutout losses…Mercyhurst did a convincing job of veiling the fact that they only dressed 17 skaters (11 forwards, 6 defenders) last night…The Niagara Purple Eagles will bus in for tonight’s 7:00 face-off at 3-9-1 overall and on the heels of a 4-2 triumph at Brown. Ashley Riggs sits atop their scoring chart with a 7-7-14 transcript through 12 games…After tonight, PC will not see home action for another seven weeks, attending to six sparsely scheduled away games before they resume the full-swing of the Hockey East season with UNH Jan. 10.
 
Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com
 
This article originally appeared in the Friartown Free Press

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Women's Hockey Log: Alyse Ruff Swelling Her Clutch Numbers

PC women’s hockey sophomore Alyse Ruff and freshman Laura Veharanta –two primordially well-matched wingers brandishing similar acetylene sticks and scoring prowess- traded traditional positions in the ultimate deciding play of Sunday’s 2-0 tipover of Connecticut.
 
Deployed with centerpiece Ashley Cottrell and point patrollers Brittany Simpson and Christie Jensen with precisely 7:00 to spare and a 5-on-3 advantage, Veharanta, already with seven power play strikes to her credit and usually given to violating goalie’s sightline, this time took up the task of feeding Ruff for a grittily executed tip-in.
 
The goal would go down as Ruff’s second game clincher in as many ventures and her third this season. Pad on her two deciders as a freshman last season, and she already has five in a mere 48 career outings.
 
Enlightened to that data, though, Ruff responded in pure Nuke Laloosh of Bull Durham mode. “I just go out there and put forth my best effort every time and just hope the best out of the situation,” she mused.
 
But surely, there was something extra pleasurable to extract out of capitalizing and shattering a rigid 0-0 knot against a frustratingly thorny defense like that of the Huskies, right?
 
“The way we go into every game is to give our best effort out there (regardless of circumstances),” said Ruff. “So whether we score shorthanded, or on a power play, or even strength, they all give us great opportunities to win.”
 
Conn descending statements
Granted, the Friars’ startling 5-1 throttling of the Huskies in last year’s Hockey East semifinals layered a welcome sweet frosting on an initially limburger-based cake that was the 2007-08 season series. The same held true in 2006-07, when the Huskies nipped PC at Schneider Arena, 1-0, in October, only to bow before them in both ends of a home-and-home series in the final week of the regular season.
 
That notwithstanding, head coach Bob Deraney has stressed the urge to kiln a more convincing persona of start-to-finish aptitude.
 
“This game had some significance because, one, it’s the beginning of our season series with them, so it was important to kick that off in our favor,” he said. “Secondly, it is two valuable points in the league. And they’re a very tough team.
They have to take away points from other teams so it’s important that we take as many points as we can from them.
 
“When they’re ahead, they’re a very tough team to come back against. But when we’re ahead of them, it opens things up for us, and as you can see, they’re a very disciplined, well-coached team that just tries to wear you down.
 
“That’s what I’m most proud of. We won the mental battle.”
 
Pehkonen recuperating
Finnish flare Mari Pehkonen, who contracted mononucleosis while at the Four Nations Cup more than a week ago, has skated lightly and periodically in practice, but sat Sunday’s game out. “Luckily, she doesn’t have a very severe strain of it,” Deraney noted. “So it could be one week or it could be three weeks. But it’s not going to be very long (before she returns).”
 
Elsewhere in the medical wing, junior defender Colleen Martin –still alleviating an upper body injury sustained at Robert Morris on November 8- is classified as day-to-day and still looking hopeful for a return in time for Friday’s visit from Mercyhurst.
 
Quick Feeds: Goaltender Genevieve Lacasse garnered recognition as the week’s top defensive player in the league for her 30-save, career-first goose-egg…Sophomore Jen Smith joined in on the pregame warmup and took a seat at the one of the bench doors, opposite Danielle Ciarletta, making for the first time the Friars have dressed three goalies since October 11…For the first time since October 10, Veharanta led the team in registered shots on Sunday with five, boosting her team-best cumulative total to 49 on the year…Kelli Doolin, a 2008 graduate of the program and co-captain last season, put in a cameo appearance at Sunday’s game.
 
Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com
 
This article originally appeared in the Friartown Free Press

Monday, November 17, 2008

Women's Hockey 2, Connecticut 0: Friars Prevail With Patience

Together with the newly habitual victors he instructs, Friars head coach Bob Deraney has a personal hot streak of sorts brewing. One that could justifiably leave him contemplating a secondary career in tarot card readings.
 
As he foretold in advance of yesterday’s confrontation with the gritty Connecticut Huskies, he found his pupils engaged in a tussle defined by anaconda-like constriction, which ultimately ran scoreless through the first 53 minutes of play.
 
Then, with an even 7:00 left to work with in regulation, the Huskies absorbed their second penalty in a matter of 62 ticks –Cristin Allen going off for the third time of the day with a cross-checking citation- in effect granting Providence its fourth power play and 58 seconds worth of a 5-on-3 sequence.
 
Acutely smelling an invitation to a favorable turning point through the suddenly creaked door, Deraney used his lone timeout at once. His message to the strike force?
 
“Just stick to what we do,” he said. “And what I mean by that is, we have our systematic play when it comes to 5-on-3 and our special teams have been very good. So I basically said ‘Hey. Here’s an opportunity. Just continue what you’ve been doing, but make sure you execute. You’re going to have a little bit more time because it’s 5-on-3, so find the open player. She’ll be there.’”
 
The skipper’s prediction precision lit up yet again. Six seconds after the first UConn penalty expired and Rebecca Hewett hustled in to join the PK, Friar forward Laura Veharanta churned elusively throughout the far circle, the puck irremovably fastened to her tape, then turned to find linemate Alyse Ruff patiently perched in front of goaltender Alexandra Garcia (18 saves).
 
With 5:57 to spare, Ruff tilted Veharanta’s subsequent magnetic feed top shelf over Garcia’s trapper for the decider in a 2-0 Providence victory, later solidified by Kate Bacon’s empty netter with 20 seconds remaining.
 
With that, the Friars prolonged their unbeaten streak to 4-0-1 in their last five ventures and, for a change, leaned over the right side of the .500 fence in both their Hockey East (3-2-1) and overall (6-5-1) game-by-game transcripts.
 
Then there was freshman goaltender Genevieve Lacasse, now perfect in the win column over three consecutive starts, who pitched her first collegiate shutout through a 30-save dolphin show.
 
For the better part of the first period especially, the Friars were in tongue-biting mode, grating a persistent UConn attack brigade that mustered a 9-3 edge in the shooting gallery and at one point –within the fourteenth minute- induced Providence to three icings in a space of 52 seconds.
 
PC’s lengthiest, most favorable-looking early visits to the Huskies’ domain were boosted by a pair of power plays, but in the 18th minute, a fresh-out-the-box Allen absorbed an authoritative clear from her own zone and broke untouched down the Broadway lane for the best scoring chance of the period. She would be thwarted, though, by a vitally collected Lacasse, who paced herself to a sprawling, post-hugging save.
 
Deraney was apt to commend his defense for never puffing out in addition to acknowledging the cornerstone in his crease.
 
“You can just see us growing and getting better every day in all phases of the game, and it all starts with our goaltending,” he said. “They didn’t get a lot of quality opportunities, but when you get your goalie in the zone like Genevieve was tonight, it’s uplifting to us and deflating to them.”
 
Both clubs tuned up their offensive maneuverability in the middle frame, UConn slightly augmenting its shooting edge to 20-12, including five registered stabs over one power play about the halfway mark. But Lacasse and Garcia alike still failed to default.
 
The Friars even disrupted that productive UConn power play tempest when Bacon accepted a breakout feed in neutral ice and bustled through the near alley en route to a face-to-face encounter with Garcia, who would equate Lacasse’s resolve to the two-set of goose eggs for another intermission.
 
Added Deraney, “We missed some golden opportunities on our first power play. A couple of open nets that could have opened it up (for us) a little more.”
 
But PC, which neutralized a 6-on-4 disadvantage in the final 90 seconds over Connecticut’s fifth and final power play, tipped the scale when daylong heart-skipping and teeth-gnashing gave way to bonus breath and two bonus skaters.
 
“When it’s going and going, and there’s no scoring, it’s touch and go, and it’s tough to gain an inch, if you’re not mentally tough, sometimes you’ll crack,” said Deraney. “(Instead,) I think they made us a more disciplined and composed team and I’m really excited about the way we responded to this challenge.”
 
Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com
 
This article originally appeared in the Friartown Free Press

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Women's Hockey Log: Deraney Foresees Gritty PC-UConn Confrontation

Last season is last season, expect for when the present is so rigid and protracted that it clutches the past in one fist, the future in the other, and accordingly injects its consistent influence.
 
That’s how the puck spins in the Battle for Southern New England. When the PC and Connecticut women lock twigs, hard noses and hard feelings slosh from end to end like a choppy, monsoon-driven river.
 
Hence the candidate for quote of the week straight from Friars’ coach Bob Deraney, offering a general prophesy concerning tomorrow afternoon’s meeting at Schneider Arena: “It’s gonna be a very physical, hard-fought, ugly hockey game.”
 
Deraney didn’t refer back to any previous get-together in particular. Not even the Friars’ head-turning, shellshocking, 5-1 triumph in the 2008 Hockey East semifinals, which was carried out on UConn ice, no less, and likely pierced the Huskies’ NCAA tournament bubble.
 
Implicitly, the spirit of the rivalry is safe without extra zesty circumstances like that. Nevertheless, there is some cause to believe that the visiting Huskies will be vying to make an early statement whilst serving a mini-dish of eye-for-eye justice in the House That Lou Built.
 
“They’re definitely gonna come in hard, especially coming off the loss from last year,” said PC senior defender Erin Normore, who charged up a goal and assist in that revolutionary game. “So we’re just gonna come out, work hard, play our game, and hopefully come out with a win.”
 
The Friars (5-5-1 overall; 2-2-1 Hockey East) and Huskies (6-4-2 overall; 3-2-0 Hockey East) alike may indeed need to subsist, in part, on a not-so-negligible dose of hope. Time and again, the explosively molecular mix of elements have broken the surface in this matchup.
 
Over all four of their get-togethers last season, neither team allotted the other more than 30 shots on an individual night.
 
“Both teams play shutdown defense and there are some talented kids on both sides who can score goals,” Deraney observed. “Dominque Thibault and Amy Hollstein are both dangerous. Their goaltending, whether it’s (Brittany) Wilson or Alexandra Garcia, they’re both very good."
 
Already, through 12 total contests, Thibault has a 12-7-19 scoring transcript to top the UConn charts. She and Hollstein (8-6-14) sandwich Michelle Binning (9-7-16) to formulate a trinity of point-plus-per-game Huskies.
 
The more likely starter Wilson already bears a decent 4-2-1 log, 2.22 GAA (precisely the same as Garcia’s), and .904 save percentage. She will counter either a certifiably sharp rookie in Genevieve Lacasse or a not-so-problematic veteran in Danielle Ciarletta and will be personally confronted by a Providence strike force that is steadily heightening its nightly output on the scoresheet.
 
“We’ll have our work cut out for us to score,” Deraney observed. “But in turn I think that the way we’re playing pretty good defense, if we can get to them early, they’re a different team. If they can get a hold of us, they can win a one-goal game."
 
From where Deraney’s stands, part of this year’s incentive is not to let his team procrastinate in propping up its half of the parity. Over their first two meetings last season, the Huskies made Zamboni brooms of the Friars through 5-0 and 3-0 finals at Freitas Ice Forum.
 
It wasn’t until the third regular season encounter and the spontaneous playoff rumble that Providence tuned the back of Wilson’s cage. When they did, though, they clicked copiously and in effect cultivated two key wins.
Those discrepancies in upshots couldn’t be plainer to the Friars’ skipper.
 
“If we get ahead of them, they’ll have to take chances and if they do that, they’re not their best,” said Deraney. “So our goal will be to try to score early and stay on top. If we do that, we’ll have a lot of success.
 
“If we don’t, then it’s going to be a knock-down, dragged-out, 60-minute battle.”
 
Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com
 
This article originally appeared in the Friartown Free Press

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Women's Hockey Log: Friars Get A Respite Ahead Of Rigor

Reinstalled to the .500 fence at 5-5-1 overall, the Friars have accepted the first patent step to what they hope will soon escalate to renewed national relevance.

They have subsequently accepted an auspicious seven-day gap between their return ride to campus from last weekend’s two-game sweep at Robert Morris and Sunday’s home get-together with Connecticut, which will commence a more contrary, three-game-in-seven-night homestand.
 
All players stayed clear of the refrigerated sector of Schneider Arena so as to thaw themselves mentally both Sunday and Monday. They then kicked off a five-day game prep regimen yesterday with a less formal, split-squad sort of practice.
 
“It’s not so much more time to prepare as it is to really recharge our batteries,” explained head coach Bob Deraney prior to yesterday’s on-ice colloquium. “We’ve taken a couple of days off, and today we’re gonna put our defensemen on the ice for fifty minutes and then bring our forwards in for fifty minutes. So basically, they’ll all have played less than an hour of hockey over the last three days, which I think is very good for this time of year.”
 
Once the ice chips of next Sunday settle, the Friars will have another four days to sharpen up for the likes of visiting Niagara a week from Friday and mighty Mercyhurst the following night.
 
They won’t be seen again in a brightly lit edition of Schneider Arena until Jan. 10. But a night trip to Brown for the Mayor’s Cup after Thanksgiving and a two-night venture to Maine the first weekend of December is in order.
 
Do the math: that will mean having consumed precisely half of the 2008-09 itinerary before the standard December decelerator kicks in.
 
“With so much hockey left to play before the Christmas break, this is our chance to make our mark in the national rankings. I’m not hoping. I’m confident we will.”
 
Perpetrators and victims
Through the first 11 games of the season, both the Friars and their adversaries have garnered an aggregate 90 whistles from the duo of orange-armed zebras this season. However, the opposition, which has drawn strictly minors against PC, bloated its own penalty minute total to 199 thanks to Robert Morris winger Megan Picinic’s last-second hitting-from-behind major –warranting a DQ and conjoined 10-minute misconduct citation and one-game suspension- on Saturday.
 
More to PC’s concern, though, that infraction left junior Colleen Martin folded over with an unspecified, indefinite injury.

“We’ll wait to see,” said Deraney on the ailing defender’s status. “We haven’t had a final decision, but it’s possible she could be out for at least the next game on Sunday. We’re not sure yet."
Busy twigs
Senior Katy Beach unloaded six shots on goal per night on the weekend and is now second on the team in that category with 38, behind Laura Vehranta’s 44. Beach’s linemate, Kate Bacon, comes in third with 33, despite each of them having missed two of the Friars’ first 11 games.
 
Quick Feeds: Genevieve Lacasse’s fifth third period save in Saturday’s 5-2 win, registered in the final stanza’s 13th minute, was No. 200 in her young, seven-game-old collegiate career. By night’s end, she had slid that total up to 204… Lacasse has yet to face any fewer than 27 shots on a given night. Her Saturday workload and efficiency rate (25 saves) perfectly matched that of a 4-2 win at Vermont on October 19…Working with 13 available forwards, Deraney rotated rookies Lauren Covell and Abby Gauthier between the gametime roster and the sidelines over the RMU series…Upon claiming Rookie of the Week accolades, Veharanta is the first Friar on either side of the program to earn a fun-size weekly nod from the Hockey East offices.
Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com
 
This article originally appeared in the Friartown Free Press