Saturday, October 4, 2008

Ohio State 2, Women's Hockey 1: Friars Bucked In The Eye After Letting Lead Slip

Entirely out of matter-of-fact acceptance, and hardly out of eagerness, Friars head coach Bob Deraney prophesied a “learning experience” peppered with all but certain “growing pains” in First Night 2008-09.
After the fact, the fact being a 2-1 falter to Ohio State finalized on a strike by Buckeye forward Colleen Olson with a mere 7:09 to spare in the third and a failure to launch in the last-moments Operation Equalizer frenzy, there was a minor, yet explicitly present, sheet of bitterness in Deraney’s tone.
“I think I’d be insulting these girls if I said to them ‘Hey, we played well tonight.’ That wouldn’t be good enough,” he said. “For other programs, it would be good enough, but not this team.”
Initially hampered by expectable jitters, which amounted to three unanswered power plays, a 7-0 shooting advantage, and a 1-0 scoring advantage for the Buckeyes within the first six minutes, the caffeinated Friars gushed out to chalk up an eventual 40-24 edge in the shooting gallery.
But caffeine, more often than not, equals crashes. And a robust red wall in the form of Ohio State stopper Lianna Bonanno (39 saves) helped the collapsing cause. Save for freshman Laura Verahanta’s connection late in the middle frame, Bonanno resisted the entirety of a 19-shot second period barrage, then watched as her mates tipped the crucial scale in an anarchic third period.
“Their goalie did make the difference,” Deraney granted, adding “they played a college team last week (in their exhibition), and we didn’t. We played a midget team, so we took a while to get acclimated to what the (standard collegiate) pace is really like.”
It showed in the skate-whetting stages of the first period, most tellingly when PC’s Colleen Martin was flagged for a hitting-from-behind infraction at the 1:50 mark. The Buckeyes proceeded to thrust three nimble shots at Friar goaltender Danielle Ciarletta (22 saves), and inserted the icebreaker with 35 seconds to spare on the advantage.
Regrouping on an incomplete PC clear to the neutral zone, backliner Kelly Wild forwarded a skipping stone feed along the near wall to Raelyn LaRocque. LaRoque absorbed it at the blue line, swooped in untouched, and let her shot squirt  home.
The Friars subsequently gnashed their teeth through three uninterrupted shorthanded minutes, including 73 seconds of a 5-on-3 deficit, during which Ciarletta pushed away another three shots. But the omens improved for the home mass at Schneider Arena when an interference call Natalie Spooner ultimately brought a premature end to the Buckeyes’ third power play.
Providence finally cracked the goose egg in their SOG column through two consecutive stabs by a fresh-out-the-box Katy Beach. As the whistle distrubtions evened out for the remainder of the period, so did the shot count. Before intermission, the Friars had sculpted an 11-9 lead in the credit-for-effort category, seven of their shots spanning over three power plays.
Their boundless shooting spree only accelerated in the middle frame, as did OSU’s brimming frustration. The Friars heaved 11 unanswered attempts at Bonanno –with five of them, plus a dink off the near post by forward Ariano Rigano, compacted into their fourth PP opportunity of the night- over the first eight minutes of the period.
At the rate they were forking, yet extracting nothing on the board, PC all but needed to catch Bonnano deflated off a face-off. That’s what happened in the waning seconds of another power play when 2:52 remained in the second period.
Mari Pehkonen’s win in the far circle hardly left the radius of the draw, and Verahanta nimbly pounced to slug it in through the crouching Bonnano’s five-hole.
That coming after 13 previous power play stabs (29 shots overall) were swallowed by the chin-standing Bonanno, whose continuing dolphin show was only eclipsed by the Buckeyes’ offensive awakening in the third period.
Limiting the Friars to 10 more attempts while discharging nine of their own, the Buckeyes wrested the lead permanently just moments after PC had polished off another PK.
A disrupted would-be breakout in the far alley of the Friars’ end allowed Michele Tonnessen to feed Olson, who cut nimbly to the net and, much like LaRocque before her, let a soapy low rider slip through Ciarletta.
This article originally appeared in the Friartown Free Press

Monday, September 29, 2008

Women's Hockey 4, Brampton Thunder 1: Friars Victorious In Fog-Filled Scrimmage

On top of the usual telling dynamics –from the dasher boards still stripped of solicitations (bound to change in the coming weeks), to the rusty PA introductions, to Schneider Arena’s lone annual playing of “O, Canada”- the phrase preseason spoke at its utmost decibel through the Friars’ exhibition yesterday. Summer air, still lingering in the area, stalked the ice house to cloud the Plexiglas and, in collaboration with the cyclonic skating activity, emit a fog a la the Boston Garden circa May 1988, or Boston College’s Conte Forum about this time last year.
By the 8:30 mark of the middle frame, the officiating quad team spontaneously summoned all skaters out for few soft laps in an effort to neutralize the mist. Two like delays were ordered at 7:36 and 14:50.
The Friars may need the practice in the event of such stoppages when they delve into their regular season slate this weekend. Extended Weather Channel forecasts have relentlessly called for unseasonable 60s down the 10-day road.
Luckily, though, there would be no historic blackout or ref-ordered cancellation before the length of yesterday’s scrimmage panned out. Instead, PC swished effectively through both their adversaries –the Brampton Junior Thunder and the elements- en route to a 4-1 triumph.
“We’re trying to build team of speed, and it’s tough (as it is) to try to play through snow and slush,” head coach Bob Deraney acknowledged. “But our execution today wasn’t that bad, considering the conditions.”
In the younger stages of Sunday’s whirl, the Friar stick rack’s precision was satisfactory enough. They penetrated the steam well enough to land a hefty bushel of 13 first period shots –on top of any unrecorded wide attempts. Just as strikingly, though, Thunder stopper Andrea Weckman tracked and pushed away thirteen of those stabs.
The one she missed fell inauspiciously at the 3:44 mark, a mere 19 seconds after Brampton had gone on its first power play. Friar flare Mari Pehkonen pounced when the puck when it overran the twig of Thunder backliner Blaire MacDonald along the boards in neutral ice, strolled with it into the high slot, and whooshed a low flyer home over Weckman’s blocker.
The Thunder, who spilled a total of six power plays on the day, were at least visually productive in their more sparse visits to the PC zone in the first period. But a series of face-to-face confrontations with goaltender Danielle Ciarletta only amounted to two saves in her lone period of duty and a handful of wide attempts.
Providence evenly distributed the scarcely arduous crease-watching workload between Ciarletta, Jennifer Smith –who yielded the loan Brampton goal, a low rider through a screen courtesy Olivia Crossley at 12:29 of the second period- and freshman Genevieve Lacasse, who logged a light three saves on as many shots faced in the third.
Conversely, Weckman absorbed another 32 shots over the latter forty minutes and authorized a costly three goals.
On the heels of killing their second penalty, the Friars inserted the eventual clincher with 12:36 to spare in the middle frame. Rookie forward Abby Gauthier absorbed Brittany Simpson’s neutral zone feed at the blue line, pierced unchallenged down the middle alley to seduce Weckman into a sprawling pose, and left a rebound for Jackie Duncan to spoon upstairs.
Duncan, yearning for a delayed breakthrough in her junior campaign after participating off and on, particularly last season, struck again at 11:47of the third, swooping in from the left alley to rake home a one-timer off Arianna Rigano’s headman feed.
A visually similar play fastened the 4-1 final and invited two PC rookies to their first scoresheet with a mere 4:28 to spare. Defender Jennifer Friedman hauled the puck through the near alley of the neutral zone, then thrust it at Weckman’s porch for an incoming Laura Verahanta to bury.
This article originally appeared in the Friartown Free Press

Women's Hockey Log: Friars Not Through Shuffling

The Friars indulgently exercised their loose scrimmage options and rotated all eight of their defensive players Sunday, which meant icing a brimming 20 skaters plus three of the program’s four goaltenders.
Officially, rookies Breanna Schwarz and Christie Jensen constituted the taxi tandem amongst the blueliners. On solid ice, that would mean reserving two bleacher seats for them come Friday’s hosting to Ohio State.
Similarly, one line combination fit for a human interest story included the likes of Kate Bacon and Ashley Cottrell, once temporary USA teammates at the U18 World Championships shortly after they signed their NLIs last season. Partnering with senior Katy Beach, the second line productively unloaded ten shots on net.
Again, if head coach Bob Deraney was itching to cement his positional plan, that group would be set to work again this weekend. But that’s the thing. The ice on that issue was no more solid than what the Friars and Brampton Junior Thunder struggled through in PC’s foggy 4-1 exhibition victory.
Jean O’Neill, out indefinitely with a lower body injury, stood out as the solitary scratch amongst the skaters Sunday (she watched the action from the upper bowl with goaltender Christina England).
And yet, for all that she produced in last year’s stretch drive on a powerhouse line with Mari Pehkonen and Alyse Ruff, even she will not be immune to rotation once she returns, Deraney said.
Expecting to cultivate “more versatility” out of his entire depth chart this season, Deraney hinted that, once she suits up again, O’Neill will likely be assigned to a different line so as to let a pair of still-burgeoning scorers feed off of her.
“Today was just an opportunity for everyone to show what they can do,” the skipper added. “I’ll go to the tape on it this week and we’ll make more concrete changes.”
Shootout preview showcased
The women’s sect of the Hockey East conference has –albeit unannounced- opted to give the shootout a try this season, as evidenced by a purely expository one-on-one showdowns that followed Sunday’s game.
All 2008-09 games, Deraney said, will end in a shootout regardless of the result. For deadlocked conference games, though, they will take on some statistical gravity. As has been practiced in the NHL, all regulation ties will warrant a point in the Hockey East standings for the participating club. Whoever prevails in the bonus round will wrest away an additional point.
Sunday’s shootout results read as follows:

Tanya Lamon of Brampton: scored by poking the puck through goaltender Genevieve Lacasse’s pads.
Mari Pehkonen of PC: lobbed it wide over the net.
Samantha Revell of Brampton: denied on a sprawling snuff by Lacasse
Ashley Cottrell of PC: scored on a tap through goaltender Andrea’s Weckman’s vacant five-hole
Tenecia Hiller of Brampton: denied on a kick save by Lacasse
Laura Veharanta of PC: denied on a stick save by Weckman
Alexis Ardell of Brampton: scored by lacing it in around Lacasse’s right side
Erin Normore of PC: denied on a glove save by Weckman
Quick Feeds: Freshman Laura Verahanta, filling O’Neill’s familiar post on the top line with Pehkonen and Ruff, discharged a team-leading 8 shots on net. She was followed immediately by classmate Arianna Rigano, who compiled six attempts...Sixteen of twenty Friars etched at least one shot on net Sunday…Jen Smith, by virtue of the deciding goal coming in the second period, was credited with the win.
Al Daniel can be reached at
This article originally appeared in the Friartown Free Press