Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Women's Hockey Log: Rookie Laura Veharanta Producing Early

It’s early, to be sure, but freshman first-liner Laura Veharanta is so far producing at a spot-on Sonny Watrous pace: precisely one point in as many career games.
What was once the fiery PRO Line of Mari Pehkonen, Alyse Ruff, and Jean O’Neill –broken up by a lower body injury that confined O’Neill to the sidelines until Saturday’s 6-2 pasting of Colgate- now appears to have been rechristened the PRV line.
Incidentally, that’s still a fairly common abbreviation for PC’s home city. And, statistically speaking, the line’s new additive has fittingly plugged the void, currently matching Pehkonen atop the team scoring chart and leading the PC shooting gallery with 18 registered stabs.
One of only four Friars to brush the two scoresheets of the team’s opening series with Ohio State, Veharanta kept her initial gush rolling this past weekend, raking in the lone goal against St. Lawrence and composing a goal-assist package against Colgate.
All three weekend points were subtly aided by a power play and all were cultivated in the dirty-nose zone. In the waning moments of Friday’s 3-1 loss to the Saints, Veharanta was enrolled to join a last-ditch six-pack attack and –together with Katy Beach and Abby Gauthier- lay in salivating wait for Arianna Rigano’s feed out of the near corner. All four attacking twigs had a hold of the puck before Veharanta, stationed along the near post, swept it into a vacant frame of the net, temporarily rejuvenating hope of a rally.
In Saturday’s opening frame, with a glowing 1:49 5-on-3 sequence on the verge of wasteful expiration, Veharanta instinctively perched herself in the sightline of Colgate stopper Ekayna Hamashuk and merely had to deflect point patroller Erin Normore’s screamer over Hamashuk’s mitt, pulling the Friars ahead, 2-0, at the time.

Then midway through the third, Veharanta and her on-duty associates demonstrated the same never-mind-the-score persistence as they had the previous night, even with a rigid 5-2 lead at hand. Again laboring with the likes of Beach during a 4-on-3 advantage, and with Normore carrying out her trademark end-to-end carry down the near alley, Veharanta hustled straight ahead accept the two-way connoisseur’s centering feed on the Colgate porch and ultimately left a rebound for Beach to tuck home from the far post.
Century chase
Senior forward Stephanie Morris is now another nine outings away from joining current teammates Beach, Normore, and Brittany Simpson in the program’s 100-career game club. At this rate, junior defender Colleen Martin is next with a cumulative 75 games to her credit, followed by classmate Pam McDevitt (66) and Pehkonen (69).
All have the mathematic potential to hit the three-digit plateau before this season is shelved, though McDevitt and Pehkonen are a bit of an outside shot. With 30 guaranteed regular season games yet to work with, their chances involve the naturally yet-to-be-determined duration of PC’s post-season activity. And for Pehkonen in particular, one ought to factor in however much of her time might be rented out by Team Finland for any given international tournament.
Quick Feeds: Granted, they had an overflowing bushel of opportunities to work with, but the Friars have seen all of their first three forward lines and all defenders in regular action on the power play lately. Most of the way, coach Bob Deraney has simply deployed the same offensive unit as he would in even strength along with at least one of his reliably offensive-minded defenders…Pehkonen, Ruff, and freshman defender Christie Jensen all climbed into the black in terms of plus/minus on Saturday. Veharanta, O’Neill, Ashley Cottrell, Martin, and goaltender Genevieve Lacasse have all pulled themselves even in that column…With her two third period goals Saturday, Beach bulked her career scoring totals to 3-3-6 in five career games against Colgate…The forthcoming weekend’s itinerary has back-to-back brushes with former Friars lined up. Goaltender Stacey Scott (PC 2005-06) will likely be taking a seat behind the so-far effective tandem of Florence Schelling and Leah Sulyma at Northeastern Saturday. But on Sunday, forward Brittany Nelson (2006-07) will be one of three sporting a captain’s C for the host Vermont Catamounts.
Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com
This article originally appeared in the Friartown Free Press

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Women's Hockey 6, Colgate 2: Tenacious Friars Throttle Raiders For First Win

The gale force tempest of Colgate Raider shots -44 total on the day- was eclipsed by the tireless Category 5 whistle storm on the part of the officiating crew, which handed out a game total of 60 penalty minutes between the contesting teams.
But both of those ice-shattering elements were dwarfed by the Friars’ volcanic output on the scoresheet. Eight players put their pens to that sheet, six of them rolling up a multi-point performance en route to a 6-2 Providence triumph at Schneider Arena yesterday afternoon.
The lowdown: Katy Beach sprinkled two tallies; starting forwards Mari Pehkonen, Alyse Ruff, and Laura Veharanta each claimed a goal-assist value pack; and defenders Colleen Martin and Erin Normore each logged two helpers.
And so, individual and group catharsis was passed around the dressing room hours after a verbal stress ball made its way around the team lunch table.
“I told them today at our pre-game meal that after watching the tape (of previous games) we can get discouraged or we can persevere,” said head coach Bob Deraney. “And I told them a story from a book called The Traveler’s Gift. In this place where Gabriel is there are these cases of trophies, diplomas, cars –all these material things.
“The traveler asks Gabriel, ‘What are these things?’ These are the things that, right around the corner, where they decided to stop going after them. So what do we want to be? Do we want to be discouraged or do we want to persevere?”
So for a team tantalized by the specter of posting a big 0-4 mark on their season-opening homestand, Deraney decided to bring best-selling motivational scribe Andy Andrews into the equation. Go figure. This is the institution that put Development of Western Civilization on the map.
Come what may, the Friars made the upward U-turn they had pursued since last weekend.
“Today was just a product of how close we’ve been,” Deraney concluded. “We got the breaks and we deserved the breaks. We executed and we played really well.”
None other than Pehkonen got the victorious gush flowing. Pehkonen, who took an uncharacteristic three penalties in Friday’s falter to St. Lawrence, nimbly rekindled the productive game that has molded her rep on this campus, those she has visited, plus three continents.
Yesterday’s contest was but 39 seconds old when Pehkonen drew a power play by letting Colgate defender Kiira Dosdall’s give her a stick to the midsection in front of the cage. After sitting down for the first power play shift, Pehkonen returned with all of her fellow starters and helped captain Brittany Simpson set up a regrouping breakout.
Simpson forwarded the disc to Ruff, who nimbly offered Pehkonen a moving cross-ice feed through neutral ice. With it, Pehkonen let a low flying wrister through traffic and in to the left of Colgate goalie Elayna Hamashuk (8 saves).
Less than ten minutes later, in the waning seconds of a protracted 5-on-3 advantage, Pehkonen offered a parallel feed to Normore at the near point. A screening Veharanta tilted Normore’s subsequent blast top shelf for the 2-0 edge.
Ashley Cottrell more or less joined Pehkonen in the Friday redemption department on a shorthanded break at the 15:26 mark. Cottrell, who had whiffed on a third period penalty shot against SLU, bought herself a breakaway on her own money yesterday. Scooping the loose puck out of a scrum along the far walls of the neutral zone, she swooped in virtually uncontested and buried her first collegiate goal within the near post.
Well before the game hit the halfway mark, PC had equated its cumulative scoring output (four goals) of the previous three games. At 7:13 of the middle frame, Ruff, who about three minutes and one shift earlier was snuffed on a long-range slapper, was forking at Veharanta’s rebound along with Martin before she finally reached behind Hamashuk’s blades to nudge it in.
Gone was Hamashuk in favor of Lisa Plenderleith (15 saves) and long gone were the young pointless streaks of Cottrell, Martin, and Ruff.
“You just gotta get that feel,” said Deraney. “Once you get that feel of your body doing it, all of a sudden it becomes a little bit easier. I’m happy for them to see them break out because they’re on the cusp of being terrific point producers for us.”
Together with the parity, the discipline between the two teams began to somersault out of control in the latter half of the game. Even with a hitting-from-behind major to Colgate’s Kristi-Lyn Pollock with 2:37 till intermission, the Raiders crashed the Friars’ all-you-can-score buffet by drawing two minors and cutting a now 5-1 deficit (courtesy Pollock at 9:10 and Beach for PC at 16:32 –both power play strikes) with 0.6 seconds remaining.
Six ticks after Friar Jennifer Freidman went off for tripping –granting the Raiders a 4-on-3 edge- Dosdall fed Todd Clancy for a homeward bound floater from the far circle-top.
But PC would virtually seal its borders through the length of the third period and tacked on one last power play conversion –their fourth of the day- via Beach.
“We played hockey today,” Deraney said. “We made plays; we didn’t panic with the puck; we didn’t treat it like a hot potato. Everyone was consistently trying to make plays.”
Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com
This article originally appeared in the Friartown Free Press

Women's Hockey Log: Rookie Genevieve Lacasse Continues To Deliver In Net

By order of preseason circumstances, Genevieve Lacasse should have been thrown the red shirt from a Hail Mary distance while she strolled down the hall to the dressing room for her first Friars practice last month.
After all, she was wedging her way into a goalie’s guild that was returning all three of its 2007-08 constituents –Danielle Ciarletta, Jen Smith, and Christina England- and couldn’t even make time to offer all three game action last season.
Then Lacasse dressed for the preseason exhibition, and then the regular season opener, opposite the senior Ciarletta and sophomore Smith. When she got the nod for Game 2 of last weekend’s Ohio State series, it was all but surely a sign that head coach Bob Deraney had a baseball pitchers-like rotation in mind.
But since she pushed away 32 Buckeye bids and authorized three goals on “not shots” but “scrums” in Deraney’s words, the crease has been all hers. And she only reinforced her singular claim to the cage over this weekend, kicking out 26 St. Lawrence shots Friday and 42 Colgate stabs for her first collegiate win yesterday.
It was easy to miss given the way the PC attack squad disassembled the Colgate tandem of Elayna Hamashuk and Lisa Plenderleith, but Lacasse backboned yesterday’s onslaught by withstanding one spurt after another –including five unanswered power play shots within the first minute of the third period. The period-by-period shot distribution read a fairly balanced 15-15-14, but save for two connections in the middle frame, Lacasse lugged the whole bushel unhurt.
Not to mention, she spiked her three-game save total to precisely 100. So now, by order of her initial track record, Lacasse looks like a lock to start this Saturday’s Hockey East opener at Northeastern.
“We’re a meritocracy and the best players play,” Deraney said. “She’s played very well and as long as people play well, they’re gonna play.
“I’m sure Danielle will get in there again and she’ll have the opportunity to do the same thing. But, I always say that not the best players, but those who are playing well are going to continue to play more.”
O’Neill easing back in
One of the quieter Friars in yesterday’s rubber blizzard was Jean O’Neill, returning from a pre-season injury and plugging the third-line center void left by an ailing Jackie Duncan. Her only tangible, statistical achievement was a 5-for-8 rate on the face-off. But, Deraney offered, “For her first game –I put her in a lot of different situations- I thought she was up to what we asked her to do. I thought she did a pretty good job, considering she was out for our first four games.”
Among other things, O’Neill briefly reunited with former linemates Mari Pehkonen and Alyse Ruff on the first shift of a power play at 15:06 of the second period.
Quick Feeds: With her two-point performance yesterday, Ruff’s first goal of both her freshman and sophomore seasons have come at Colgate’s expense…Returning to the standard 12-forward, 6-defender depth chart, Deraney put down sophomore blueliner Leigh Riley as a healthy scratch yesterday…Under the no-nonsense officiating crew, which whistled each team on 13 occasions, yesterday’s tussle saw two sets of coincidental minors, three 5-on-3 sequences, two 4-on-3 moments, and three brief four-on-four stretches. Twenty out of thirty-six dressed skaters paid at least on visit to the box.
Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com
This article originally appeared in the Friartown Free Press