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
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
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
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
This article originally appeared in the Friartown Free Press