Sunday, January 11, 2009

Women's Hockey Log: Friars Set Tone For 6-Team Playoff Push

The upshot from the young phases of the Women’s Hockey East season, together with yesterday afternoon’s lineup of action, had its middle pack of contenders ready for a potential seven weeks of rabid, random lottery ball bounces.

The Friars (5-2-1 in league play) entered their home tussle with New Hampshire (5-1-3) perched tightly in fifth place, but a mere two points behind the second place Wildcats. A collision across the western border between UConn and Boston University –co-recipients of third place as of yesterday morning- automatically barred Providence from pole-vaulting to the silver slot, but their 5-0 triumph knotted them with UNH and starved their rivals’ craving for an all-15-point knot for first with Boston College.

So now, with the Huskies’ 3-0 clipping of the Terriers, this morning’s revised standings have BC safely solitary at the throne. Their most proximate chasers are now from UConn, trailing by a single point. The Friars have lassoed themselves with the Wildcats to share third place, a position just as tight as they had previously occupied with fifth-place BU behind by a notch.

In other words, the points break down as follows: 15 for the Eagles, 14 for the Huskies, 13 apiece for the Friars and Wildcats, 12 for the Terriers.

Northeastern has yet to concede, as they stressed Thursday night through a 2-0 road blanking of BU, which improved them to 5-4-0 on the year versus conference cohabitants. The Hub Huskies and Friars both have the best of all the slim offerings of breathing room, each still with 12 dates to consume on their 21-game agenda.

For their part, PC still has their interleague finale at Dartmouth on Tuesday and a two-game home set with the plebeian Vermont program straight ahead. Following that, it is strictly fellow contenders. They will face all five of their fellow pennant racers in a home-and-home series over the final five weekends of the regular season.

Pehkonen’s persistence paysSenior forward Mari Pehkonen unleashed nine shots on net yesterday, eclipsing her cumulative output from her previous five appearances since she recovered from mononucleosis circa Thanksgiving. Her promising boundlessness effectively engaged her in an entertaining personal derby with New Hampshire’s Courtney Birchard, who charged up a supernatural 11 registered stabs on the day.

But while PC stopper Genevieve Lacasse never budged on anything heaved her way –by Birchard or any of her 13 active associates- Pehkonen snapped her string of scoring futility on her ninth shot, nailing a power play conversion with 6:00 remaining for a 4-0 Friar lead. Out of five connections on Pehkonen’s season, four have been bolstered by a 5-on-4 sequence.

Pehkonen would be one of 11 Friars credited with a point on the day.

More balanced load
First line staple Laura Veharanta nabbed two assists for the second time in three ventures and third of her last six. She has upped her team-leading totals to 13 goals and 23 points, but is making more regular secondhand appearances on the scoresheet. Eight of her last 12 points have been helpers. Similarly, linemate Alyse Ruff –normally a master finisher in key plays- paired up with Veharanta to assist on Brittany Simpson’s second period goal.

Quick Feeds: PC sealed its first win over a nationally ranked adversary after snuffing on each of its first four tries (0-3-1)…Yesterday was New Hampshire’s second-widest margin of defeat on the year, behind an 8-2 falter before the still-undefeated Wisconsin in mid-November…Freshmen defenders Jennifer Friedman and Christie Jensen played in separate tandems for the first time in 13 games. Friedman teamed up with Simpson, Jensen with sophomore Leigh Riley…Lacasse’s victorious 42-save performance statistically equated her first win over Colgate on Oct. 11, also the only other time this season where the Friars have won by a three-plus difference.

Al Daniel can be reached at

This article originally appeared in the Friartown Free Press