Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Women's Hockey Log: Friars Getting Ahead In The (Playoff) Game

In the midst of force-feeding vinegar to the Friars in their epic overtime rally on Sunday, the Connecticut Huskies confirmed their acceptance and entry into the Hockey East post-season. Only one slot –available for any of the three established welterweights Northeastern, Vermont or Maine- remains in the refined six-team bracket with still three rich weeks of regular season action to consume across the coast.
As for the snow-capped sect of the mountain, the five fixed entrants each have 10 league wins to their credit and are pried apart by no more than three points. The 10-4-1 Friars are rooming in second place with Boston College –albeit with a game in hand- one point up on the Huskies and Boston University and within roping distance of New Hampshire, who at 10-2-3 against conference cohabitants refuse to fizzle even with an incurably short bench.
The current arrangement poses a thick hybrid brew of closeness and comfort –the latter element stemming chiefly from the fact that, in each of the previous two seasons, Providence had not verified its postseason membership until the eleventh hour of the regular season.
Still, they pine to partake in the innovative offerings that have come with the new format. Did someone say “home ice?”
Or, better yet, a temporary spectator’s pass for the final week of this month, when Seeds 3 and 4 will host Nos. 6 and 5, respectively, to decide who goes to the final four?
“It’s definitely nice knowing that we’re, for sure, going to be in the playoffs this early,” acknowledged team captain Brittany Simpson. “We hope to clinch first or second place, though, to push us higher and get that bye into the semifinals.”
And the sixth berth, odds-on, should go to Northeastern, who are next on tap for the Friars. All the more reason why head coach Bob Deraney has opted to swiftly instill the sensations of spring about a month in advance of the preliminary round.
“I just think we’ve got a terrific league, and every game is a dogfight,” he said. “We’ve been playing playoff games for the last couple weeks. I think UNH has done that, Boston College has, UConn has, BU has, and we have. That’s the way to approach it.
“What happened in the past or leading right up to this game has no relevance, it’s really who comes ready to play that day.”
Deficient diagram
Junior Arianna Rigano, a healthy scratch in the previous three games, was summoned to fill a void when Christie Jensen was sidelined by the aftershock of a hit via UConn’s Brittany Murphy on Saturday.
But contrary to Sunday's official line charts, Rigano was not, in fact, partnering with Amber Yung on the second defensive unit, but rather filling the void left in the offensive dozen while two-way connoisseur Erin Normore played portions of the game on the blue line.
“No, I’ve never played D,” Rigano clarified, a tad bowled over by the lineup reading. “That’s funny, though.”
With Jensen’s indefinite absence, only six remaining Friars have seen action in all 28 games this season: Ashley Cottrell, Jennifer Friedman, Normore, Alyse Ruff, Brittany Simpson, and Laura Veharanta.
Quick Feeds: The Friars are back on the national platform for the first time in nearly a month, receiving one honorable mention vote in yesterday’s refreshed USCHO poll…First line winger Alyse Ruff was belatedly credited with the second assist on Laura Veharanta’s second period goal on Sunday, upping the sophomore’s scoring totals to 9-7-16 on the year and knotting her with Katy Beach for fourth on the time in terms of point-snatching…In a rather drastic deviation from the orthodox women’s hockey itinerary, each of PC’s next four games will commence at 7:00 p.m. They will host Northeastern and New Hampshire over the next two Fridays, returning the visit to those respective institutions on the subsequent Saturday.
Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com
This article originally appeared in the Friartown Free Press