Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Women's Hockey Log: Back in Form, Veharanta and Lacasse Honored By League

Laura Veharanta –the season-long leading point-getter for the Providence College women’s hockey team even with a six game spell hogging up much of her February- spontaneously revived her insidious, blistering touch to start last Saturday’s Hockey East quarterfinal tilt with Connecticut. And all she needed was to be ready off the opening draw of the first period.
Cutting square to the front porch of the net unchallenged while left side winger Mari Pehkonen churned with the puck to the far corner, the freshman first-liner waited for a centering feed, whiffed on her initial shot, but then slugged home her own rebound for her 16th strike of the season and first since the Friars’ previous tilt with the Huskies on Feb. 1.
“It was good to get on the scoreboard early,” acknowledged Veharanta, still considerably shorter on decorative words than she is on salsa-based pucks. “Mari gave me a good pass and their defense just didn’t get back quick enough.”
Come what may, Veharanta’s conspicuous onset poise not only set an unhesitant tone and pace for PC’s eventual 3-0 triumph at Schneider Arena, but also revved up her psychological engines for a most timely U-turn of confidence.
In the young days of February, Veharanta –also the team’s runaway leading puckslinger with 135 registered shots- was but one point shy of matching the bushel of 30 corralled by last year’s top gun, Kathleen Smith. At her pace, with still six regular season games plus an indefinite playoff itinerary yet to come, she could have easily been entertaining thoughts of equating, if not surpassing, the regal numbers of Kristin Gigliotti (39 points) from 2006-07.
Instead, the ostensible foundation of the Friars’ drastic scoring resurgence blew a tire, going fruitless on a cumulative 19 shots in the final three weeks of the regular season, and losing her once-inseparable partnership with Ashley Cottrell and Alyse Ruff in the process.
But together with her dogged colleagues, Veharanta buckled down for her first genuine do-or-die battle, inserting her fourth game-winning strike of the season (which ties her with Ruff for the team lead), and pitching in an assist Pehkonen’s empty net dagger within the final three minutes of regulation. It was her ninth multi-point performance of the season and her first since she contributed a set of helpers in a 5-1 overhaul of UConn to round out January.
For that, she was deemed the WHEA’s rookie of the week yesterday, her second such bite-sized honor of the season. Meantime, classmate Genevieve Lacasse split the weekly defensive player accolades with personal rival Florence Schelling of Northeastern –who had pushed away 35 stabs in the Hub Huskies’ 2-1 falter to Boston University.
Lacasse’s 18-save performance Saturday amounted to her sixth shutout in a mere 28 career swings with the Friars, sheared her goals-against average from 1.97 to 1.90 and nudged up her save percentage to .935.
Lacasse’s first shutout? That would have been back on November 16, when she swallowed the entirety of a 30-shot onslaught at the hands of Connecticut –a performance that brought on her first of three rookie of the week honors.
One of the other difference-makers that day happened to be Veharanta, who set up Ruff’s go-ahead strike in a fashion visually identical to Pehkonen’s playmaking recital last Saturday.
In all, Veharanta has tallied six points at the Huskies’ expense.
No harm done
Yesterday’s region-wide wintry nor’easter expectably fettered the entire Providence College campus, though its timing auspiciously happened to miss the net on head coach Bob Deraney’s itinerary. Mondays are frequently a strict off-day for the Friars, who still have four more days to retool for this Saturday’s semifinal expedition to New Hampshire’s Lake Whittemore.
Quick Feeds: Saturday’s second period was the 24th mutually scoreless, full-length, twenty-minute stanza the Friars have shared with their adversaries this season, and the fifth out of 12 total periods versus UConn…PC is now 8-6 in games decided by a three-plus goal differential and 12-6-1 when scoring first…The ultimately famished Huskies made a particular hotspot out of the far circle of the Friars’ zone in Saturday’s first period, firing nine of their 23 shot attempts from that radius. Only two, however, would actually reach the net to be played by Lacasse…Senior centerpiece Steph Morris and junior wingers Jackie Duncan and Pam McDevitt appear to be the go-to threesome for the fourth line from here on out, having suited up together for each of the last three games.
Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com
This article originally appeared in the Friartown Free Press