Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Women's Hockey Log: Deraney Foresees League-wide Parity

It was probably the last thing one would want in the way of intrigue, but yesterday’s freshly disclosed Women’s Hockey East preseason coaches’ poll is calling for a strict duplicate of the 2008-09 regular season standings. If such did in fact come to fruition, that would mean yet another venture to the revered Lake Whittemore off the coast of the University of New Hampshire for the conference championship weekend, and yet another bye into that stage for the likes of Boston College.
It would also mean yet another Beantown Showdown between third-seeded Boston University and sixth-rate Northeastern in one quarterfinal clash, and yet another Battle for Southern New England between Providence and Connecticut in the other. For the Friars and Huskies, it would amount to a postseason threematch, dating back to PC’s 5-1 semifinal shellshock of UConn at Freitas Ice Forum in 2008.
Well, at least in these hypothetical events, a few healthy rivalries are all but guaranteed to intensify.
But beneath the 1-through-8 surface, the poll exposes a bonus morsel of hope for the likes of Providence, which garnered two of the anonymous first place votes while the remaining six were split between UNH and BC. The four-time defending champion Wildcats have laid claim to virtual first place by way of earning more cumulative points (50).
Expectably, head coach Bob Deraney was not going to escape being asked on those two votes during yesterday’s preseason league-wide teleconference. But he did his best to pull off a self-effacing C-cut and insist that, even with a lack of positional shake-up, every team will be reckonable in the coming year.
“I have to tell you,” he said. “Northeastern has a goalie (in Florence Schelling), Vermont is much improved, and Dan (Lichterman) is doing a (heck) of a job in Maine. I think anybody can make noise this year.
“I found it interesting that we’re ranked fourth, and then two coaches think that we should be Number One in our league. I think it’s really hard to judge anybody this year. It’s going to be really exciting, not so much for the coaches, but for the fans, because every game, you’re going to show up not knowing who’s going to win.”
The more the altogether trivial poll suggested otherwise, the more Deraney pushed the notion of parity. The dividing line between fourth-place PC and fifth-place UConn, i.e. the equator of the standings and the deciding factor for postseason home ice, marks the greatest gap in point total between any two teams. The Friars were allotted an aggregate 43 voter points, a mere seven behind New Hampshire, but 12 ahead of the Huskies’ 31. UConn is, in turn, trailed by Northeastern (27), Vermont (22), and Maine (20).
And yet, Deraney concluded, “I think this is going to be one of the (most) dog-eat-dog seasons that Hockey East has ever had from top to bottom. We have a lot of parity in our league, due to several things. One, I think, is the tremendous coaching and coaching staffs that we have who have done a wonderful job of recruiting and attracting great players into our league.
“But also, with the defection of the Olympians on various teams –UNH and Boston College- adds to the parity our league.
“We’re gonna have our hands full, there’s no doubt about that.”
Sophomore surge?
When asked about the return of the two nascent faces of the franchise –top gun Laura Veharanta and incumbent goaltender Genevieve Lacasse- for their sophomore years, Deraney pointed quickly to their minor glitches the popped up last year and asserted that they have already been mended.
He was especially keen on highlighting his refined expectations of Veharanta, who topped the team charts with 31 points as a frosh despite a six-game scoring drought during the stretch run in February.
“Laura Veharanta has come back in 50 times better shape than she was a year ago from a stamina standpoint,” he said. “I think towards the end of last year, she got a little fatigued, and people were pushing her around, and she got a lot of attention. She really wasn’t in the physical shape to handle that kind of attention. I think this year, she’s come back ready to play a full season.”
As for the Scarborough Save-ior, “Having one of the best (goalies) in the country come back in better shape than she was a year ago, I think we’re going to have an opportunity to be in every game.”
Quick feeds: During yesterday’s conference call, Deraney divulged that freshman forward Jess Vella is still healing an offseason ACL tear and is expected to see her first lick of collegiate action sometime in November.
Al Daniel can be reached at
This article originally appeared in the Friartown Free Press