Yesterday afternoon, Friars’ forward Jessie Vella laid claim to the WHEA’s weekly top rookie garland, giving her sorority its fourth such honor in 10 opportunities this season. Her mini-victory follows two crowns for Jess Cohen in October and one taken by newfound power play connoisseur Nicole Anderson in mid-November.
No other institution has had more than two weekly honorees in the frosh category this season. And between the three forwards, who constitute 15 percent of PC’s active skaters, the frosh have now supplied 32.5 percent (14 out of 43) of the team’s goals.
“I think that our class is a strong, hard-working group of people,” Vella said yesterday upon being enlightened to her award. “And if we really come together, we’re going to do some amazing things. We’re a really good bunch of kids, the whole team in general.”
Until her belated debut on November 20 versus Northeastern, Vella had been confined to the sidelines by a residual spring soccer injury and her team had been confined to no more than 17 skaters, though more often 15 or 16, for the first dozen games of the season. Once cleared, she made a simultaneous debut with fellow frosh Emily Groth at center and senior Jackie Duncan assuming the left wing.
That line made no ripples that particular evening, but since then, Vella has linked with sophomores Kate Bacon and Abby Gauthier and extracted three points in as many ventures. The token she received yesterday from Boss Bertagna’s office is a direct reward for nailing two goals on as many shots and notching a team-best plus-3 rating in Saturday’s icebreaking 4-1 overthrow of New Hampshire.
“When I was coming back, it was really frustrating because you basically have to start all over again,” she said. “But to be able to come back and make a difference like that feels really good. Now I’ve got to just keep up my hard work.”
As best four games can tell, Vella is none too far off the mark from her spot-on Sonny Watrous pace in the Ontario-based Provincial Women’s League last season. She pitched in a cool 34 points in as many games during her final college prep campaign with the Durham Junior Lightning. A duplicate act with the Friars would go a long way towards supplementing an offense now within tasting distance of consistently acceptable productivity.
More importantly, though, her mere presence and instant impact are helping to supplement a depth chart that is just grateful to be finally void of personnel cavities.
“She’s been playing very well for us, and you could see it coming in practice,” said head coach Bob Deraney. “We’ve talked about getting some continuity in our lineup. We don’t have a lot of players, so when a couple of players are out, it tends to hurt our continuity. She’s been a very important piece of the puzzle and we’ve needed to get that piece into the puzzle in order for it to work the way it’s supposed to.”
Quick feeds: Top gun Ashley Cottrell, whose seven-game point streak was halted in Saturday’s win, is facing another speedbump after letting back-to-back shots from UNH blueliner Courtney Birchard biff her lower body in the second period. Her status for Friday’s visit to Boston College is currently ambiguous. Cottrell still holds the Friars’ best plus/minus with a plus-4 rating…The Friars have led after the second period in all five of their wins this season…PC scooped up one honorable mention vote in yesterday’s revised USCHO top ten poll, thus resurfacing their name on the national landscape after a seven-week absence…New Hampshire will drop in on BC, the Friars’ Friday opponent, tonight (7:00 face-off). With Northeastern idled until New Year’s, a win will tuck the Eagles into first place in the league…Providence is currently the league’s best road draw, having averaged 387 spectators at their first six away games. Over four conference road games, they have played before a median of 442 fans.
Al Daniel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
This article originally appeared in the Friartown Free Press