Saturday, February 21, 2009

Boston College 5, Women's Hockey 1: A Hole-some Home Finale For Friars

An untimely bout of senioritis caught them in a psychological bear trap right at the starting line. A vengeful swarm of Eagles –bolstered by starting forwards Mary Restuccia, Kelli Stack, and Allie Thunstrom, who would constitute the postgame three stars selection- attacked accordingly.
And the blunderstruck Friars, their NCAA at-large privileges long bone-dry, fell excruciatingly short in the ensuing game of catch-up while Boston College stamped their claim on the last remaining first round bye into the WHEA semifinals through a 5-1 decision before 290 spectators at Schneider Arena yesterday afternoon.
The Eagles, comfortably and progressively removed from the now-hardly mentionable Tom Mutch debacle from 2007, have by all counts replenished the foundation they sculpted beforehand and temporarily mislaid last season. Fitting for them, they cemented second-place in the league and further emboldened their national viability at the expense of the program that somehow bested them in the climax of the 2008 playoff push –even when BC took three of four possible points in the home-and-home finale.
“They didn’t forget what happened a year ago when we ended their season here,” said PC skipper Bob Deraney, his tires now all but having hit the end of a bottomless pit of aggravation. “They came in with something to prove and they beat us in every aspect of the game right from the very beginning.”
The designedly all-senior starting lineup met an abrupt, bitter end to their single, sentimentally-grounded shift together on the heels of their pregame recognition ceremonies. In a matter of sixteen seconds, Boston’s aforementioned turbine trinity planted a prompt 1-0 lead on their first shot of the day.
Restuccia, hovering adjacent to the near post, collected the disc and laced it behind the cage to Stack. Stack thrust it up front for Thunstrom, who slugged a low-riding one-timer behind the back of stopper Danielle Ciarletta.
The next two whistles, blown at 0:53 and 1:01, were summoned by PC icings.
The Friars, who would sprinkle an 8-6 lead in the first period shooting gallery, proceeded to spill two bite-sized power plays before the 15-minute mark and was singed once more by the Eagles’ top attacking brigade at 16:25. This time, the celestial Stack –who earlier in the week had her mug on display in the Sports Illustrated “Faces in the Crowd” column- strolled Thunstrom’s neutral zone feed down the far alley and deposited a soapy rebound off Ciarletta’s boot. Restuccia, swooping in on the weak side, raked it in.
And three minutes later, Thunstrom collected her third point and granted Stack a playmaker hat trick, nimbly rushing in and roofing a wrister mere inches below the spot where Stack had dinged one off the crossbar in the 11th minute.
Ciarletta was finished by period’s end, having let half of six shots faced sneak through. And even with Genevieve Lacasse (17 saves) up to the task of compressing the open lesion, the Friars weren’t sufficiently apt to recompense.
“It comes down to individuals being willing to do what it takes mentally, physically, and intelligently,” said Deraney. “To compete to win loose puck battles, loose puck races, and make plays. They were quicker, faster, stronger, and smarter than us today. The best team won today, and that was that.”
The Eagles pulled the shot clock to an even 15-15 in the second period and augmented their edge to 4-0 with a mere 1:25 gone. Center Becky Zavisza scratched her face-off win back to far point patroller Shannon Webster, who settled it down at the circle top, then scorched it home through a forest of maroon and white bodies.
At the very least, Providence perked up and mimicked that method of execution to hop aboard at 9:05. Freshman Ashley Cottrell blindly bumped the puck off the near dot to Mari Pehkonen on her right and the Finnish Flare drilled home her 10th strike of the season, good for second on the team scoring charts.
Elsewhere, though, the Friars did nothing to expressly follow the resurgent Eagles’ example. They whiffed on two more power play shots in the young stages of the third, and then allowed Maggie Taverna to finalize the 5-1 knockout on BC’s penultimate player-up sequence.
As a distressingly dragged-out consequence, they have now dropped four straight for their lengthiest point drought in two years. And they have but one remaining call –to Conte Forum this afternoon for the rematch- to perhaps spontaneously schedule one more home game for the preliminary round. Or, if outside disturbances don’t permit that, renew their dignity before crossing into the ultra-hyped, ultra-anticipated second season.
“Nothing needs to be said. There’s been enough talk,” said Deraney. “They have to come in ready to play. We are a much better team than we’ve shown in the last couple of games. But it’s up to them to bring it to the table now. We’ve had a whole year of preparation, and we know what we need to do.”
Al Daniel can be reached at
This article originally appeared in the Friartown Free Press

Women's Hockey Log: Spotlight On Senior Sextet

Twenty-one relatives and/or intimate connections flocked from three different nations to Schneider Arena as part of the Friars’ annual senior sendoff ceremony prior to yesterday afternoon’s twig-lock with Boston College, whose eight 2009 graduates were mentioned over the PA system as a prelude to the principal rites.
Career highlights detailed for each senior’s minute in the sun:
Erin Normore- Slated to nudge into the No. 2 slot on PC’s all-time career games list today with 141, having dressed on every possible occasion. With her input yesterday, the two-way connoisseur is tied for third under that heading with 2005 alumna Hilary Greaves and 2007 graduate Kristin Gigliotti. Her presumptive play today will knot her with 2003 graduate Melanie Ruzzi for second all-time.
Steph Morris- 116 (now 117) games played and all nine career points have been notched against Hockey East rivals, including the game clinching goal against Boston University on January 24 of this year.
Katy Beach- A somewhat drolly delivered point that she now rates fifth on the Friars’ all-time penalty minute leaderboard with 196. That, plus a career scoring transcript of 27-25-52.
Mari Pehkonen- A Team Finland veteran of the 2006 Olympics and 2007 and 2008 World Championships. Back-to-back mentions on the Hockey East All-Tournament team in her first of three seasons at PC.
Danielle Ciarletta- Fourth on the Friars’ all-time games played list for goaltenders with 57, a total she upped to 57 with her start yesterday. In three seasons, she has racked up five Hockey East Defensive Player of the Week titles.
Brittany Simpson- The team captain is skating off with a bang, as evidenced by a career-best 12 assists this season. Like the aforementioned Ciarletta, she has put in multiple appearances on the league’s All-Academic roster.
The ceremony culminated with a spontaneous handshake line strictly between the seniors of both parties, followed by the national anthems of Finland (a nod to Pehkonen), Canada (Normore and Simpson’s home and native land), and the United States.
Line changes on the fly
Already raring to test a few tweaks in his depth chart as it was, head coach Bob Deraney was compelled to reform his forward lines yet again late in yesterday’s first period, at which point his club already trailed, 3-0. For the rest of the ride, sophomore Alyse Ruff and freshman Laura Veharanta swapped positions, Ruff now linking up with Kate Bacon and Normore, Veharanta partnering with Pehkonen and Ashley Cottrell.
“Just trying to create some sort of jump, create some sort of chemistry,” Deraney explained. “The lines that we had had in place didn’t seem to be clicking lately, so I was trying to create some sort of chemistry.”
It was to little immediate benefit. The newly concocted lines combined for a mere two shots apiece in the latter forty minutes of play.
Duncan checks back in
Junior forward Jackie Duncan broke her game day attire back out after a full-month’s, eight-game hiatus with a lower body injury, joining Morris and Pam McDevitt on the fourth line.
“She’s better,” said Deraney. “I wouldn’t say she’s 100-percent yet, but she’s good enough to play, and I thought she played fine.”
Quick Feeds: Though ten Friars lost profuse footing in the way of plus/minus yesterday, the likes of Cottrell and Colleen Martin picked up a plus-1 each for their involvement in the team’s lone goal. Cottrell is now tied with classmate Genevieve Lacasse for the team lead with a +9 rating…Each squad took five whistles from the orange-armed zebras yesterday, though the Eagles tacked on an extra eight penalty minutes owing to Meghan Fardelmann’s 10-minute misconduct, which she had added to her cross-checking felony at 11:28 of the first…BC –whose lone victory when authorizing the first goal occurred here four months ago- improved to a pristine 20-0-3 when drawing first blood, 12-0-3 when ahead after the first, and 16-0-4 through the second intermission…Eagles goaltender Molly Schaus pushed away 21 shots en route to her fifth career win against the Friars…Lacasse claimed just her second “no decision” in 26 appearances this season…Defender Christie Jensen led the Friars with four shots on net…Providence won the majority of yesterday’s face-offs (34 of 61)…An online audiocast will be available for today’s rematch at BC’s Conte Forum (1 p.m. face-off).
Al Daniel can be reached at
This article originally appeared in the Friartown Free Press

Friday, February 20, 2009

Women's Hockey Log: Deraney Accepts The Ante In BC Series

There is a chance that the Friars will be fidgeting for the length of their day off this Sunday while the other three Judgment Week series in Hockey East round themselves out. But, owing to the molecular muddle in the heart of the standings, they shall have lesser worries if they do not make a sweeping impression against the streaking Boston College Eagles today and tomorrow.
Trailing BC by four points in the pursuit of second place, PC’s end of the bargain simply reads: grab the four points in this home-and-home or it’s bye-bye to the bye.
They know what they crave in terms of post-season assignments, and they are wisely keeping mindful of what they need to attain it.
“I was watching an NFL football game a few years back, and it came down to a certain situation that the coach wasn’t prepared for,” said head coach Bob Deraney. “He didn’t know the implications. It was amazing.
“So I think it’s very important that you do know the implications of the outcome of each game. You need to know what you need to win, whether you play for the win. We’ve looked at it, and basically, the bottom line is we have to win hockey games.”
And then, they’ll have to root for the likes of New Hampshire and Northeastern to repress Connecticut and Boston University, respectively. The Huskies and Terriers each withhold two more points (25), thus need only accumulate one point fewer than the Friars’ to dock their hopes of an automatic passport to the Whittemore Center –site of this year’s semifinal and championship rounds- or even the chance of a preliminary game at Schneider Arena.
But, Deraney implied, they’ll cross that bridge whenever they reach it; and once the inky fog tapers off, giving them a chance to interpret the scene.
“We know all the scenarios –at least, I think we do,” he said. “We just need to do what we have to do in order to maximize our number of points so that we can get the highest seed we can.”
Schneider Nest?
The Eagles have wrested five of six possible points in their last three stops here. Providence last protected their property from BC’s talons on Dec. 3, 2006, when they laid claim to a 3-2 decision. And by virtue of a 3-1 win here in late October, the Eagles remain the only conference cohabitant from whom the Friars have yet to claim a point this season.
“I haven’t even really thought of it that way, because we just go into every season series trying to win it,” Deraney said.
“We’re not going to approach it any differently. It’s not about the past. They’re up, 1-0, in a series that’s best-of-three, so we just have to sweep this weekend to win the season series. That’s our mindset right now.”
Conte congestion forces unusual draw time
This afternoon’s 4:00 face-off time was ultimately the last domino standing in a succession of scheduling conflicts and a mutual aversion to a night-day weekend pattern.
With the PC men’s squad slated to face Merrimack before the eyes of ESPN-U viewers on Sunday afternoon –a decision that was ruled well after each program discharged rough drafts of their schedule- the two Friar teams agreed to swap home dates. And a convenient set of Friday-Saturday evening games may have worked out if not for the BC men hosting New Hampshire tomorrow night.
“We didn’t want to play at 1:00 at their place on a Friday,” said Deraney on another option. “And you can’t play at 7:00 one night and then 1:00 the next day. So where did that leave us?” he pondered rhetorically.
“It is unusual, but the good thing is that it’s school vacation for local high school and elementary students, so hopefully a 4:00 face-off will attract more fans.”
Quick Feeds: According to Matt Silberman in the PC sports information deparment, combined with the women’s basketball team’s “Pink Out” game Wednesday, the Skating Sorority helped to ultimately raise over $5,000 for the Gloria Gemma Breast Cancer Foundation through their respective charity events this month…Yesterday’s evaluation found no damage done to senior forward Mari Pehkonen, who in Wednesday’s practice sprawled stiff and flat as a log to block a shot and subsequently departed early with an apparent ailment in her upper body. All signs point to her suiting up today…Though the most unruly club in the league with 425 cumulative penalty minutes, the defensively superior Eagles also boast the top PK rate at 90.4%...Customary Senior Night ceremonies will be conducted prior to this afternoon’s puck-drop.
Al Daniel can be reached at
This article originally appeared in the Friartown Free Press

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Women's Hockey Log: Friars Flip-Flop Their Finns

Though still safely tops amongst all Providence College point-getters and all Hockey East rookie scorers with a 15-14-29 scoring transcript, Laura Veharanta has hinted to a yearning for fresh foil on her offensive punch, having been held dry for each of the past two weekend series.
And so, head coach Bob Deraney did the nearly unthinkable –though no less worth trying- and broke up the youthful top line of Veharanta, classmate Ashley Cottrell, and sophomore Alyse Ruff. Over the last four ventures, this line –together with the team in general- has felt a tantalizing numbness in their twigs, with only three collective points to speak of: one assist by Cottrell, two helpers by Ruff.
With the ensuing reconfigurations, Veharanta’s Finnish countrywoman Mari Pehkonen has claimed her red practice jersey and been reunited with the likes of Ruff –with whom she collaborated on six scoring plays late last season and another early this season. If all goes according to Deraney’s plan, he will now simply be deploying the same front line trinity (i.e. of Pehkonen, Cottrell, and Ruff) that has lately constituted the first power play unit for full-time, even strength engagements.
Although, Pehkonen’s prompt availability to put this experiment into game action is suddenly fuzzy.
The celestial senior had her practice cut short yesterday when she vanished with trainer Jessica Martinez after blocking a shot about midway through the day’s work. She would return for about four minutes to at least try to join in on a power play drill, only to adjourn once more with an apparent nagging sensation in her upper body.
Come what may, Veharanta has converted to a hunter green tune-up sweater and collaborated with classmate Kate Bacon and crafty senior Erin Normore –who has nudged back to center with defender Christie Jensen’s full return to the regular regimen. Jensen, who did see slivers of action last Saturday, has simply been reunited with sophomore Amber Yung, whom she had partnered with for three consecutive games until she was sidelined with a head ailment at the tail-end of January.
Jensen’s fellow IR discharge, junior attacker Jackie Duncan, has linked up with Lauren Covell and Arianna Rigano, donning fourth-line orange sweaters. Steph Morris and Pam McDevitt, who were both absent from yesterday’s practice, will likely rotate with those three in whatever shall remain of the Friars’ game schedule.
Eagles’ radiant rookies
Boston College freshmen forwards Danielle Welch and Mary Restuccia –who will pay their second career visits to Schneider Arena tomorrow afternoon (4:00 face-off)- are steadily whittling their way up the WHEA’s rookie scoring charts, though they each still trail Veharanta by six points and second-rate Jenelle Kohancuk of Boston University by five.
Restuccia, the league’s reigning rookie of the month who has earned her way to the top line with seasoned sizzlers Kelli Stack and Allie Thunstrom, has been held officially pointless in her last two games, stuffing up a 2-3-5 tear she had been brewing in the previous three. But she was the hero last Saturday when she curled a backhander behind BU’s Allyse Wilcox, granting the Eagles their first shootout win out of two opportunities and effectively tightening their grip on the second first-round bye in the playoff picture.
With that, only the Friars and Northeastern have yet to experience a shootout triumph in the experimental first year of this tiebreaking approach.
All six of BC’s freshmen skaters have pitched in at least two points over their first 31 outings and have polished off 32 of the team’s 94 goals (34%). Similarly, the Friars frosh crop has directly scored 30 of their club’s 80 goals for a substantial 37.5% share.
Quick Feeds: Deraney devoted a full ten minutes yesterday to a forechecking seminar, expressly fostering a formula to seduce and ambush BC’s keen defense…Covell, still hunting for her first collegiate point, earned Deraney’s single-loudest stamp of approval on the day when she cut off a breakout in neutral ice and buried a countering conversion during transitioning drills…Apart from the aforementioned Morris and McDevitt, only forward Katy Beach and goaltender Christina England were unseen throughout yesterday’s skate…The most reliable word has Genevieve Lacasse raring to start in net tomorrow. Lacasse’s five shutouts –which tie her with Connecticut’s Brittany Wilson- are a distant second to BC stopper Molly Schaus’ 10.
Al Daniel can be reached at
This article originally appeared in the Friartown Free Press

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Women's Hockey Log: Goalie Danielle Ciarletta Reiterates Her Reliability

Until last Friday, Danielle Ciarletta hadn’t toiled in formal game attire since Jan. 5, one day after she had heroically doused Genevieve Lacasse’s fire as part of the Friars’ 4-3 overhaul of Cornell, where they needed to delete an initial 3-0 deficit.
But the senior goaltender had –in head coach Bob Deraney’s view- been toiling with unruffled hunger through practice, even as she waited out a 10-game stretch without her input, the longest respite of her three-year tenure on the Divine Campus.
Deraney’s decision to reinstate her to the game night depth chart versus New Hampshire last weekend was explained with equally unchanged simplicity; a verbal simplicity that has virtually flowed in direct proportion to PC’s season-long stability in the cage.
“She’s worked really hard in practice and she deserved an opportunity to play,” he said. “That’s really what it was. It’s a meritocracy here and she’s just worked extremely hard.”
Apart from the aforementioned blip with the Big Red, and a most uncharacteristic 7-3 crumble before Dartmouth a week thereafter, Lacasse has kept to the cusp of impeccability, earning her sizable priority in the distribution of net shifts. So much so that her predecessor in the top slot –a title she had patiently worked her way to by splitting the load with Jana Bugden two years ago- has seen her presence evaporate in many spectrums.
With a little less than a quarter (24.2 percent) of the Friars’ crease time to her credit, Ciarletta’s name is officially omitted from the Hockey East goaltending leaderboard, which requires 33.3% of team minutes played for mention. However, her overall goals-against average of 2.05 actually rates seventh among the league’s 16 stoppers who have seen at least one full-length venture –even better than the renowned likes of Northeastern’s Florence Schelling or New Hampshire’s Kayley Herman.
Similarly, her save percentage of .918 is eighth among that group. Despite the fact that she has confronted but one opposing salvo of 30-plus shots, two exceeding 25 stabs, and a cumulative 194 bids in her eight appearances this season, she has halted 178 of them and never authorized more than three goals per outing.
Statistically speaking, Ciarletta’s latest gig against Those Darn Cats was her least proficient yet. A 20-for-23 stoppage ratio still amounted to a night’s save percentage .869 –either a B or a B+ depending on which professor of pucks you talk to.
And Lacasse dealt with the same exact plague the following night up at the knotty Whittemore Center, dealing with a light, sparsely distributed load of 20 stabs and letting in four insidiously executed goals.
With that, Ciarletta’s understudy, like packets of Providence goaltenders before them, learned of the Wildcats’ variability. The radiant rookie had pitched a 43-save shutout towards a stimulating 5-0 win only five weeks prior. It’s a befuddling inconsistency of outside disturbances not so different from New England weather patterns.
Ciarletta can relate to that, having now charged up individual save counts of 40, 26, 27, 24, 24, 21, and 20 to go with a 0-5-2 career transcript versus UNH. Her 40-save sophomore dolphin show in Lake Whittemore –one of her breakthroughs as a Friar after she had transferred from Minnesota-Duluth- would be the first of two ties she has cultivated at the oversized pond in Durham.
Apart from a seven-goal shellacking later that year, though, Ciarletta has held the New Hampshire strike force within sane boundaries every time. She and Lacasse both have done that to most every adversary for the length of this season. Out of 14 PC falters this season, half have been by a one-goal differential, and only five by a three-plus margin.
The tandem’s continued tidiness and Ciarletta’s rather long-awaited return sparks speculation that the workload will be split once more in this weekend’s home-and-home set with Boston College to round out the regular season. And if Ciarletta has any upper hand on Deraney’s option scale, it comes with the primordial déjà vu of last season’s fault-line fight with the Eagles. In the finale, her three saves late in regulation plus two in overtime granted the Friars the one requisite point they had needed to gain entry to the playoffs whilst docking BC from contention.
And yet again, the constituents of the WHEA’s Catholic Clash –which has spawned a couple of classic bouts between Ciarletta and counterpart Molly Schaus- are in positions to spoil one another’s ambitions. Neither a first-round bye nor a road trip for the preliminary round has been ruled out for either party.
Al Daniel can be reached at
This article originally appeared in the Friartown Free Press

Monday, February 16, 2009

Women's Hockey Log: Friars Cat-Scratched On Special Teams

Granted, there were spurts of convincing, genuine incentive feeding the Friars’ power play brigade as they pushed through the tricky depths of New Hampshire’s Lake Whittemore last Saturday night.
After a protracted habit of procrastinating with the puck had amounted to but one conversion in their previous 20 PP offerings, they literally cut to the chase to draw a stimulating 1-1 knot near the dusk of the first period. The Wildcats were but two full minutes removed from facilely Raylen Dziengelewski’s two-minute tripping sentence when Kelly Cahill was caged for hooking at 14:08.
A mere 16 seconds and one shot later, Kate Bacon converted a feed from Alyse Ruff for the second straight evening. And yet again, she did it by disregarding any imminent, punishing hostilities on goaltender Lindsey Minton’s porch.
Like that, PC’s power play drought was splashed after 13 straight missed opportunities –four of which were shotless.
And when the Cats’ discipline detonated in the closing frame –a bench minor at 5:34 and Maggie Joyce’s checking felony amounting to an 88-second 5-on-3 segment- the Friars switched from valiant stealth to refreshingly tireless, unhesitant bombardment. They weren’t rewarded on the scoresheet, but conceivably planted something to build on in the final week of the regular season.
Before Cahill –serving the too-many-players term- could be released and alter the set-up to 5-on-4, Laura Veharanta and Ashley Cottrell had seen two stabs blocked. Veharanta, Ruff, and Bacon combined for four bids that reached touching distance of Minton. And Veharanta tossed in another registered try before even strength was restored.
The natural drawback –apart from Minton’s poised, simplistic, Genevieve Lacasse-like responsiveness- was that PC’s impulse was immediately recovered when they had already landed in harrowing holes. The first period conversion deleted a deficit spotted some nine minutes earlier when UNH connected on its first power play with a mere 4:48 gone.
For the first 40 minutes on Saturday, the Friars had misplaced their primary source of solace in a trying stretch that has seen them go 1-4-0 in their last five outings only after they had kickstarted the homestretch on a three-game winning streak. They took merely eight strides to the sin bin over their previous four games, including just one the prior weekend in a 3-2 falter at Northeastern and again when they submitted the same score to the Wildcats at Schneider Arena last Friday.
UNH was only afforded fast, free breathing room when the long-idled Providence PK force was called upon twice within the first ten minutes of action. And Kelly Paton’s icebreaker came as a tipping point after she and her mates mollified Lacasse with three power play shots to initially rev up the shooting gallery.
Paton would connect for the eventual decider at 13:58 of the middle frame, effectively terminating the Friars’ fourth and final kill on the night. New Hampshire had stocked up just enough collateral in the form of a 2-for-4 connectivity rate and an aggregate bushel of 10 power play shots –exactly half of their game total of 20.
Similarly, though not quite up to the same par, the Friars went 1-for-6 and discharged seven of their 17 shots when at least one player up. And with the raging regional epidemic of New Jersey Devils’ intrasquad contests at its peak, that is a telling ratio as to their newfound power play drive. They at least relearned to lunge out when the getting was good.
Still, they blinked in the way of discipline at inopportune moments to bolster New Hampshire’s nightlong upper hand. And top gun Jenn Wakefield had inserted two unanswered strikes to grant the Wildcats a gaping 4-1 edge well before they daringly decided to start juggling acetylene torches and bait PC’s rabid, famished strike force.
When that happened, PC’s youthful, budding giants awoke. Bacon’s two stabs during the 5-on-3 salvo amounted to an individual count of five on the night, again making her the busiest puckslinger of the game after she took six swings on Friday. Top line associates Ruff and Veharanta combined for three SOG in that space and six in the whole game. And a fast-thawing Abby Gauthier –with four points in the last three weekends, though none Saturday- saw a last ditch attempt go wide in the 14th minute while Courtney Birchard did time for high-sticking.
It was arguably a morally fruitful change of pace after Friday’s malady, to be sure. Yet by that point, UNH was rewarded for its patience in watching the spirits seep out of their rivals through another series of mental lesions and spent the bulk of a six minute anticlimax humming through Lacasse’s neighborhood. They had struck early on both ends of the special teams’ spectrum and adeptly waited out the draining process.
Al Daniel can be reached at
This article originally appeared in the Friartown Free Press