Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Providence College Women's Hockey's Final Player Reports

Kate Bacon, forward- A lesser recognized member of the depth chart’s top six, Bacon insidiously beefed up her scoring resume, finishing with an 8-4-12 transcript and three firsthand strikes against almighty New Hampshire and second only to classmate Laura Veharanta with 111 shots on net.

Katy Beach, forward- Immediately after Beach nabbed her 16th point on the year for a career high at the end of January, enticing hints of a booming exit were cruelly curtailed. She would whiff on her next 18 registered shots and was held utterly scoreless in her final month as a Friar.

Danielle Ciarletta, goal- Though confined to the bench by Genevieve Lacasse’s season-long hot streak, Ciarletta had to have done something right if she put in nine appearances for a career total of 56, enough to surpass Amy Quinlan for fourth all-time in the Friars’ goalie guild. And she only needed three years to do that.

Ashley Cottrell, forward- The most frequent first-line centerpiece for the majority of the schedule, Cottrell has demonstrated a growing comfort with every responsibility that comes with that. Her playmaking propensity hardly fizzled in the second half (she finished the year with 16 assists, second best on the team), she stamped an altogether assuring +9 rate on the year, and her winning percentage at the face-off dot exponentially improved on a nearly nightly basis.

Lauren Covell, forward- The rising sophomore is still evolving after a scoreless, 24-game freshman campaign.

Jackie Duncan, forward- Duncan will surely be itching for a smoother personal road next season after a handful of injuries cut her back to merely 22 games played.

Jennifer Friedman, defense- The tenacious, towering newbie fed well off of captain Brittany Simpson on the No. 1 D-Unit for the duration of the second half. In hindsight, her curious January scoring spurt (six points in seven games) may have been a little fluky, but her proficiency in the depths of the Friars’ zone is hardly in question.

Abby Gauthier, forward- Her first Friar campaign as a whole did not steadily balance with the hype, but the ex-St. Mary’s of Lynn scoring beacon chipped in a worthwhile six points –including two goals versus UNH in the stretch drive- to up her transcript to 3-7-10.

Christie Jensen, defense- Her season briefly disrupted by a head injury sustained versus Connecticut on January 31, the rookie blueliner recovered quicker than one would have expected and proceeded to finish with a +5 rating in 32 games played.

Genevieve Lacasse, goal- After two tattered, terminated starts at Cornell and Dartmouth in early January, Lacasse swiftly restored her rigidity in the cage en route to the league’s rookie and goaltending crowns. The natural laws of the game combined with her near-Sara-Decosta-like data (.933 save percentage, 1.94 GAA, six shutouts) point to her as the nucleus of a long-yearned-after PC resurgence.

Colleen Martin, defense- The final plus/minus leader among all PC skaters (+10) also retained an admirably clean nose with merely 14 penalty minutes in 33 ventures. Going on her senior year, Martin figures to be the prime candidate for next year’s captaincy.

Pam McDevitt, forward- Pitted amongst up to four other candidates for the final three game night forward positions, McDevitt ultimately earned the right to suit up in each of the last 12 outings after missing a sparse three of the first 24.

Steph Morris, forward- Like McDevitt –her eventually established linemate- the senior centerpiece had nailed her nightly roster spot by early January and cultivated a game clincher versus Connecticut on January 31.

Erin Normore, fwd/def- Permanently placed up front upon Jensen’s return, Normore sealed her celestial career with a genuine, productive fervor, posting 4-4-8 totals in the final 10 games. Her overall transcript boasted a career high nine goals and 26 points, coupled with a .122 shooting efficiency rate. She tied top gun Laura Veharanta with 15 power play points, thus factoring into nearly half of the team’s 31 total conversions.

Jean O’Neill, forward- Having restored her health, O’Neill linked up with Beach and Gauthier on a stable grind line. Although she still has yet to replenish her former productivity rate, which will indubitably be her top priority as a junior next fall.

Mari Pehkonen, forward- Not unlike Normore, Pehkonen’s passion accelerated in proportion to her collegiate sand timer. She unleashed 35 shots on net in her last eight games for a season total of 106 in 30 games and enhanced her scoring log from 4-3-7 at the half to 11-6-17 at the curtain.

Arianna Rigano, forward- Still acclimating to the upgrade in tempo from Division-III, Rigano saw action in 26 games, pitched in a sparse four points, and was one of the odd women out when the time came to cement the active forward lines on the cusp of the playoffs. Look for her to brandish an extra coat of self-assurance, hunger, and maturity as a senior next season.

Leigh Riley, defense- Finally a constant in the lineup after a year-and-a-half’s worth of waiting, Riley made her case to stick around with a trusty +6 rating on the season, sprinkled three assists over the last eight games, and went penalty-free in the last seven.

Alyse Ruff, forward- Once known strictly for a bloodhound’s nose for the corners and a knack for polishing off scoring plays, Ruff has rapidly broadened her horizons in recent months. She perfectly doubled her point totals (10) from the holiday break to 20 –with eight of those in the form of assists- and is also a newly established penalty killer with an assertive way of clearing the zone.

Brittany Simpson, defense- Of all the constants in PC’s lineup, their captain was one of the least penalized, ultimately visiting the box a mere five times in all 36 games. Additionally, Simpson charged up a career-best 12 assists on the year, eight of them on the power play. And if only not for one abysmal Senior Night falter versus Boston College –wherein she endured a minus-4 rating- she would have easily finished in the black under that heading.

Jen Smith, goal- Smith saw all of six minutes and 59 seconds worth of relief duty in a 7-3 slip at Dartmouth on January 13, facing zilch in the way of shots on net. With Ciarletta’s graduation, she should not expect such an undemanding workload next season. She figures to put in at least six or seven lengthier appearances behind the incredibly stable –though still human- Lacasse.

Laura Veharanta, forward- The radiant rookie’s stats from the first four months may have gone to her head in the stretch drive, amounting to a six game point drought in the thick of February. But assuming she learns from that, Veharanta (team-best 16 goals, 31 points, and 140 shots on goal) can only evolve into a stronger scoring asset for the next three seasons.

Amber Yung, defense- Her Normore-like behavior beyond the opposing circle tops has all but dissolved. Instead, Yung devoted her sophomore campaign to strict defensive duties and was a standout shot-blocker in the climax of the playoff run.

Al Daniel can be reached at

This article originally appeared in the Friartown Free Press 

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

2008-09 Providence College Women's Hockey Season In Review

It clearly didn’t surface on their final transcript or their final faces in the aftermath of Saturday’s Hockey East semifinal loss, but the Friars flickered with sincere makings of an improved program in 2008-09. The fundamental covers of this run mirrored those of the previous three shortcomings, but at least some of the pages were genuinely different.

That being said, here is why their refurbishment was not rewarded with, at a bare minimum, a dramatic spike in win percentage and a more conspicuous presence in the national leaderboard: they spent the thick of the season playing catch-up, much the same way they did in their season-ending 3-1 falter to New Hampshire after surrendering an initial 2-0 deficit in the first period.

Delete their iffy 2-5-0 start to the season from their final log of 17-16-3 for a moment. Their overall win percentage instantly leaps from to .514 to .569.

That on its own probably would not have fortified a fail-safe at-large mattress for them. But consider the overall competitiveness of their October slate: no losses by more than two goals and all five by a single sliver if you discount empty netters.

Size that up with the similarly superficial slow starts of every season in recent memory and it is made plain that head coach Bob Deraney made the right tweak by hustling his pupils straight to tests only four nights after the annual Canadian exhibition quiz. There were no ties against the plebeian Maine Black Bears, unspeakable blowouts via St. Lawrence, or shutouts dealt by Connecticut.

Still, the Friars had a lavish, four-game homestand to kickstart this season –a written invitation to get off to a booming start. And if they had had the immediate means of nailing that extra bounce needed to bump Ohio State and St. Lawrence those first three nights, it would have propped up their poll viability and entitled them to long-lasting confidence.

In a matter of that nature, one thing can lead to another. Perhaps then, they would have averted those 2-1 OT road falters at Yale (December 30) or UConn (February 1). Perhaps they would have won their season series with the burgeoning Northeastern program. Perhaps they would, contrary to the actual upshot, have skated with their noses tilted upward and their skates scarcely touching the ice en route to a win over the Wildcats on February 13, instead of an embittering 3-2 drop that prompted Deraney to snort “We don’t have the right to be confident.”

No question, they would have had that right if their record consistently reflected their ingredients. Hand-in-hand with that, they just might be spending this week fostering for a regional voyage rather than slogging through a few final cool-down skates and/or parting ways for an unwanted spring break.

How do we know that? As hinted above, defense and goaltending was this team’s most stable position from the very first face-off, authorizing a slim 77 opposing goals in 36 total outings (a nightly median of 2.14). And on only five occasions did they admit four or more “legitimate” goals –thrice against ranked adversaries (UNH, Boston College, Dartmouth) who are now bound for the Elite Eight.

But that, right there, is still another jutting problem. The Friars were an agonizing 2-9-2 versus Top 10 teams –a minor dip even from their 3-7-1 showing in 2007-08. Apart from 5-0 and 5-1 lashings of UNH and UConn, respectively, in January, they were 0-9-2 in that scenario, never tuning their opponent’s mesh more than three times per night.

Perhaps they would have with just a little less of that empty calorie confidence and more pregame seasoning. Recall the conclusion of the Ohio State sweep, when Deraney noted how the contesting parties had whet their respective blades the preceding weekend.

“They played a college team (Wilfrid Laurier),” he noted at the time. “We played a midget team (the Brampton Junior Thunder), so we took a while to get acclimated to what the pace is really like.”

It would be anything but a shock if Deraney is currently hearkening back to that very statement himself and, if he can help it, will make a point of enlisting a Canadian university to instill next year’s requisite “growing pains” to the Friars. Better to learn hardcore, bittersweet lessons when the final score counts for less, is it not?

And look at the subsequent paths PC and OSU proceeded to draw: the Friars finished fourth in their league and within reasonable tasting distance of an automatic bid. The Buckeyes spilled gallons of promise, rolling up a final record of 8-25-3 and were hastily exiled by Wisconsin (collective two-game score of 11-1) in the first round of the WCHA playoffs.

Neither club was anywhere close to emitting its true colors that first weekend of October. The Friars’ gratifying youth movement had yet to mature.

Ultimately, though, this year’s freshman class accounted for 41.8% of the team’s 86 goals, 38.7% of their 217 points, 80.7% of their 937 saves, and 15 of their 17 wins. The less populous sophomore stock pitched in another 15 of those goals and 34 of those points, a roughly duplicate follow-up on their own rookie reign.

By all those accounts, a simple upgrade in preseason competition really would have made ripples worth of difference. PC would have been able to boast a 1-0-0 record for the first time in this collegiate generation and their first 2-0-0 start since they battled under the ECAC heading.

Once he was removed from that half-full first month, Deraney consistently voiced a mission statement to “peak” in the climax of the season. Hey, it wasn’t as if he could reach back in time and correct those nicks to the neck, so why worry?

But as he had also promised as early as the spring of 2007, when the soon-to-be-juniors submitted their NLIs, he is accumulating the means of a team that has no cause not to be formidable from start to finish. Proficient puckslingers and playmakers Laura Veharanta, Ashley Cottrell, Alyse Ruff, Kate Bacon, and Jean O’Neill, backliners Amber Yung, Leigh Riley, Jennifer Friedman, and Christie Jensen, and newly bestowed ITECH Goaltending Champion Genevieve Lacasse are all raring to come back that much more mature. Some might even qualify to wear an “A” over their heart (the “C” is too much of a stretch with four rising seniors in the equation) the next time they strap on formal game time attire.

There were nights in this year’s stretch drive and playoffs where the Friars learned the value of setting the pace and claiming the momentum early. Sometimes they tutored the opposition on that very topic (e.g. 3-0 quarterfinal win over Connecticut). But most recently, they were on the schooled side at the hands of their northern nemesis.

It’s a concept straightforward enough for individual games. And it can be equally applicable to a full season. That ought to be their wager for 2009-10.

Al Daniel can be reached at

Tis article originally appeared in the Friartown Free Press