Saturday, January 30, 2010

Women's Hockey Log: Harvard Jolted By Ill-Timed Injury To Christina Kessler

In a most melancholy fashion, the Harvard women’s hockey team experienced a variation of the dramatic refrain, “She was that close to retirement,” this week when senior stopper Christina Kessler announced her abrupt retirement due to a torn ACL sustained in a recent practice session.
 
Kessler’s impact on the Crimson –who will host the Friars this afternoon up at the Bright Hockey Center (4:00 p.m. face-off)- was such that Tuesday’s edition of the Harvard Crimson student newspaper ran the startling news and followed it up with a Top Five countdown of the goalie’s shiniest career highlights.
 
Only two weeks to this day, Kessler had sealed her Crimson program-record 64th career victory through a 21-save performance en route to lashing Colgate, 5-1. Apart from two occasions against Cornell where four biscuits got by, Kessler had authorized no more than two goals on any given night this season.
 
And entering yesterday’s action, she was tops in the ECAC and No. 3 in the nation under both the goals-against average (1.39) and save percentage (.944) heading. Only the Olympic-bound likes of Minnesota’s Noora R├Ąty and Northeastern’s Florence Schelling have exceeded that data.
 
All sentimental and psychological slights aside, Kessler’s immediate successor, freshman Laura Bellamy, has now seen action in six games and owns a 2-2-1 record, coupled with a 1.54 GAA and a .925 save percentage. She worked up her biggest sweat in a matinee yesterday afternoon, repelling 37 Dartmouth shots en route to a 4-1 road win.
 
And whether it has been Kessler or Bellamy backstopping them, the Crimson skaters have sufficiently complemented her output, taking a slim average of 8.7 penalty minutes per game and averaging 1.3 more goals for themselves than what they have allowed –the fourth-best margin among all Division I programs.
 
“We’re going to have our hands full, just like we did tonight,” PC head coach Bob Deraney said simply. “I expect our kids to rise to the challenge and make it a terrific game.”
 
Trying to tip the scale
This afternoon’s excursion to Cambridge will conclude PC’s 13-game interleague slate, an area where they currently stand at 4-4-4.
 
Translation: having finished sub-.500 against nonconference foes in each of its last three seasons, a flaw that plainly helped to bar them from an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament every time, the 2009-10 edition of the Friars gets one hit-or-miss chance to reverse that trend.
 
“All non-league games are huge for their national implications,” Deraney stressed after last night’s 2-1 loss to Vermont. “Obviously, (Harvard is) nationally ranked, they’ve got a very good team, and you’re trying to put together a resume that hopefully will be appealing to the (selection) committee and will allow you to continue to play in the postseason.
 
“This game has tremendous implications on a lot of different fronts, most of all to get us back on a winning run. But we’re excited that we get to play again tomorrow night after what happened tonight.”
 
Slotted at No. 7 in every major national poll this week, Harvard will also make for the Friars’ 15th tangle with a ranked team out of 29 total outings. Providence is 6-5-3 in that scenario.
 
Bert’s legacy revisited
As was announced yesterday on the Friars’ website, the late Helen Bert, PC’s former associate athletic director who held the front of the hose when the school flooded its first pond for female pucksters in 1974, will be posthumously bestowed with the inaugural Women’s Ice Hockey Founders’ Award. Commissioned by the American Hockey Coaches Association, the award will be formally presented at the AHCA Celebration of Women’s Hockey convention on April 30 in Naples, Fla.
 
Quick Feeds: Alyse Ruff, who received belated credit for an assist on Jean O’Neill’s second period goal, led the Friars with four shots on net last night…Ruff and second-line centerpiece Ashley Cottrell both won the majority of their face-offs, Ruff posting a 10-7 record on the dot, Cottrell 13-10. As a team, the Friars edged Vermont, 33-29, in that category…PC is still winless when trailing after the first period (0-4-1) as well as the second period (0-4-0). The Friars are 2-6-3 on the year when allowing the first goal…Vermont was allotted a mere 10 shots on goal, easily amounting to the lightest workload Genevieve Lacasse has had in her first year-plus at Providence. Lacasse has now allowed two goals or less in 19 of 27 appearances this season, but for the third time still emerged with a loss…Ten of the Friars’ 24 shots were on the power play, which went 1-for-4 last night…One night after Ruff achieved the milestone, junior defender Amber Yung will suit up for her 100th career game this evening.
 
Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com
 
This article originally appeared in the Friartown Free Press

Vermont 2, Women's Hockey 1: Catamounts Catch Friars Napping

Last night, the PC women’s hockey team misplaced its magic at a moment when one would have hardly expected them to.
 
Other than a temporarily valid game-tying goal, inserted midway through the third period by assistant captain Jean O’Neill –who thereby extended her scoring streak to eight games, the longest such tear by any Friar this season- there was nothing to boast about in an eventual 2-1 loss to the plebeian Vermont Catamounts at Schneider Arena.
 
Instead of reclaiming first place in Hockey East, which an idle Northeastern team had usurped on Tuesday, the Friars let the league’s cellar-dwellers have an extra breath of hope in their nearly deceased playoff dreams. But naturally, that came at a vinegary price in the form of their first loss since a 4-1 drop to Wisconsin two nights after Thanksgiving and first non-win since a 4-4 knot at St. Cloud State one day after New Year’s.
 
For a team that has habitually amplified its hunger when playing the nation’s “big girls” all season, and in doing so has reaped constant rewards on the scoreboards and leaderboards all through this month, the Friars still have a contrapositive tendency to reduce their intensity and collect less booty, if any, when playing the featherweights.
 
“It’s a very long season, and I think they’re looking to catch their breath,” head coach Bob Deraney said of his own pupils. “You can’t catch your breath. We’ve mentioned it, and they know it: there are no easy games. You have to come to play every night, or else a result can happen that is undesirable.
 
“It’s an endurance test. There is no time to take it easy. You have to come ready to play every night. I think that’s what happens. We’re not very young, but we’re a young team, and I think young people want it easy, but hockey is not a sport where you can have it easy. Hockey is a mental grind because it’s a six-month sport.
 
“You can’t enjoy the season until it’s over and you can’t take it easy until it’s over. We want it easy sometimes, but it’s not going to happen for us.”
 
Right from the opening draw last night, the Friars were anything but themselves as the nation has grown to know them this month. In the first period, they scraped out a modest eight shots on net –most of them discharged from long, unpromising range- and took the brunt of the technical and personal fouls. They were guilty of all four icing calls and took the period’s lone penalty, a hooking infraction against freshman forward Jess Cohen at the 13:52 mark.
 
As a direct consequence of the Cohen call, PC wound up conceding the first goal and trailing in a game for the first time since before their seven-game winning streak began. On the cusp of Cohen’s jailbreak, while undirected bodies collapsed on the porch of Friars’ stopper Genevieve Lacasse (8 saves), Vermont’s Maggie Walsh lateralled a loose puck to Peggy Wakeham along the wall of the near pint. Wakeham let an awkward floater sail high and home over Laccase’s mitt.
 
Leading the shooting gallery, 8-5, through the first intermission, the Friars would only yield one second period stab to the Catamounts. But at the same time, they did little to flip on their own ignition when the puck was theirs, ultimately throwing five more biscuits at goaltender Kristen Olychuck (23 saves).
 
Would-be passes from the corners to the points had a way of turning into free clears for the Catamounts. Would-be passes across the neutral zone refused to connect and turned into icings. And even a few decent power play cyclones still amounted to nothing.
 
“I think a couple of time, the puck ended up in the crease and we just couldn’t put them in,” Deraney said. “They won the battles in front of the net, we didn’t."
 
For the first time this season, the Friars –despite all of the time they consumed in the attacking zone- were scoreless at the conclusion of 40 minutes. Another six minutes and 45 seconds of utter malaise passed before Vermont’s Jackie Thode was flagged for hooking, granting PC its third power play.
 
The Friars left their faithful hanging for still another minute and 55 seconds before Cohen forked the puck from a furious scrum in front of a sprawling Olychuck and nimbly fed it to O’Neill, who raked it home from along the near post with 11:20 to spare in regulation.
 
But the converted energy expired in a relative hurry and Vermont renewed its lead for good with 7:58 remaining. All it took was for Chelsea Rapin to halt at the offensive blue line, absorb a forward shipment from teammate Channing Ahbe, and race down Broadway uncontested to snap the decider low to the right of Lacasse.
 
“Give Vermont credit,” said Deraney. “They played pretty hard and made things difficult for us. We had some scoring opportunities. We missed the net. And when you get opportunities to score, you’ve got to score. We didn’t do that today.”
 
Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com
 
This article originally appeared in the Friartown Free Press

Friday, January 29, 2010

Women's Hockey Log: Friars Standing Watch For Vermont Surprise

If one who swears by the stats sheet insists on classifying the remainder of the PC women’s hockey schedule based on nominal “winnability,” then there are two simple groups to consider.
 
Four of the regular season’s final seven games shall be played against fellow national poll-dwellers (Harvard tomorrow evening, Northeastern next Saturday, and Connecticut twice the week after).
 
Group II –beginning with a home date tonight and two road ventures three weeks from now- consists of three tilts with the Vermont Catamounts, who have shaped out as the greatest disappointment in this year’s Hockey East pennant race.
 
Vermont rates either dead-last or second-to-last in every category on the league leaderboard –from offense to defense to discipline to both ends of the special teams’ spectrum. Their top point-getter, senior forward Chelsea Furlani, has a grand total of 15 points, which is good enough for a four-way tie for 28th among all Hockey Easterners. And ever since a fairly encouraging October, where at one point their record glistened at 4-1-0, the Catamounts have floundered for the better part of their schedule, now digesting a 7-17-1 overall transcript.
 
In other words, very little has changed on the Green-and-Gold landscape from previous years. But that is precisely why the Friars –winners of their last seven games and one point out of first place in the WHEA- are taking a professionally cautious approach to their still-unopened season series.
 
When reminded of the gaping, databased discrepancies in the matchup, head coach Bob Deraney did not immediately swing into a state of humble denial. But he still managed to throw in a caveat.
 
“Look at our record against them lately,” he said, naturally referring to the past two seasons, wherein the Friars reached the verge of sweeping the season series, but whiffed on their third swing.
 
In 2007-08, when Vermont followed through on a 4-0-0 start with a three-month-long, 19-game winless nightmare (0-18-1), they briefly liberated their shattered psyche by beating Providence, 2-1, in Part II of a weekend set at Gutterson Fieldhouse.
 
And thus, although four of seven Hockey East rivals would sweep their season series against the Catamounts that year, the Friars were not one of them.
 
Last season’s falter was particularly egregious from a PC perspective as it fell in the form of a 5-2 home loss. It was Vermont’s first win in eight tries, its second in 13 hacks, and one of only four league victories it would have claimed by season’s end.
 
Three teams swept their season series with 2008-09 Catamounts. And yet again, the Friars were excluded from that fairly inclusive sorority.
 
Having been there, having suffered that, junior A-captain Jean O’Neill insists she and her mates know better than to get caught sleepskating like that again.
 
“We need to go into the game the same way as you go into every other game,” O’Neill said with her characteristic simplicity. “Every Hockey East game is a challenge. All the teams are strong, and you never know what the outcome is going to be, so I think we have to come in with the same mindset as we would playing a ranked team.”
 
It is not as though Vermont is playing for diddlysquat yet, Deraney noted. In fact, their desperation has earned them some invaluable table scraps of late.
 
Three weeks ago, the Catamounts splashed an eight-game winless drought with a 2-1, nonconference road triumph at Wayne State. And last week, they latched on their second conference victory by tipping over Boston University in overtime.
 
But more notably, Deraney said, they couldn’t complete the weekend sweep, spilling a 3-2 decision to the Terriers on Sunday. As a result, their window to the playoffs has lowered a few more inches, therefore their desperation figures to grow that much higher.
 
At this stage in the playoff derby, the Catamounts cannot come up empty-handed in their visit here tonight or to Connecticut tomorrow night. Otherwise, any subsequent combination of a loss and a victory by Boston College (out of league action until next weekend due to the Beanpot) will dash their bid for a postseason passport.
 
“They have nothing to lose and they’re eager to make up what they’ve lost,” said Deraney. “Their goalie (Kristen Olychuk) can get hot as we’ve seen in the past. She’s stonewalled us before, so we can’t have enough goals. If we don’t score, it’s anybody’s game.”
 
Quick Feeds: Although she has not tuned the opposing mesh in her last 12 appearances, Vermont sophomore Kailey Nash –the pride of Newport County pucksters- continues to hold the league lead with seven power play goals. PC rookie Nicole Anderson, while similarly swamped in a slump, is still ice chips behind with six power play strikes…Ex-Friar Brittany Nelson, now a senior captain for her hometown Catamounts, ranks third among her teammates with 11 points, but has only two assists since New Year’s and no goals since October 24…In six total games against her old team, Nelson has accumulated two goals and four assists. Those six points equate what she charged up in her 32 games as a Friar in 2006-07 and constitute 15.8 percent of her career totals as a Catamount.
 
Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com
 
This article originally appeared in the Friartown Free Press

Thursday, January 28, 2010

On Hockey: Alyse Ruff, Jean O'Neill Form A Dynamic, Durable Duo

The name and image of Alyse Ruff seems to gain another coat of notoriety every time her Friars paint another layer of collateral on their transcript, which they have done on a gamely basis for their last seven ventures dating 25 days back to Ruff’s birthday, an occasion that she celebrated by singlehandedly slashing Minnesota State, 2-0.
 
Last Friday, Ruff joined sophomore Ashley Cottrell –the only Providence striker with more points on the year than her- and head coach Bob Deraney at the Bank of America Skating Center, where they pitched the weekend’s Skating Strides Against Breast Cancer event on FOX 64’s “The Rhode Show.”
 
She proceeded to stamp a 1-2-3 scoring log in Sunday’s 6-3 triumph at Boston College, nabbed her second Hockey East Player of the Week title in four chances, and –just yesterday- had her action shot pasted atop the uscho.com women’s home page.
 
Just the same, assistant captain Jean O’Neill is appropriately personifying her team’s consistency, having notched at least one point in each of these seven successive victories. In all, she and Ruff lead the team with 12 points apiece over eight games since New Year’s.
 
“(The winning streak is) really exciting to be a part of,” O’Neill offered. “It just shows how all of the hard work we’ve put in from the beginning of the season is starting to pay off.
 
“I think the personal success is coming from the team. I couldn’t do this without my linemates who are also contributing a lot. We have a really great line and the team as a whole is coming together.”
 
That is certainly fair enough, but it seems O’Neill halted her verbal skates on a dime just before she could say something a little more self-crediting. Being two of only five upperclassmen on the Friars’ scoring brigade, and two who have been particularly leaned on since their arrival, O’Neill and Ruff are fittingly the clear-cut catalysts in PC’s recent growth spurt.
 
In addition to trailing only the likes of Cottrell on the team leaderboard, Ruff and O’Neill have pole-vaulted Arianna Rigano for the lead in terms of shots on net, having landed 81 and 79, respectively. O’Neill owns the best plus/minus rate among all Friar forwards (plus-8), followed immediately by Ruff (plus-7). The two have combined to win three of the league’s last four Player of the Week laurels.
 
And they have both, as the adage would say, led by example in revising their own standards. At the conclusion of last weekend, Ruff had upped her scoring totals to 10-13-23 on the year. That makes four more points than what she amassed as a frosh and three more than what she collected through the full 36-game ride last season.
 
Perhaps most encouraging for Friartownies, she is too busy berrypicking for more to spend any time enjoying the view from her new height.
 
“To be honest, I don’t follow my points through the season. I’d rather not know,” said Ruff. “It’s definitely exciting. I didn’t know I had 23 points. But I just look forward to working hard and continuing to do well.”
 
What’s more is, the weekend prior, Ruff had a direct hand in helping O’Neill reset her own bar. By converting a pass from Ruff and bumping PC ahead of host New Hampshire, 2-1, in an eventual 3-2 victory on January 16, O’Neill notched her 18th point of the season, thus exceeding her freshman bushel of 17. She now has 22 points to speak of, therefore needs only four more to surpass everything that she accumulated in her encouraging rookie year and what she sprinkled on last season while trying to restore her old self after a preseason injury.
 
When it comes to saturating the scoresheet with the likes of Ruff and an equally efficient third party by her side, normalcy returned long ago for O’Neill. One will not soon forget when the two ex-teammates from the Princeton Tiger Lilies partnered with then-junior Mari Pehkonen and constituted the splendid PRO Line for the final 18 games in 2007-08. Although the trinity took four games for anybody to notch a single point, they subsequently combined for 14 goals and 18 assists in their final 14 ventures together.
 
Pehkonen has since graduated, but on the cusp of the second anniversary of the PRO Line’s assemblage, rookie Jess Cohen took to the right wing on the first line and has served as the Finnish Flare’s virtual recast. In seven games playing with O’Neill and Ruff this January, Cohen has a 1-6-7 scoring transcript, thus splashing a minor drought she had going before the three-week holiday respite.
 
And, as previously noted, O’Neill and Ruff each have a dozen points since their reunion, which more than doubles what they had each charged up in 19 games before the December deceleration. On six occasions this month, they have shared a hand in the same scoring play.
 
“We played together in the past before college and our styles of play just kind of coincide,” said O’Neill. “We work well together and Cohen is a really strong player. She buys well into how Alyse and I play.
 
“Alyse is a very strong and fast player,” she added. “She’s always there to help out when either Cohen or I are in trouble in the corners. She’ll be there to help get the puck out.”
 
On a quite literal basis, one can claim that Ruff has “always been there,” even for those five games at the start of last year when O’Neill was still recuperating and through the ensuing year-plus when the two worked on separate lines. One of only four active Friars to have suited up every night since her freshman orientation, Ruff will have herself yet another oven-fresh tidbit tomorrow night when she plays in her 100th career game versus Vermont. (O’Neill figures to hit her own centennial milestone when the Friars visit the Catamounts three weeks from tomorrow).
 
“It’s really neat to be able to play all the time because not everyone has that opportunity,” Ruff acknowledged. “It’s a great experience to say that I was able to play in that many games.”
 
Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Women's Hockey Log: Jen Friedman Doing The Two-Way Trick For Friars

Sophomore defender Jen Friedman was apt to offer a friendly reminder yesterday that her personal hot streak on the scoresheet has coincided with countless other outstanding outbursts by her teammates, not to mention a nearly blemish-free month of hockey action for the PC women.
 
“I don’t think it has anything to do with personal points,” she said when informed that, just like last season, she has logged a whopping six points within the month of January.
 
“The team as a whole has been doing really well this month and everyone has seen their points go up. I just think that when the team starts to do well, all individuals do well.”
 
In Sunday’s road win over Boston College, the towering blueliner leveled home a one-timer at 11:12 of the second period, amounting to her ninth point of the season, which surpasses the eight she accumulated in all 36 games as a frosh.
 
By day’s end, Friedman had been on the ice for three of the Friars’ six goals. While that was only good enough for a plus-1 rating, it sprinkled a little more on her team-best plus-9 (discounting goaltender Genevieve Lacasse, who is a plus-10).
 
It might just be that, by linking up with senior captain Colleen Martin on the top blue line unit all season, Friedman has let a little of her senior partner rub off on her. Martin led Providence in the way of plus/minus last season at plus-10 and was an assertive plus-16 at the conclusion of the 2007-08 campaign.
 
And not unlike Friedman, Martin set a new scoring standard for herself during Sunday’s 6-3 triumph. Her assist on Alyse Ruff’s dagger goal equaled her eighth point of the season, one more than the previous high she set last year.
 
In fact, in addition to Friedman, three of the Friars’ defensive regulars (Christie Jensen, Leigh Riley, Amber Yung) have already had what might be termed a “career month” in the scoring department. And with two more games before the calendar Zamboni takes its next shift, Martin and Lauren Covell still have a little time to do the same.
 
“It’s really important that everyone on the ice is contributing offensively and defensively,” Friedman said. “But no matter how many goals you get, it all comes down to how many goals you let in.”
 
And indeed, while the seething BC strike force did cash in on three of its whopping eight third period power plays on Sunday, it did little more than bite partially and harmlessly into Friedman’s daily plus/minus and PC’s lead.
 
All but one of PC’s penalty killing segments was abbreviated either by a power play goal or by the Eagles writing their own ill-timed ticket to the sin bin. During their two longest tours of duty –one lasting 85 seconds, the other the full two minutes- the Friars’ PK brigade confined its adversaries to one shot on net or fewer.
 
“Even though they were getting a lot of shots and what seemed like a lot of opportunities, I think that defensively, we did really well,” said Friedman, who was credited with a team-high four blocked shots on Sunday.
 
“We kept them to the outside, and even though it seemed like they were catching up, we did a great job of getting the puck out of our zone and we did a great job along the boards.”
 
Of the unusual quantity of penalties, she shrugged. “You’ll face it in games to come. We just have to prepare and the team has been working on our penalty kill just as much as we have on our power play. We already knew what to expect.”
 
Quick feeds: For her three-point outing on Sunday, Ruff was named the league’s Player of the Week for the second time in four opportunities yesterday…Though belated by a little more than a week, head coach Bob Deraney’s 200th career victory got a quick stick salute from veteran college puck columnist John Connolly of the Boston Herald yesterday morning…While there is no guarantee the Friars will still be atop the Hockey East leaderboard after second-place Northeastern is finished tangling with Boston University tonight. However, PC did nudge up one slot (to No. 9) in yesterday’s revised USCHO national poll…The Friars took yesterday off and are slated to resume their regular training regimen today in preparation for Vermont’s visit this Friday.
 
Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com
 
This article originally appeared in the Friartown Free Press

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Women's Hockey Log: Teams' Similarities Make For Heated PC-BC Matchups

No two teams in the Women’s Hockey East Association have garnered as much bonus mileage this season as Boston College and Providence. Their encounter yesterday afternoon at Schneider Arena would elongate into the Eagles’ league-leading eleventh overtime game of 2009-10, the Friars’ tenth.
 
Was it much of a coincidence that yesterday –or, for that matter, the clubs’ two previous meetings, which both required a shootout- took so long for one side to lay down the knockout pin in a defensive and intensive arm-wrestling match? Friars’ head coach Bob Deraney thinks not.
 
“I think we’re mirror images of each other,” he said, a statement with which the stats sheet would have indubitably concurred six weeks ago, when the teams played to a 2-2 regulation tie at Conte Forum and morphed each other’s records to 5-7-7. But it certainly would not appear that way this morning, in the aftermath of a 2-1 PC triumph that improved them to 11-7-8 and docked the lately luckless BC program to 5-11-9 overall.
 
Data be darned, whenever the Friars and Eagles lock twigs, Deraney stressed, “You have to battle for every inch of the ice. They’re forecheck is very difficult to break, and I like to think ours is the same way, so it’s a game of confrontation. That’s why I think these games are so evenly matched.”
 
Confrontation? With each other? That’s nothing new to those sporting the Friar Black and Eagle Maroon, BC skipper Katie King speculated. Each roster has at least one player hailing from the states of Massachusetts, Minnesota, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. Four Eagles and two Friars in Nicole Anderson and Kate Bacon all whet their skates at the ever-rigorous Minnesota high school level.
 
And away from their respective homes, there have been countless confrontations at the elite youth levels. Just for one example, current PC sophomores Ashley Cottrell and Genevieve Lacasse were part of a Detroit Little Caesar’s U19 program who lost to BC rookie goalie Corinne Boyles and the Chicago Mission in the 2008 USA Hockey national finals. The following year, Boyles’ team relinquished its title at the hands of current PC forward Jess Cohen, BC defender Dru Burns, and their associates at Shattuck-St. Mary’s School.
 
“I think we have some teams that just work extremely hard out there,” said King. “I think a couple of (each team’s players) played against each other when they were younger, Minnesota kids and whatnot.
 
“And I know PC has always been a great team in our league and we’re always trying to come out with a win.”
 
High time in overtime
Yesterday, the Friars spread their collective ice time beyond regulation for the tenth time out of 26 total games this season. Up to that point, they were a so-so 0-1-8 in the extra frame, with two of those ties amounting to at least an extra Hockey East point courtesy of a shootout victory.
 
But Jean O’Neill’s turbine tour of the puck down the left alley and homeward bound snapper to the left of Boyles bucked that trend. More critically, it allowed Providence to extend its active hot streak to six consecutive wins, the program’s longest such tear since the climax of the 2004 Hockey East pennant race.
 
“It’s great to win anytime. Whether it’s regulation, overtime or a shootout, it’s a win.” Deraney said simply. “I don’t mean to downplay it, but you’ve got 65 minutes to win a hockey game, and that’s the way we look at it. It’s just great to win another hockey game, no matter how you do it.”
 
Same basic elements
As was the case in last year’s event, when the Friars surpassed Northeastern, 3-2, this season’s Skating Strides Against Breast Cancer game at Schneider Arena was preceded by PC senior defender Colleen Martin singing the national anthem and culminated with a home OT victory. The Friars are now 3-1-0 all-time when hosting their chapter of the league-wide charity.
 
Quick Feeds: With her 30 saves on 31 shots faced yesterday, Lacasse has ascended to second place on the Hockey East save percentage leaderboard (.927), trailing only her personal rival, Florence Schelling of Northeastern…O’Neill, along with Cohen, Cottrell, and Alyse Ruff, now has two game-clinchers to her credit this season…Yesterday was PC’s first win when tied after two periods. They were previously 0-4-5 in that situation. Conversely, the Eagles had been unbeaten (1-0-4) when knotted at the start of the third period…Sophomore forward Abby Gauthier was the only skater on either end to be credited with a plus-2 rating in yesterday’s game. Seven other Friars, along with three Eagles, were a plus-1…BC sophomore center Mary Restuccia led all puckslingers yesterday with six shots on goal. She also took a game-leading three minor penalties…Leigh Riley earned an assist on Kate Bacon’s first period goal, granting the stay-at-home junior her fourth point on the year and doubling her career totals from where they stood at the end of last season.
 
Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com
 
This article originally appeared in the Friartown Free Press

Women's Hockey 2, Boston College 1: Friars Kill Eight Penalties Before Bumping BC In OT

Even though she came in bearing the second-most active stick blade on the Providence College women’s hockey team, Jean O’Neill was hardly a tangible factor through 64 minutes of action yesterday.
 
Formerly tied with linemate Alyse Ruff for second with 72 shots on goal, trailing only Arianna Rigano under that heading, O’Neill had thrust five attempts at Boston College goaltender Corinne Boyles (19 saves) throughout the day, only to see them all blocked or telepathically diverted wide.
 
Meanwhile, both clubs were swinging and missing on umpteen power play chances apiece, a tormenting trend that rolled right on into overtime when PC’s Abby Gauthier was flagged for hooking with 2:39 to spare.
 
But the Friars’ drew out their PK veil –already a grubbily glamorous 7-for-7 on the day- for one more effective tour of duty. BC’s daylong drought continued, but O’Neill’s would not.
 
As if on cue, the junior A-captain scooped a fugitive puck within her own far face-off circle just when the time came for Gauthier’s jailbreak. A presto odd-man rush ensued and would quickly culminate with O’Neill roofing an airborne snapper into the opposite post, stamping a 2-1 victory with a mere 30.2 seconds left.
 
In its duration, PC’s now six-game winning streak has arguably never been in as much peril as it was yesterday. The Friars were tied for nearly two full periods against a team desperate to regain its groove. They whiffed on six power play chances that might have renewed or augmented an initial 1-0 lead. And then they were a half-minute away from watching yesterday’s result go down as a tie on their national transcript.
 
Well, none of it mattered in the end, head coach Bob Deraney insists. A win is a win.
 
“They’re all hard-earned,” he said. “They’re all hard in different ways. I think today was a great test for us to deal with adversity.
 
“Boston College is not what their record is. I’ve seen them on tape and I’ve seen them play in person. They’re a very good team with a lot of different challenges and a lot of different weapons, so we had a different type of adversity today and we overcame it, which is really good.
 
“The penalties? They’re part of the game, so you have to learn how to kill them off and face that adversity straight-on and knock it back. Fortunately, we happened to kill that last penalty with 30 seconds left and O’Neill made a (heck) of a play.”
 
The Eagles, who throughout this month have turned in nothing but anti-Friar results, let their extreme desire be felt on the stats sheet, particularly as they owned the first period shooting gallery, 17-5.
 
Along the way, they induced Providence to its first of two five-on-three deficits when Ruff and Rigano were called at 9:39 and 10:29, respectively.
 
But that was not before Kate Bacon smuggled in the icebreaker on the Friars’ first offensive threat of the day. Her own goaltender, Genevieve Lacasse (30 saves), already having repelled five Boston stabs, Bacon administered Boyles’ first test at 5:00 of the opening frame. During the same hustle, she collected a feed from Rigano behind the cage and, upon looping around the far post, blindly buried a backhander with 5:48 gone.
 
In the last 12 minutes before intermission, however, the Eagles let the Friars test Boyles twice more while they fired on Lacasse another 13 times, including five while Ruff and Rigano were doing time.
Nothing doing. The Scarborough Save-ior was perfect all through the sweatiest first period of her season.
 
“Sometimes I don’t really trust shots,” confessed BC head coach Katie King. “Sometimes I don’t think the shots tell the truth, but today I think Lacasse played great. She made the stops she needed to make, and that’s huge for her team.”
 
Indeed, for the Friars were no more productive when BC went off. They mustered five attempts, only one of which Boyles needed to play, over two first period power plays. And after Allie Thunstrom, the lone star in the Eagles’ galaxy most of this season, tied the game at 6:41 of the second on a textbook end-to-end breakaway, both teams twice alternated penalties before intermission.
 
Yet the 1-1 draw would not budge and nobody charged up more than one shot on any given power play segment.
 
“We use a lot of different bodies killing penalties,” said Deraney. “I think that’s a key as to why we can stay so fresh and be so successful on the penalty kill. I wish our power play had been a little bit better today, but I think Boston College had a lot to do with that.”
 
PC’s most promising power play swarm was a four-shot deal halfway through the third period. But less than three minutes after that fell through, they slipped into another 5-on-3 disadvantage, one that lasted 39 seconds but only saw Lacasse dealing with one bid.
 
Then, at 4:06 of the bite-sized bonus round, O’Neill lost a face-off to Mary Restuccia and the likes of Thunstrom and Danielle Welch were quick to try their luck on Lacasse. But just as nimbly and without so much as summoning another whistle, the Friars turned the action the other way, amounting to O’Neill’s walk-off strike.
 
“If you want to be a contender, you have to be able to deal with adversity and find a way to win,” Deraney concluded. “That’s what I’m most proud of today. We found a way to win.”
 
Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com
 
This article originally appeared in the Friartown Free Press