Saturday, September 18, 2010

On Women's Hockey: Future Should Be Now For PC's Class Of 2012

As soon as PC women’s hockey head coach Bob Deraney summons his pupils to take a knee before the Plexiglas whiteboard at today’s opening practice, there will be more formal Friartown moments behind than ahead for Genevieve Lacasse, Ashley Cottrell, Jen Friedmen, and their five class of 2012 sisters.

In mid-December of 2007, when he was still half-finished confirming his next collection of newbies, Deraney memorably likened the incoming posse to that of 2005. You know, the class that set the still-unsurpassed standard of the Deraney era by sweeping through four conference pennants and culminating in the Friars’ first passport to the NCAA tournament.

As of their midterm, things have not gone quite in accord with the syllabus for this qualitative and (to a certain extent) quantitative group. Although in each of its first two seasons the now-junior class has produced the Friars’ leading scorer, their starting goalie, and a towering defensive stalwart, it has not helped to cultivate another crown or Elite Eight bid.

A perfectly explicable year of “growing pains” in 2008-09 left little improvement from the recent databases, but still enough of an impression that everyone would soon bolster a genuine resurgence as soon as they ripened. Lacasse was now the consensus crease keeper, Laura Veharanta had an acetylene stick, Cottrell was a promising playmaker, and Friedman was a first-unit defender.

Last year, many of the said elements escalated, a few others receded. But still nothing amounted to lasting glamour. The Friars pulled off quite the District-Five-to-Ducks turnaround in the regular season, but then left things off on a letdown when a rabid Connecticut team stormed into Schneider and Heimliched their home ice advantage, 3-2, in the Hockey East semifinal.

To be fair, when they were scrupulously scrapping to sculpt their legacy, the likes of Rush Zimmerman, Danielle Bourgette, and Amy Thomas never had to deal with any sort of Boston University or Vermont team (both rivals landed under the Hockey East heading within months of the 2005 class’ graduation). Nor were Boston College and Northeastern anything quite like the threat they pose in the present day.

But try telling that to a Divine Campus devotee like Lacasse, who went so far early in her freshman campaign as to cast aside her patriotic Team Canada mask in favor of a lid depicting the Rhode Island State House flanked by caricatures of her netminding ancestors Sara Decosta and Jana Bugden.

For the players, a ring is a ring, two rings are two rings, and an utter lack thereof is an utter lack thereof.

So for the anointed revivalist class, the first of two years on the upper half of the maturity echelon is the time to put their collective picture in focus. Some members, particularly the exponentially prolific Cottrell and unflagging Lacasse, are advised to look forward and not think too much. Others, most visibly Veharanta, will want to grip the opposing fists of one more (16-15-31 totals) and less (3-9-12) memorable season and hoist the former as representing her true self.

And beneath those who have made for stronger media magnets, there are four other juniors vying to stabilize their game and cement their indispensable roles. Lauren Covell went from an arid freshman forward to an effective sophomore blueliner (nine assists). Stay-at-home defender Christie Jensen recompensed an abysmal minus-10 rating circa last Thanksgiving and formulated a sound tandem with rising senior Amber Yung. More of the same will be in order from those two.

Up front, a once-bouncy puckslinger (111 shots on goal as a frosh) in Kate Bacon lost some of her touch last year to off-and-on injuries that cost her seven games and couldn’t offer an indication of improved accuracy. And everyone is still waiting for Abby Gauthier, the former volcano at St. Mary’s of Lynn, to crack her college chrysalis after seeing her roll up gentle 3-7-10 and 4-5-9 scoring logs.

Every one of them has a customized level to step up to, but as a group the 2012ers should be expected to flaunt their overwhelming seasoning this year. Strictly among skaters, the 2010-11 Friars will return the most NCAA experience of any Hockey East team with an aggregate 975 games played between 15 individuals. The junior class alone accounts for 485 –or 49.7 percent, a fingernail less than half- of those games. And they account for 66 (41.7 percent) of the team’s 158 returning goals.

Behind all of that, the keystone Lacasse is fresh off a summer of international progression, which ultimately led to her invitation to next week’s Team Canada national evaluation camp, as was announced yesterday. When she is not otherwise preoccupied with future Eh Team odysseys, she will be here building on her arguably easy trek to revise the Friars’ goaltending record book. She is already more than halfway en route to surpassing Bugden’s career minutes (6631:57), appearances (115), and saves (2,555).

Delivering PC’s next Hockey East playoff title and/or impaling their flag securely on the national leaderboard to woo the selection committee is a whole other matter than asking these eight players to at least fuse and consistently prove their mellowness in 2010-11. But given their jutting presence on the roster and the stats sheet on both sides of the puck, a shortcoming in step-upmanship would only stick their team in neutral.

If the 2012ers were not the Friars topmost key to restoring regality before, they are now.

Al Daniel can be reached at

This article originally appeared in the Friartown Free Press

Sunday, September 12, 2010

PC Women's Hockey Preseason Player Reports

Nicole Anderson, F- One can expect the most physically imposing Friar to take what she did as a rookie in November 2010 (eight games, six goals, seven points, three power play strikes) and see if the hot hand can sustain its sizzle a little longer this time.

Kate Bacon, F- The former Minnesota high school star and U.S. U18er has so far seen her supposed college breakthrough fenced in by inexperience as a freshman and by injury as a sophomore. Is this the year she breaks double digits in the goal column? The year she flirts with a point count in the 20 range?

Corinne Buie, F
- The rookie Buie should start young on the lower half of the depth chart but will be expected to take regular shifts and collect fast seasoning as the Friars will have but 12 forwards at their service this season.

Jess Cohen, F- Cohen’s college career started not unlike her four-year stay at the powerhouse Shattuck-St. Mary’s. For a rookie, she was gratifyingly productive (6-13-19), albeit with a heavy imbalance favoring assists. With a few more firsthand strikes this season, Cohen will be on the right track to one day fill the roomy skates occupied by the classes of 2011 and 2012.

Ashley Cottrell, F
- The team’s most consistent producer all last season as a sophomore, Cottrell’s topmost pledge in 2010-11 should be to continue to spike her scoring rate. If by season’s end she has averaged a little more than one point per game –preferably teetering on the brink of 40 total- she will have played her part.

Lauren Covell, D
- Although likely to remain on the third defensive unit by default owing to the seniority of a few colleagues, Covell can still expect to dress every night and lend valuable experience to a blue line brigade consisting of two seniors and three juniors.

Stephanie DeMars, F- DeMars’ college prep background from the National Sports Academy closely resembles what Cohen brought to the Divine Campus last autumn. Accordingly, she is a can’t-miss contender to crash the top six level of Bob Deraney’s depth chart. And even if that doesn’t happen, but she nonetheless acclimates quickly, she will still lend a few more inches of valuable depth.

Christina England, G
- Depending on how the outlook of the 2010-11 schedule takes shape and how incumbent starter Genevieve Lacasse persists, England might get a little more of a chance to break in her pads. Regardless, she will be there in the event of an emergency, in which case one will only hope the trough of pure practice hours pays off.

Jen Friedman, D- Now that she is stripped of the training blades that came with working with Colleen Martin, Friedman’s greatest challenge will be partnering with someone new, possibly even switching from mentee to mentor and working with one or both of PC’s two freshmen blueliners.

Abby Gauthier, F
- For Gauthier, who will almost certainly find herself on the third or fourth line to begin her junior campaign, the key to an increased productivity level is sniffing out and seizing more opportunities. She nailed four goals over a rather slim 28 shots on goal in 35 games. As a frosh, it was three strikes on just 20 registered stabs.

Emily Groth, F
- The Friars will barely have a quorum to fill out all 12 offensive spots on game night this year, so Groth should be ready to suit up regularly after slurping only nine games’ worth of action as a frosh.

Christie Jensen, D- Assuming their chemistry has a shelf life longer than a seven-month offseason and assuming Deraney doesn’t detect any better arrangements, Jensen and senior Amber Yung could once again be a pair on the blue line. And with Colleen Martin’s graduation, they will likely constitute the starting unit.

Genevieve Lacasse, G- No more surprises from and no more elevated expectations for the Scarborough Save-ior as she enters her junior season. She might not start all 33 games as she did in 2009-10, especially now that she has an additional crease colleague in Nina Riley. But depending on how rigid the competition gets, don’t rule out another all-out minute-munching year.

Rebecca Morse, D- A point-based puckslinger at the U19 level, Morse may or may not be immediately ready to lend the Friars a reliable rearguard on the power play. But outside of that, she along with fellow freshman Maggie Pendleton should at least push Deraney to a healthy habit of splitting their shifts as the sixth defender to dress on game night.

Jean O’Neill, F
- Odds are O’Neill will see the “A” over her heart morph into a “C” this autumn. If that happens, she can take that as a symbol of the call for an encore after her stirring 14-16-30 junior year. All but sure to once again partner with old friend Alyse Ruff and a third player to be named on the top line, the best way for O’Neill to lead the Friars would be assertively crashing into a point range not reached since Kristin Gigliotti and Sonny Watrous graduated.

Maggie Pendleton, D
- What the aforementioned Morse brings in the form of a two-way game, Pendleton offers in the form of size, rivaling upperclassmen Jen Friedman and Amber Yung with her 5-foot-10 posture. She will at the very least garner substantial action to break into the college ranks.

Leigh Riley, D- Returning with the best rating (plus-7) among all PC defenders, Riley could simply continue to work with the likes of Covell, as she did for the better part of her junior year. Or –especially depending on what becomes of the freshmen- she could be rewarded with a promotion to the first or second unit.

Nina Riley, G- Ditto England. Logic says the rookie Riley is the future of the Friars’ crease, so when possible, a few introductory shifts would be in order for the 2010-11 season.

Alyse Ruff, F
- Consistently noticeable, but never quite jutting in her first three years, all of which she has finished in or near the 20-point range, Ruff will be leaned on to do just a little more as the Friars’ incumbent starting center. Her freshman bushel of 14 goals still remains a career high and she still tends to saturate the stats sheet with periodic multi-point games rather than ongoing hot streaks. But senior seasons are all but meant to perfect one’s game, anyway.

Laura Veharanta, F- Trying to erase the remnants of a dreaded sophomore slide, Veharanta can stand to revive her acetylene twig as well as cut down on her penalty time. Last season, she upped her PIM total to 36 (50 percent more than her freshman count) and trailed only Ruff for the team lead in that category. Whether the restoration comes from more time on the ice and less in the bin, or if more productivity amounts to less frustration and thus fewer infractions, Friartownies just hope it comes.

Jessie Vella, F
- Though confined to a mere 21 games played due to injury last year, Vella made an impression by only once going more than two consecutive appearances without a point. Assuming she stays healthy, only more can be expected of her as a sophomore, even if there is temporary gridlock keeping her out of the top six.

Amber Yung, D- Now that she is the elder stateswoman of the defensive corps, Yung’s chief concern will naturally be shoring up the home front. Nonetheless, she should also be expected to step in and pitch in during onslaughts at the other end, even if some of that goes down as a secondary or even uncredited contribution.

This article originally appeared in the Friartown Free Press