By Mark Harriman, Editor
PROVIDENCE- Sitting in his office over at Schneider Arena, PC Women’s Hockey coach Bob Deraney was talking about packing up his nationally ranked team and taking a 90 minute road trip this week just so his team could have a practice. Not that he was complaining, mind you.
But that’s what comes with the territory when your team is ranked 9th in the country in the women’s hockey polls (USA Today and USCHO.com) and you’re playing outdoors at UConn Day at the Whale Bowl Hockey Fest against Hockey East rival UConn tomorrow afternoon (4pm, Rentschler Field, East Hartford).
Conceived by former Hartford Whalers owner Howard Baldwin, the Hockey Fest is a 10 day event aimed at celebrating the spirit of hockey in the Nutmeg State. The games will feature not only local high school and prep teams, but also men’s and women’s college teams playing host UConn and an AHL tilt between the Providence Bruins and the CT Whale. The Boston Bruins Alumni team will also take the ice in a charity game next weekend.
From his perspective, Deraney is humbled by the opportunity to showcase his talented team in tomorrow’s head-liner game.
“How can you not be excited?” Deraney asked while making preparations in his office. “We’re obviously very grateful to UConn. They could have chosen a bunch of teams to play, but they chose us. We feel very privileged.”
While Deraney was being humble, UConn chose wisely in selecting Providence as its opponent. The Friars have one of the most storied programs in women’s college hockey. Cammi Granato ‘93 was the first woman inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame and six more recently joined her in the US Hockey Hall of Fame as Gold Medal winners from the 1998 Nagano Olympics.
The Friars have also featured All Americans who are household names such as Sarah DeCosta and Karen Thatcher, while joining UNH as one of only two programs in the country to have reached the 600 win plateau.
It also helps to choose a team when the Huskies’ coach Heather Linstad is a 1989 PC alum.
The 2010-11 Friars team (17-11-1) is led by junior goalie and 2009 Hockey East Rookie of the Year Genevieve Lacasse (16-9-1), who sports an eye-popping 1.79 Goals Against Average and a .942 Save Percentage, ranking her third in the country for goalies with at least 25 games.
The Friars are anchored by captains Jean O’Neil and Alyse Ruff, both Senior forwards and Deraney likes the leadership on his team from top to bottom. “Everyone feels a responsibility to make a contribution, whether it be physical, verbal (or leading) by example. It’s a pretty cool group to be around.
“I’ve got terrific athletes. They’re like pros they way they go about their business. You can’t push them hard enough. They want to find out how much they’ve got.”
Earlier this season Deraney’s squad bested #9 ranked Northeastern in front of a sold out crowd of 950 at The Bog in Kingston, MA and he is not worried about his team playing in front of 40,000 more spectators tomorrow in East Hartford, despite forecasted snow just before the puck drop.
“The only way to become a national champion is to have the type of mentality (that says) ‘We’ll play any one any time. And we’ll show up and we’ll be there for your best.”
That best starts this afternoon at 2pm over on Huxley Avenue, as the Friars take on the Huskies in the front end of a very unique home-and-home series, culminating under the clouds tomorrow.