This Week in D-I Women’s Hockey: Nov. 1, 2007

Lester Patrick wears a ponytail

She was the Wayne Gretzky of women’s hockey during her playing days at Providence College. Now, come next Wednesday, Cammi Granato will be it’s Lester Patrick.

Granato, the first marquee name the sport ever had, will now be the first individual female honored by the NHL with a major award.

On Nov. 7, she (along with three others) will receive the Lester Patrick Trophy, which is presented to those who have rendered outstanding service to hockey in the U.S.

There is no doubting her credentials, there.

Granato, of Chicago’s storied hockey playing clan, lifted the PC Friars on her shoulders during her time there between 1989-1993, captained the first U.S. Olympic team in 1998 (to a gold medal, we should add), and in general, made it cool for girls to play hockey.

(That 1998 squad, by the way, was honored en masse with the Patrick Trophy).

“She’s obviously done a lot for women’s hockey,” said Boston College coach Katie King, the former Brown standout, and Granato’s Olympic teammate. “If you ask anybody outside our realm about any hockey players they know, they say Cammi. She’s known all over the place. She was definitely a pioneer for our sport, and you can’t take that away from her. I think it’s great that she’s getting that (award). I think it’s awesome that she’s being recognized that way.”

While Granato’s impact (both in and out of the rink) is felt across the Hockey Universe, it is at its strongest, and most emotional, at her alma mater.

Bob Deraney, who is in his ninth year as Friars head coach, certainly feels it.

“She’s the matriarch of women’s hockey,” he said. “You can ask anybody. She’s the one that everybody knows. She’s the face of women’s college hockey. And for the NHL to recognize her solidifies that. That could pick anybody to win that award, and they picked her. I think that’s the statement above all statements as to what she means to the sport.”

Most of today’s Friars hadn’t yet hit kindergarten when Granato was wearing the Black and White.

But to them, she’s more than just a name from by-gone days.

She’s their Cammi.

“Absolutely,” said PC senior Sarah Feldman. “There’s a lot of tradition here. I came in here and learned that right away. To have someone like Cammi Granato be an alum is unbelievable.”

Ironically, the Patrick ceremonies in New York take place within a few days of the annual Hockey Hall of Fame inductions in Toronto.

Which begs the question…is Granato worthy of that honor, too?

“I don’t see why she wouldn’t be,” said Deraney. “I was trying to think about why not, and there’s nothing. She should be in the Hall of Fame. Just like there’s a women’s (wing) to the Baseball Hall of Fame. There’s no finer candidate, than Cammi, as a player, and as a person.”

Gophers hunting

No. 6 Minnesota is in the midst of a horrendous four-game stretch pitting them against both Minnesota-Duluth and Wisconsin. The Gophers made it through the first half okay, sweeping UMD 3-1 and 5-1.

That bounced the Bulldogs from the nation’s No. 1 ranking, allowing, you guessed it, Wisconsin, to take over the top spot.

(Welcome to the fire, you Gophers. By the way, how did you enjoy the frying pan?)

“The way the WCHA is,” said Minnesota co-captain Bobbi Ross, prior to Wednesday’s practice. “We’re not going to have particular easy stretches, by any means. Having Wisconsin and Duluth is going to really test how we can keep our intensity. We’re going to have to (have that) in order to be successful. I think so far we‘ve done a really good job of not being overwhelmed. We‘re more excited.”

USCHO Offensive Player of the Week Ross played a huge part in Minnesota’s twin wins over their Northern cousins, piling up six points (3g, 3a), and setting the tone for the sweep by netting TWO shorthanded goals in Friday’s opener.

“The shorthanded goals we got,” she said, “were a huge momentum changer. It just gave us a whole lot of confidence, and it got us really fired up. I’m sure it lowered the spirits of Duluth. No team likes to be scored on, short-handed. There’s nothing more dispiriting.”

As for the task of trying to topple a second straight No. 1, Ross said that Minnesota has to stick to what it does best when they hit the Kohl Center surface in Madison.

“They have some players (e.g. Jinelle Zaugg and Hilary Knight) who are pretty big threats,” she said. “We need to minimize our mistakes in that respect. If we give them an inch, they’ll take a mile, and it will end up in the back of our net.

We have to focus on ourselves, as much as we can. It’s about getting our stuff together and playing like we can. That will determine our success.”

Friars find footing on unlikely ice

Deraney’s Friars had some tough sledding in games against ranked opponents–No. 4 St. Lawrence and No. 8 Connecticut–losing twice by a combined 13-0.

So their lot didn’t figure to improve on Tuesday, when they had to skate into Conte Forum to face No. 7 Boston College.

But it did.

Providence scored three times in the first period, then held on for a 3-2 triumph over the Golden Eagles.

“It means a lot,” said Feldman, who played for BC for two years before transferring to Providence. “You’ve got to get that first win. We needed that win, sooner than later to get our season rolling.”

Feldman daggered her old mates by scoring the first goal, at 6:41. The Friars later got goals 20 seconds apart from Mari Pehkonen and Alyse Ruff. All this from an offense that hadn’t found the net in a hefty 143:57 span.

“We’d been struggling a lot with momentum,” said Feldman. “That first goal is key. They weren‘t the prettiest goals, but they counted.”

In the third period, Feldman had to pick herself up off the ice after being leveled by her old friend, BC defenseman Becky Zavisa.

“I had my back turned,” she laughed. “She’s a big girl. You hit her, you’re going to go down hard. It wasn’t a dirty hit. I probably should have had my head up, anyway.”