This Week in D-I Women’s Hockey: Jan. 31, 2008

View from the Middle

If you want to get the scoop on what makes a baseball team click, as a catcher. He sees it all.

Likewise, if you want to know what makes a hockey line click, ask the gal in the middle. The good ones seem to have eyes in the back of their heads, and can thread those tape-to-tape passes to waiting wingers for proper burial.

Such is certainly the case with Wayne State�s Lindsay DiPietro, who center�s D-I�s most prolific line.

With wingers Melissa Boal (29-22-51) and Sam Poyton (24-24-48) on her flanks, DiPietro (12-36-48) has racked up more helpers than anyone else in the country.

The trio, all of them juniors from Ontario, occupy spots No. 2, 3, and T-3 in the national scoring parade, with only Mercyhurst�s Meghan Agosta (36-22-58) seated above them.

�I�ve got talented wingers,� said DiPietro, dishing out compliments as deftly as she doles out pin-point passes. �It�s unbelievable. Just the plays they make, and just how they get open, (makes) it some much fun to play. I haven�t had this much fun in a really long time.�

Fun for her, not so much fun for beleaguered backliners who have to try and stop her from stick handling through them.

It�s in that same slippery manner that DiPietro (�no, I�m not related to Rick, but I wish I was”), tries to swivel through a reporter�s questions.

Such as, �so Lindsay, what�s the scouting report on your wingers?�

�And give away their strengths,� she replied with a laugh. �Come on now.�

Reminded that there are no secrets in hockey, she shifts speeds and motors on.

�Both of them are pure goal scorers,� she said. �It�s pretty easy when the find open ice. If you can get them a pass, they�ll put the puck in the net. It makes my job a lot easier.

�Mel is really fast. Her take off speed is just phenomenal. So she can beat a lot of players, one on one. Sam is bigger (5-foot-10, seven inches taller than Boal) and she�s more of a grinder. But a finesse player at the same time. She�s not afraid to go into the corners and get the puck, which helps me out a lot. They�re just phenomenal players, both of them. They have different assets, but they both put the puck in the net.�

Still, they can�t finish without the puck, and that�s where DiPietro�s own skills come to the fore.

�I think I�m good at seeing the open ice,� she said, after a little prodding. �The fact that they can break into that open ice helps a lot. I like to pass the puck. That�s no surprise. So I just try to find them. They just play off my ability to get them the puck. They make good plays, and I just dish it.�

A key to any line�s success lies in its ability to communicate. But each troika has it�s own communication style.

With this bunch (somebody please, come up with a catchy name for them, huh�), �mum� seems to be the watch word.

�You know,� she said, �we don�t talk a lot, to be honest. We just know where we�re going to be. We�ve been together for so long. We just have a feeling. They�ll call �Linds, Linds, I�m open�. But for the most part, I can sense where they are, and I can make a lot of blind passes. Not to say I like to. But I can, knowing that they�re going to be there. I just tell them, �keep your stick on the ice, and I�ll find you.��

Of course one can�t discuss Wayne State pucks and avoid bringing up the impending demise of the men�s team, which will disband after this season.

The sense of loss is felt deeply in the women�s dressing room.

�It�s disappointing,� DiPietro said. �Having a men�s program is like having 25 other guys who know exactly what you�re going through, day-to-day. How long the season is, how grueling. They know exactly what we go through. So it�s a really good support system. So for the girls who have close friends on the men�s team, it�s sad to see it go.�

DiPietro said it�s up to the women to pick up the Warrior hockey banner and hoist it aloft.

�It puts a lot of pressure on us, now,� she said. �But it�s okay. At least we�re still around and kicking.�

As we were saying, she sees the ice.

Every square inch of it.

Bowl Runneth Over

Not that the field for the NCAA�s Hockey Humanitarian Award, now down to eight semifinalists, isn�t worthy enough.

But you could make a case for adding precisely 5,377 more souls to the list of nominees.

That�s the number of good-hearted people who streamed into Wisconsin�s Kohl Center last Saturday for the contest between St. Cloud State (now No. 10) and the fifth-ranked Badgers.

The crowd, the largest ever for an NCAA women�s game, came out to root on their Badgers, the two-time national champions, in response to UW�s �Fill the Bowl� promotion.

More importantly, a $1 donation from each ticket sold was made to the Second Harvest Foodbank of Southern Wisconsin.

�The event was a tremendous success,� said UW spokesman Adam Augustine. �Since 5,377 fans showed up for the game, that amount of money was presented to Second Harvest following the game. That translates into roughly 37,639 meals for the local community.�

Oh, gosh by golly, that�s good goin�, don�t ya know.