This Week in D-I Women’s Hockey: Mar. 20, 2008

For many, the Frozen Four is the women’s college hockey season. It certainly is for the players and coaches who define their lives (the hockey part of it anyway) by how close they come to winning the National Championship, and for the partisans who live and die with the rising and falling (and for one team, just rising) of their fortunes.

But not for me, even though I’ve been privileged to cover a coupla WFro4s (and look forward to doing so again next year, at BU).

For me, the season is made up of a whole bunch of little glimpses, encounters, and observations, only some of which actually occurred on the ice. Long after I’ve forgotten a thousand games I’ve covered, I’ll still be remembering the nuances and inflections, the tones of voice and the body language.

I’m a lover of hockey (the running joke around here is that hockey is my 10 favorite sports), but more than that, I am an ardent watcher of people. Thus, I thought I’d share just a few of those gleanings, here, in what is my last column of the year. It sort of puts the period at the end of what has been a really fun season for me.

I guess the freshest of these impressions was made just last Saturday by Meaghan Guckian, the classy, senior St. Lawrence University goaltender. It was her misfortune to have allowed the overtime game winner to New Hampshire’s Sadie Wright-Ward.

Yet moments afterward, there was Guckian, sitting in the interview room (in full goalie gear, no less), her body tilted one way, her head the other, the look on her face fixed somewhere in that no-mans land between serenity and disappointment. Couldn’t help but wonder what was going on inside her head. Replaying the goal that ended the Saints season and her Saints career?

What she did say was this.

“It was a fun game to play in,” she said.

“Until the end.”

Goaltenders tend to be their own hardest critics. Maybe that’s why only two on any team ever dares put on the pads.

It’s not the rubber barrage — that the others would mind facing — so much. It’s the emotional one that comes after.

Every goalie I’ve ever encountered has thought he (or she) is supposed to stop every single shot. Every one of them shoulders the blame for any puck that happens to get by them. And in most cases, their self-perception percentage is way out of kilter with their save-to-shots ratio.

So it was that, three months earlier, at that same table (and maybe even the same chair) that BU goalie Allyse Wilcox sat, blaming herself for her team’s 3-2 overtime loss to UNH.

Okay, the Terriers did come within three second of pulling out a tie against what was at the time the top team in the nation. And Wilcox was the goalie of record.

In a game in which her team was outshot 44-10.

And what was her take?

“The defense gave me the opportunity to see the first shot,” she said with words that were, by every appearance, difficult to come by. “It was a tough loss. I wish I could have helped my team out a little more.”

I wondered what she meant by that. Sewn the numbers on the Terrier Red sweaters? Driven the bus back to Walter Brown Arena?

Actually, (and how’s this for a segue,) it was at Walter Brown where the BU women still play that something else caught my eye. BU, as we said earlier, will be the host of next year’s WFro4. On this day, it hosted what looked for all the world like a championship celebration.

From a Sacred Heart team that was in the process of being pasted by BU, 11-1.

The 1, you see, came via a penalty shot taken by Lauren Fontaine (against Wilcox’s backup, Melissa Haber). For a Sacred Heart program that has had few shining moments to look back on, this was like a laser beam from Heaven.

She was snowed under by her delirious Pioneer mates, whose unbridled shouts might have been heard all the way out to the Mass Pike, if it had been warm enough to leave the arena doors open.

“The whole team attacked me,” said Fontaine. “It was a really cool experience.”

During the course of the season, I managed to compile several hours worth of sound, taken from dozens and dozens of interviews. Here are a few of my favorite cuts:

This from Wayne State’s Lindsay DiPietro, on being asked if she was related to (wealthy) Islander goalie Rick DiPietro.

“I wish.”

Vermont goalie Kristen Olychuk, after she was credited with scoring a goal, the first by a woman net minder in NCAA history.

“They’re going to have to work me in at forward, now.”

From Manchester Monarchs forward Matt Moulson, about his sister Shannon, who finished her senior year at Niagara.

“She plays dirty.”

And finally, from Wright-Ward, whose game winner against St. Lawrence — Guckian — started us off on this limp down memory lane to begin with. Did the shot go in cleanly?

“I don’t know, I kind of blanked out. I think it went off her [Guckian’s] glove. Or maybe it went off Leah [Craig’s] butt.”

That, my friends, is a fitting end.

Goodnight everybody.