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Sunday, November 11, 2007

Dartmouth 2, Women's Hockey 1

Slow slippage

Friars’ overworked PK nipped in third

Nearly from the outset, Providence College coach Bob Deraney displayed a fair share of challenge flags to the officiating trinity of Sunday’s contest with Dartmouth. By the second period curtain had dropped, everything on the scoreboard was as dead-heated as could be (score 1-1, shots 23-23). The only thing tipping the balance was the distribution of power plays, and it only swelled to PC’s dismay in the third period.

Most of the way, though, the Friar defense cloaked the stalwart power play strike force that had earned the Big Green the #9 slot in USCHO’s weekly poll, despite their only having played four games prior to this weekend.

But with 9:01 remaining in the third period, wherein PC’s unwanted whistles doubled their two-period total of four, a Dart finally hit the bull’s-eye. Green blueliner Julia Bronson pounced on a rebound as an iced teammate Maggie Kennedy nudged it out of a scrum to her near point position and, taking her own spill in the process, nailed it low into the opposite post. That would be the decider as Dartmouth netminder Carli Clemis withstood her own unfavorable imbalance, fourteen Friar shots compared to her club’s seven, to preserve the 2-1 final.

The Green thus remain spotless at 4-0-1, 1-0-1 against Hockey East rivals, while the Friars –who have put their conference slate in the cooler for their five remaining games in November- now own a 0-2-1 record against formidable ECAC tenants.

The nonconference arm wrestling bout pitted two teams with temporary, but no less conspicuous, depth chart cavities thanks to this week’s Four Nations Cup. The Friars’ Mari Pehknonen is sporting her Finnish colors in the renowned annual tournament while the Green were missing decorated sophomore Sarah Parsons of Team USA.

Even with Parsons returning this season, Dartmouth has had another sizzling scorer early on in Jenna Cunningham, the ECAC’s top performer two weeks running. Three minutes into Sunday’s clash, Cunningham gave her club the upper hand seven seconds after Deraney’s first query, an icing call wherein the puck had appeared to brush a few bodies en route to behind the Dartmouth goal line.

The call nonetheless stood, and off the ensuing face-off, Cunningham scooped the puck from her position along the near outer hash marks, zipped to the cage, and slipped the icebreaker into a slim opening between goaltender Danielle Ciarletta and the left post.

Seven minutes later, however, Providence pulled even via Erin Normore, another international pin-up who barely missed out on making her own mid-season voyage to Sweden with her native Canada, and the uncredited assistance of Rachel Crissy.

Big Green defender Amy Cobb had the puck in the right corner of her own end appearing ready to send her associates into routine breakout mode. But with Crissy creeping in front of her, she thrust the biscuit along the boards directly to point patroller Normore. Normore stepped a few inches to her left and let a skipping-stone snap shot find its way through a butterflying Clemis’ five-hole.

For the remaining half of the period, the Friars dealt with six unanswered shots but wholly inverted those tables to start the second. Through the first 8:45 of the middle frame, they outshot the Green 8-1, including two on a power play, before Jenna Keilch was whistled deep in the attacking end for diving. Demands for an explanation on that borderline call landed the Friars with a bench minor and a full two-minute block of 5-on-3 for Dartmouth.

But PC stood strong, Ciarletta tilting aside five stabs and her associates holding the attackers outside the rest of the way. Moments later, when Alyse Ruff was serving a two-minute hooking sentence, the Friars allowed but one shot and disrupted the swarm with a handful of clearances.

Save for those special teams moments, an air hockey-paced tussle took shape and generally remained so for the young moments of the closing frame. Early on, the Friars were afforded their own power play when Dartmouth’s Marley McMillan checked defender Brittany Simpson at 1:44, but a whopping six shots on that advantage were not sufficient for the lead.

At 6:25, PC’s Amber Yung went off for hooking, but the Big Green were allotted absolutely nothing on that 5-on-4 go-around. A return trip for Yung at 10:33, however, would set up Bronson’s clincher.

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