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Sunday, January 20, 2008

Women's Hockey 3, Boston University 1

Friars tip the scale with BU

Much like the visitors from Boston University, Providence College had lost little more than a square inch of footing in its steady attempts to upgrade its middleweight status in the Hockey East pool heading into Sunday’s get-together.

And as a stable follow-up to Saturday afternoon’s bell-ringing 1-1 draw at the regal New Hampshire Wildcats and the Terriers’ hot-streak halting 3-2 falter to Connecticut, the third place Friars strode further ahead with a 3-1 triumph at Schneider Arena, giving them a three-point standings edge over the Terriers (12-9 differential, with each team having played 9 of its 21 conference games).

Providence in effect compressed a brief, though mildly substantial, two-game winless streak and improved to 4-1-1 since the New Year. It also made a firm statement in Part I of what will be a hasty, but perhaps implication-crammed, three-game season series that is slated to be over with a week from Saturday when these teams complete a home-and-home set.

In the process of completing their quick return pivot, the Friars saw tireless top gun Kathleen Smith rekindle her Ray Bourque-like productivity through two visually identical goals –both assisted by Katy Beach and classmate Sarah Feldman- and a helper on Danielle Tangredi’s eventual game-winner.

Smith’s first strike was on one of many draws forced by the poised, meticulous goaltending of BU’s Allyse Wilcox (33 saves). Feldman tipped her face-off win in the far circle to Beach on the left wing. Beach promptly forwarded the puck to Smith, who settled it at the center point and leveled a straightaway slapper into the top right shelf at 8:02 of the opening frame.

The Terriers retorted at 17:15 after all of their previous attacking zone buzzes had been flustered by the Friars’ concrete stick and body work. But on one more prolonged, and otherwise shotless, swarm, forward Caroline Bourdeau stamped a fugitive puck on the left branch behind the net and left it for linemate Jillian Kirchner, who simply thrust it into the cage off Danielle Ciarletta’s (26 saves) skate to send things into intermission at a 1-all count.

All but unyielding discipline from the first period (only one penalty per side) made haste to die on the new sheet, though it proved to give rise to feisty penalty killing units for the bulk of the middle frame. Providence thwarted the Terrier attack, confining it to four shots over three 5-on-4 sequences. BU did likewise on its own kill within the first five minutes, authorizing zero stabs at Wilcox.

On their next opportunity, though, the Friars’ lately arid power play revved up the sizzler, registering a whopping eight shots and inserting the eventual game-clincher at 15:53. Backliner Brittany Simpson, withholding the puck on the near circle-top, shipped it to Smith at the center point. Smith’s laser landed in a multi-body crease scramble before finding its way to Tangredi’s tape.

Tangredi whiffed on her first bid, but held on to spoon home her second conversion in as many days, restoring PC’s lead.

The Friars encored that in the middle of the third period on BU’s next kill. As was the case in the opening frame, Feldman nudged a face-off win back to Beach, who found an open Smith at the center point. Smith this time nailed a low-flying snapper to the left of Wilcox.

Not even a minute later were the Terriers granted a radiant opportunity to nibble back. In a span of eleven seconds Jean O’Neill was flagged for interference and Colleen Martin for body-checking to set up a 5-on-3 match for a grand playing time total of 1:49.

Boston, which completely flip-flopped the shooting imbalance in the third period, 13-6, charged up six of those shots over the two-player advantage and mustered one more just before Martin’s jailbreak. But Ciarletta answered impeccably to her most laborious period of the weekend to inch herself and her team above .500 once more.

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