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Friday, February 29, 2008

Boston College 4, Women's Hockey 2

One offer left
With loss, Friars control own fate for one more day
Note: Report based on CSTV's Gametracker service

Chestnut Hill, Mass.- The sheets before the stat-scarfers foretold exactly what the sheet before the Conte Forum audience would present Friday: downright desperate hockey.

That said, with two teams -Providence and Boston College- both as bruised as a well-traveled batch of bananas and still not guaranteed any purpose for practice come Monday, the rinkwide wonders were clear cut. Who would crack first and allow the opponents' telling heroism to surface? Who might come through for their bench once that happened?

Nothing should be any different when these teams convene once more at Schneider Arena on Saturday. Backed by a dolphin show on the part of goaltender Molly Schaus (35 saves) and propped up by two timely third period goals by none other than master puckslinger Kelli Stack, the host Eagles extracted a 4-2 win.

BC had been subsisting on a 2-1 lead since 3:58 remained in the opening frame while the Friars ran up a shooting imbalance of 21-4 before Stack inserted her 20th tally of the season with only 5:05 to spare in regulation. Friar Cherie Hendrickson reduced the deficit to 3-2 during a molecular 6-on-4 sequence with 1:03 remaining only to see Stack rake away the renewed hope with an empty netter 59 seconds later.

And so, the Friars' choice is now simpler than shaved ice: pull out a point in Saturday's regular season finale or bank on Northeastern practicing some respectable restraint on the stalking BU Terriers. The Terriers are still three points behind PC in the playoff race, and now one behind the alive-and-well Eagles, as they kindle their home-and-home with the Huskies Saturday afternoon.

The youngest stages of Friday's contest projected a prompt pair of defensive spillages and a tatterting matinee for goaltenders Schaus and Danielle Ciarletta (15 saves) of PC. The Eagles broke the ice at 5:38 on their fifth of seven unanswered shots as defenders Gabrielle Beaudry and Cristin Stuart warmed up a hot cake on the points for Colleen Harris to ultimately jam home.

Precisely three minutes later, Rachel Crissy -returning to the Friar lineup after missing twelve games with a knee ailment- took a hooking penalty. By power play's end, the Eagles boasted a commanding 10-5 shooting edge.

But for a team in non-negotiable need of a point to preserve their season, BC was plenty blunderstruck for the rest of the ride. Between 12:02 and 13:33 of the opening frame, both of Stack's linemates -Meghan Fardelmann and Deborah Spillane- were flagged for hooking and checking respectively. Within nineteen seconds of Spillane's sentence, Mari Pehkonen struck the equalizer on her team's fourth PP stab.

By the time the Eagles' Erin Blood renewed the lead at 16:02, the shooting gallery was in a 12-12 deadlock. From there on out, though, it was Schaus' time to shine.

A chain of three Boston penalties in the middle of the second period offered the Friars a nonstop 4:33 window of power play time, including a glistening 80-second 5-on-3 sequence. Over the whole marathon, Providence dispensed six registered shots plus a last-minute flicker by Kathleen Smith that merely dinged off the iron.

By the time BC's Tracy Johnson got her jailbreak at 11:05 of the middle frame, the Friars had amassed 14 shots over six power plays, but still had only the Pehkonen conversion to speak of. Schaus did not budge even as her loyal guards authorized 10 stabs for a forty-minute total of 25 while they only sprinkled three occasional attempts at Ciarletta.

Even as PC took a few more tickets to the box -a hooking minor to Crissy at 2:04 and tripping infraction against Erin Normore (2 assists) at 6:54- they sculpted a 12-4 edge on the third period shooting gallery. But the way Schaus was flaunting her established big-game approach, an interference minor against Stephanie Olchowski and a timeout at 17:25 only bought so the Friars much.

At best, Hendrickson's goal warranted a certificate of moral momentum. But it will only be good for one more day.

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