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Thursday, February 21, 2008

Hockey Log

PC, UNH women pose mutually revised tests

To say nothing has changed in the Providence-New Hampshire matchup, set to resurface at Schneider Arena this Saturday a month after their first meeting of the year, would only be minimally inaccurate.

The Friars (10-5-2) hold the elite distinction of being the lone Hockey East tenant to have usurped a point from the Big Blue Machine, having pulled off a 1-1 draw at the oft-infamous Lake Whittemore venue on January 19. That tie has been the lone punctuation mark in the 2nd-ranked Wildcats’ otherwise impeccable 16-0-1 blitz through the conference.

In that sense, there should now be a touch more assurance that this conference-founding rivalry still has enough kick for the Friars to feel like a kept cause.

One potential kicker, though: unlike the first chapter of the season series, the Wildcats can expect to have a full bench for this weekend’s home-and-home set. They were lacking the input of fiery freshman Courtney Birchard (6 goals, 10 points on the year) and sophomore sensation Kelly Paton (9 goals and 27 points).

Other than that, the roundly braced UNH has no call for upgrades. Five more of their puckslingers –Sam Faber, Sadie Wright-Ward, Jennifer Hitchcock, Jenn Wakefield, and Leah Craig- are all fastened on the league’s Top 10 list and a good breathing distance away from top Friar gun Kathleen Smith.

PC did lay out a sharp enough rubber-grater to dim that paranormal strike force last time, authorizing less than 10 shots per period and three in overtime for a game aggregate of 28. But the Wildcats countered with a bony 19 shots against and, when necessary, clung to the services of rookie goaltender Kayley Herman –who throughout her young career has let less get by her than an Oreck vacuum.

Since a December 7, 4-3, fang-chipper by Mercyhurst, New Hampshire has run up a twelve game unbeaten tear, not authorizing more than two goals per game. Herman has whiffed on a mere nine stabs over that span and taken credit for nine wins. And only recently, backup Lucy Schodel has granted her the occasional respite –and facilely picked up two goose-eggs of her own with a 6-0 thumping of Maine February 3 and 3-0 arrest of Vermont last Sunday.

What better baptism-by-fire for PC’s potential new hotline? On a here and now scale, the Friars are much more qualified for a share in the Wildcats’ first class car, streaking at 3-0 with a 17-6 scoring discrepancy. First line forwards Jean O’Neill, Alyse Ruff (Rookie of the Week for the third time this season), and Mari Pehkonen claim foremost responsibility for that with four, seven, and eight respective points.

Ruff (four points) and Pehkonen (five) are both fresh off career nights as part of an 8-3 overhaul of a feisty Northeastern team.

Another A-plus in discipline won’t hurt the Friars’ cause either. In their latest bout, the Cats’ only strike on Providence keeper Danielle Ciarletta –which crash-landed a Friar lead after only 2:44 of action late in the first period- was a byproduct of their first of two power plays. The Friars, meanwhile, were only a player up once about the halfway mark when UNH was flagged for too many players.

Quick Feeds: Nibbling on the single point from their last get-together, the Friars should be salivating for the full package, having lost their last four home dates with UNH. Last season, PC relinquished a 3-1 decision January 27 and absorbing a 7-0 lashing February 11. Their last win over the Wildcats was a 5-1 final on January 29, 2005…Earlier this week, PC’s season-ending trip to Boston College, initially slated for Sunday, March 2, was rescheduled for 2:00 on February 29. Men’s head coach Tim Army will be speaking at a Greater Boston Alumni Club dinner before his pupils battle the Eagles that same evening. All reports indicate that the women’s revision was sheer coincidence...Part II of the New Hampshire series will commence at Whittemore Center 2:00 Sunday.

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