Cats stand on guard
Unable to crack Herman, PC drops title game
Report based on NESN broadcast
Storrs, Conn.- In considerable parallel to the season-long enterprise of keeping their reckonable façade from becoming a mere relic, the Friars took a few precious moments to thaw out in Sunday’s Hockey East championship tilt.
When they fused, they forged another model arm wrestling bout with perennial rival New Hampshire, refusing to bend beyond an early 1-0 deficit and carping freshman phenom Kayley Herman around her net in the stretch drive.
But the roundly braced Wildcats –flaunting a 20-0-1 regular season transcript and fresh off a speaks-for-itself 8-0 drubbing of Boston University of the semi-final- held up and stoned the 1-0 final, denying Providence the league banner for the second straight season.
UNH has now three-peated immediately after the PC franchise had done the same upon the advent of this league. And as was the case at this time last year, the Cats will now be fostering for a national quarter-final clash with St. Lawrence while the Friars have settled on a .500 overall finish to their campaign.
Sam Faber, the very peak of the Wildcats’ Cyclopean scoring chart, planted the clinching goal on a crucial break late in Sunday’s first period –wherein UNH rang up an 11-4 edge in the shooting gallery. Friar Mari Pehkonen was swinging into a routine breakout whoosh before she was entangled by adamant backchecker Maggie Joyce.
Joyce proceeded to boot the biscuit ahead to forward Courtney Birchard along the near boards. Birchard in turn thrust a lateral feed to the Broadway alley, where a loose-flying Faber caught up with it and slipped it between the pads of goaltender Danielle Ciarletta (21 saves).
Providence perked up afterward and virtually pulled even everywhere save for the final frontier of the stats sheet. Effective grating on the part of both defensive units confined the countering strike forces to mostly flurries of shots, particularly over the five penalty kills that each team endured on the day. Both the Friars, whose power play was the clear-cut launching pad in Saturday’s 5-1 shellshocker of the host Huskies, and the Cats –tops in the nation when numerically superior- came up empty on every opportunity Sunday.
As needed, though, Ciarletta and Herman (17 saves) put forth the kind of goalkeeping that only seems to come out of hibernation when hardware and NCAA selection is on the line.
The Friars wrinkled the shooting discrepancy to 7-6, New Hampshire, through the middle frame and then led that category 6-4 in the third. In the sixth minute of the second, they afforded themselves two shorthanded near-misses –tthe first by Sarah Feldman and the latter by defender Brittany Simpson- to supplement a spilled power play the previous period when Ciarletta had to compress two Wildcat breakaways.
Within the final five minutes till the second intermission, the Cats endured three minor calls to grant PC a nearly unbroken 4:26 string of man-up time. Only four seconds after a savory 5-on-3 sequence expired for Providence, Joyce biffed Simpson before the New Hampshire bench, thereby earning a contact to the head citation.
UNH sewed its discipline back up for the better part of the third, though the Friars were creating many more quality swirls around Herman’s porch. In the eleventh minute, on the final PC penalty kill of the game, captain Rachel Crissy stripped defender Kacey Bellamy deep in the near circle and proceeded to take a face-to-face stab at Herman.
Only seconds after that fell through, Jenna Keilch similarly Heimliched Martine Garland and lured Herman out of her crease. Herman would recover to stamp the play before Keilch could muster any solid rebounds.
The Friars drew their last advantage –a slashing infraction on the part of Jenn Wakefield- in the final minute with Ciarletta already pulled and the six-pack attack gnashing about the New Hampshire end. But nothing they discharged on that last-ditch buzz even came within reach of Herman.