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Saturday, March 8, 2008

Women's Hockey 5, Connecticut 1

Power to PC

Friars overthrow UConn, advance to HEA championship

Report based on CSTV’s Gametracker service

Storrs, Conn.- The Friars’ third visit to Connecticut in 2007-08 was less of a charm and more of a seaport-bred pearl. Given the difference in dynamics and lining up the three scoreboards, it was a few shavings shy of a 360-degree reversal.

After submitting to the longer-gelled Huskies in two regular season drop-ins by an 8-0 aggregate, Providence returned for Saturday’s Hockey East semi-final game with only a week-old passport to the tournament. They proceeded to charge up a startling 5-1 victory, holding UConn off the board until a late 6-on-4 empty net/power play sequence with 2:28 to spare in the third period.

With that, and roundly braced New Hampshire’s 8-0 throttling of Boston University a few hours previous, the league’s old time Habs-Leafs style rivalry will revive in Sunday afternoon’s championship. The Friars will be drooling after a chance to avenge last year’s falter in the same game when the Wildcats hoisted their second consecutive conference banner on their home pond.

Hot-bladed Mari Pehkonen dismantled her teams scoring woes on this surface, spotting two goals on as many shots within the first fourteen minutes of play. Freshman blueliner Amber Yung pitched in a natural playmaker hat trick to have the Friars up 3-0 just before the halfway mark. And by the time all the ink dried on the scoresheet, half of the 18 Providence skaters were on it –including three holdovers from their last conference title team in Kathleen Smith, Cherie Hendrickson, and Kelli Doolin.

Referee Bill Doiron made his own ripples in the game, issuing a total of seven penalties to each bench, eleven of those calls coming in the decisive first two periods. But PC somehow reaped all of the power play rewards, converting thrice with 12 registered stabs at UConn goalie Brittany Wilson while only letting three come within Danielle Ciarletta’s reach when on the kill.

The Friars sculpted a light 7-5 edge in the shooting gallery over the first twenty minutes, though they saw another seven attempts blocked and another four go wide. But with that statistically blanketed imbalance, PC spun the Huskies into a mad dog state, drawing three scarring penalties on the host club.

After they were issued a bench minor for too many players at 4:04, UConn did spark a quick shorthanded break. But when Ciarletta stifled that, an attacking Jennifer Chaisson took a contact to the head citation and granted Providence 54 seconds of 5-on-3.

By the 5:56 mark, eight seconds before the Huskies’ first sentence was through, point patrollers Amber Yung and Erin Normore kneaded a setup for the Finn Friar’s first strike.

Within another eight minutes, Brianna Uliasz was flagged for hooking and watched from her cell as Pehkonen planted a 2-0 Providence edge, converting a feed from linemate Jean O’Neill at 13:12.

Opportunity did make haste to swerve UConn’s way near the end of the period and onto the fresh sheet. But by the sixth minute of the middle frame, they had spilled their own threesome of power plays, mustering zilch in the way of whacks at Ciarletta.

Only ten seconds after Friar Katy Beach made her second jailbreak of the game, an interference call on Bridget King put the PC strike force back on duty. Though the Huskies withstood one registered shot by Normore on that kill, they were right back at it at 7:55 –ten ticks after King’s release- due to a checking infraction by Cristin Allen.

Yung fanned on two attempts from her point post before handing things over to Alyse Ruff. Ruff in turn found Smith, who drilled home the Friars’ third conversion of the day at 9:40.

PC got a brief kicker minutes later when back-to-back penalties granted UConn 29 seconds of 5-on-3. But Ciarletta pushed away all three shots faced over that stretch and getting the rest of the period off.

Hendrickson augmented the lead to 4-0 right at the horn, nailing home a Doolin rebound.

The Friars flustered the Huskies’ rally efforts for the better part of the third period, deploying another laser-beamed PK square around the halfway mark that forced three attempts to go wide and another off the post.

Michelle Binning finally put her club on the board at 17:32 only to have Normore solidify the four-goal difference with an empty netter at 19:34.

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