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Monday, September 29, 2008

Women's Hockey 4, Brampton Thunder 1

Misty play
Friars victorious in slushy, fog-filled scrimmage

On top of the usual telling dynamics –from the dasher boards still stripped of solicitations (bound to change in the coming weeks), to the rusty PA introductions, to Schneider Arena’s lone annual playing of “O, Canada”- the phrase preseason spoke at its utmost decibel through the Friars’ exhibition yesterday. Summer air, still explicitly lingering in the area, stalked the ice house to cloud the Plexiglas and, in collaboration with the cyclonic skating activity, emit a fog a la the Boston Garden circa May 1988, or Boston College’s Conte Forum about this time last year.

By the 8:30 mark of the middle frame, the officiating quad team spontaneously summoned all skaters out for few soft laps in an effort to neutralize the mist. Two like delays were ordered at 7:36 and 14:50.

The Friars may need the practice in the event of such stoppages when they delve into their regular season slate this weekend. Extended Weather Channel forecasts have relentlessly called for unseasonable 60s down the 10-day road.

Luckily, though, there would be no historic blackout or ref-ordered cancellation before the length of yesterday’s scrimmage panned out. Instead, PC swished effectively through both their adversaries –the Brampton Junior Thunder and the elements- en route to a 4-1 triumph.

“We’re trying to build team of speed, and it’s tough (as it is) to try to play through snow and slush,” head coach Bob Deraney acknowledged. “But our execution today wasn’t that bad, considering the conditions.”

In the younger stages of Sunday’s whirl, the Friar stick rack’s precision was satisfactory enough. They penetrated the steam well enough to land a hefty bushel of 13 first period shots –on top of any unrecorded wide attempts. Just as strikingly, though, Thunder stopper Andrea Weckman tracked and pushed away thirteen of those stabs.

The one she missed fell inauspiciously at the 3:44 mark, a mere 19 seconds after Brampton had gone on its first power play. Friar flare Mari Pehkonen pounced when the puck when it overran the twig of Thunder backliner Blaire MacDonald along the boards in neutral ice, strolled with it into the high slot, and whooshed a low flyer home over Weckman’s blocker.

The Thunder, who spilled a total of six power plays on the day, were at least visually productive in their more sparse visits to the PC zone in the first period. But a series of face-to-face confrontations with goaltender Danielle Ciarletta only amounted to two saves in her lone period of duty and a handful of wide attempts.

Providence evenly distributed the scarcely arduous crease-watching workload between Ciarletta, Jennifer Smith –who yielded the loan Brampton goal, a low rider through a screen courtesy Olivia Crossley at 12:29 of the second period- and freshman Genevieve Lacasse, who logged a light three saves on as many shots faced in the third.

Conversely, Weckman valiantly absorbed another 32 shots over the latter forty minutes and authorized a costly three goals.

On the heels of killing their second penalty, the Friars inserted the eventual clincher with 12:36 to spare in the middle frame. Rookie forward Abby Gauthier absorbed Brittany Simpson’s neutral zone feed at the blue line, pierced unchallenged down the middle alley to seduce Weckman into a sprawling pose, and left a rebound for Jackie Duncan to spoon upstairs.

Duncan, yearning for a delayed breakthrough in her junior campaign after participating off and on, particularly last season, struck again at 11:47of the third, swooping in from the left alley to rake home a one-timer off Arianna Rigano’s headman feed.

A visually similar play fastened the 4-1 final and invited two PC rookies to their first scoresheet with a mere 4:28 to spare. Defender Jennifer Friedman hauled the puck through the near alley of the neutral zone, then thrust it at Weckman’s porch for an incoming Laura Verahanta to bury.

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