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Sunday, October 5, 2008

Ohio State 3, Women's Hockey 2

Friars leap-frogged by Buckeyes in third

Reaping for a quick statistical and emotional redress before the curtains dropped on opening weekend, the Providence College bench was unmistakably jumpy at the 1:56 mark of yesterday’s first period when Abby Gauthier poked home the icebreaker. It made for a no-time-wasted lead and the team’s second consecutive rookie to break in her membership on the stats sheet.

On the whole, it was mission accomplished –if you’re abiding by the Commander-in-Chief’s Dictionary.

Only able to nudge back ahead in the second after Ohio State retorted, PC watched a bushel of missed opportunities bolster the Buckeyes to two tautly executed third period goals, amounting to a 3-2 loss and the short end of a weekend sweep.

Thriving only in spurts, and spilling eight of nine power play opportunities –as they did in Friday night’s 2-1 shortcoming, the Friars came away from the series still feeling a stinging need for 60-minute energy.

“I thought that we didn’t play with as much jump and tenacity as we did in the third period (of Game 1) and I just think that has to do with playing six periods in less than 24 hours,” mused head coach Bob Deraney. “It might be a conditioning thing. There’s a lot of young kids in our lineup who aren’t used to playing that type of hockey, so I credit a little bit of that to the end result.”

Yesterday’s puck took protracted, football-paced shifts through the two zones for the better part of the game. No stoppages of any sort were warranted on the Friars’ opening onslaught, wherein the Buckeyes twice cleared the zone only to promptly regress to backcheck mode. And a few ticks shy of the two-minute mark, attacker Jackie Duncan unleashed a centering feed from the far corner for Gauthier to stuff in on the first shot of the game.

But the road to reversal was idled by a hooking penalty to Kate Bacon at 3:45, which opened the door to a Buckeye buzz. It only took OSU two shots in 20 man-up seconds to beat freshman stopper Genevieve Lacasse (32 saves). A seated Lacasse couldn’t clamp down the fugitive puck in a too-crowded-for-comfort crease and forward Natalie Spooner whipped it home, knotting the score with still a mere 4:05 off the clock.

That type of fruitful ineptitude on the Buckeyes’ part would ultimately define Lacasse’s 101 lesson on tending an NCAA net.

“Every goal that was scored on her was just a play where we lost some one-on-one battles where we really didn’t help her out,” Deraney observed. “She didn’t let in any shots, she let in three scrums. And our defensive responsibility is not to let those scrums happen.”

Indeed, minus the scrums, Lacasse resolutely thwarted everything even as the one-way biscuit blizzard carried over into the second period. The Buckeyes augmented their 13-5 shooting edge from the close of the first to 20-5 well before the five-minute mark. But Lacasse kept the Friars afloat leading up another tide-turner –this one a holding penalty to OSU defender Teal Bishop at 5:15.

PC’s perked-again run rack nimbly proceeded to draw another call –a tripping infraction on Spooner- to allot them a savory 94 seconds of 5-on-3 play. And in another 51 seconds of patient, shotless puck rotation, near point patroller Brittany Simpson shipped a diagonal feed to Mari Pehkonen along the far post. Pehkonen’s lightly delivered bid, slowly but surely, dripped past goaltender Liana Bonanno (31 saves) with still another 1:09 to work with on Spooner’s sentence.

Much like Lacasse, though, Bonanno fused afterward, even as the Friars racked up another 12 registered stabs, four of those spread over another protracted 5-on-3 sequence.

At day’s end, Bonanno had pushed away 16 power play shots, and, Deraney suggested, could have confronted more.

“On the power play, there’s no doubt that they want to do the right thing,” said Deraney of his strike force. “(But) so much so that they put themselves in a disadvantaged position around the net. They’re so intent on going to the cage when a shot in taken that if the puck shoots right by them, they’re too close (to the net to retrieve it). You can’t fault them for wanting to do the right thing but they do need to put themselves in better situations with the puck.”

The productive famine came back to bite the Friars in the third. In the seventh minute, Spooner strode down the far lane and lobbed a backhand feed into another congesting collage of bodies in the crease. Morgan Marziali ultimately assumed control and nudged it in.

Then, with a mere 6:32 to spare, Buckeye Laura McIntosh picked off a PC breakout in neutral ice, snaked through a small maze to the slot, and let a trickler squirt past Lacasse for the eventual decider.

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