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Monday, October 27, 2008

Women's Hockey 4, Maine 2

Friars shake off a Bear scare

Over the only timeout utilized on the day, with precisely 25.6 seconds to spare in regulation, the trailing, short-stocked Maine Black Bears’ bench was by a full rink’s length the more fervent sector of Schneider Arena.

The Friars’ visitors had resurrected for the whole closing frame to more than double their shooting output (14 for a day’s total of 22) and, starting with less than eight minutes to work with, had drawn nearly back-to-back 5-on-3 segments and cashed in to halve a 4-0 PC lead to 4-2.

Albeit not to the same degree as the previous afternoon against Boston College, Providence was again fiddling with hot, stick-fusing heat guns, risking another dramatic letdown.

But upon the subsequent draw in far half of the Black Bear end, the Friars clamped down to bar anymore rallying rushes and cemented the 4-2 win. Still not a complete game, in head coach Bob Deraney’s book, but an indubitable tilt to the upswing.

Deraney started with the obvious, gratified statement of acknowledging his team’s immediate redress. “Again, though,” he continued, “things are going along great then we take an unintelligent penalty, and then another one, and we breathe life into them. So, we have to find a way to play a full sixty minutes instead of fifty, or as it was yesterday, forty.”

But unlike Saturday’s partially self-inflicted, fall-from-ahead setback, Providence proudly made a case for majority rule through yesterday’s fifty minutes of command. After initially attending to the task of clogging Maine’s jumpstart onslaught over two early penalty kills, confining the Bears to merely one whole shot and constantly clearing the zone over those two sequences, they invaded goaltender Genevieve Turgeon’s vicinity and snowballed their own offensive, racking up a 16-3 shot count in the opening frame alone.

By the 10:58 mark, the Friars had already used their first power play to charge up three shots and center Jackie Duncan, churning like an aimless fly in the slot, drew a hooking infraction on Maine counterpart Vanessa Vani.

In the resultant 5-on-4 segment, Duncan carried right along with her non-mathematic input, offering a diagonal feed out of the near corner to point patroller Amber Yung. Yung dished a tape-to-tape lateral to associate Colleen Martin, who in turn whooshed it to Alyse Ruff, patiently parked before the far post. Ruff just as nimbly raked home the icebreaker with 11:42 gone.

Ninety-five seconds, one power play, and one recorded shot on net later, radiant rookie Laura Veharanta enhanced the edge to 2-0, accepting Brittany Simpson’s parallel feed and lobbing in her team-leading fifth strike of the season.

Although that would be a wrap for the man-up production, the Friars ultimately finished the day with a respectable 2-for-6 power play proficiency rate. And they had a slightly more rigid foundation to fly over compared to the majority of their outings in the young season.

“If you score power play goals, you’re probably going to be successful,” said Deraney. “And we have good personnel on our power play, and I think they’re all starting to adapt pretty nicely.”

Veharanta, who has now booked half of the team’s 10 total power play conversions, struck once more with 7:55 remaining in the second, finally renewing her feel for even strength scoring. Neither whistles nor zone clears on the Black Bears’ part could disrupt a chronic swirl in the depths of the attacking zone by the line of Kate Bacon, Erin Normore, and Ruff. The buzz carried right along as Veharanta, Ashley Cottrell, and Mari Pehkonen leapt on in a short-distance change and climaxed with Turgeon vainly attempting to clamp down a rebound around the near post. A fursiouly forking Cottrell ultimately tapped it up front for Veharanta to poke into the gaping goal.

Normore, who had earned the initial assist on Veharanta’s first connection, made it 4-0 less than a minute into the third, assuming control of the disc in neutral ice and strolling right in to snap her first tally of the season over Turgeon’s trapper.

Only then did the scrappy Black Bears –who dressed but 17 skaters to start the day and lost defender Elyce Thomas to a freak injury late in the first- perk up. They hatched their goose-egg with 6:45 remaining in the waning ticks of their first 5-on-3 edge courtesy of Ashley Norum’s homeward bound ice-kisser from the straightaway point.

In another two-and-a-half minutes, with Jennifer Friedman locked away for cross-checking, Jessica Bond nailed a one-time slapper off a behind-the-net feed from Jordan Colliton.

But the whistle scale balanced back out with 2:37 remaining as Pehkonen drew a tripping minor against Colliton while driving to Turgeon’s porch. The Friars proceeded to lash out another three power play shots while waiting out their redeeming, breathe-easy buzzer.

“We wanted to come out and play a better brand of hockey today, and we did,” Deraney granted.

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com

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