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Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Hockey Log

Numbers game not a guaranteed win

For the first 12 out of 14 stretch drive games last season, the PC women –their roster then lacking a few invaluable spare bodies- thrashed at a playoff bid shorthanded with a protracted lower body injury to senior captain Rachel Crissy, and –for one of those nights- Jenna Keilch.

Their transcript in that speedbumped sprint: an iffy 6-5-1. The end result: by the time Crissy returned to plug that void in the active forward’s dozen, they had but two games left to scrape out one last requisite point to secure their postseason passports; which they did.

Only now has the latest edition of PC’s Skating Sorority been informed that constant shorthanded play needn’t be so taxing. With the privilege of a full 18-skater rota plus up to three extras in the bleachers per night, they will commence the heat of the 2008-09 Hockey East pennant race Saturday with New Hampshire, which has so far salvaged its viability even with a humble smattering of 17 players (15 skaters, two goalies) all season.

It will automatically mark the Friars’ fourth consecutive engagement with an incomplete bench. And their immediate history debunks any assertion that the more populous posse is Vegas’ computerized favorite.

Last week, Yale University had all of nine strikers and five defenders to work with and initially gave PC a few inches in the form of a 13-8 shooting advantage after Period One, a 1-0 connectivity difference at 3:26 of the second, and one trip to the sin bin versus four against the Bulldogs. Over time, though, unyielding Yale goaltender Jackee Snikeris was rewarded for her patience as the her mates commanded the shooting gallery, 27-14, over the latter two periods, pulled even to enact a bonus round, then nimbly won it all via top gun Crysti Howser 12 seconds into the extra frame.

Cornell, whose own Rebecca Johnston has been out sporting Canada’s colors at the MLP Cup in Germany, iced but three full forward lines with a remainder of one but mustered seven goals over two games with the obsessive-defensive Friars. In both Sunday’s gallant 4-3 triumph and Monday’s 4-1 migraine, PC saw sizeable patches of momentum and disorder. But save for Sunday’s decisive second period when they abolished a 3-1 deficit, they were flatly barred by a rigid goaltender in Kayla Strong.

Up next in the countering cage: Wildcats’ sophomore Kayley Herman, who, all things considered, has reasonably followed up on her searing rookie campaign. Her vital in-game stats have expectably dipped along with the rest of her team, but she has decided all but one of New Hampshire’s nine victories.

Leading the way in front of Herman: the same old Jenn Wakefield and Sam Faber, both with 20-plus points through 15 games played.

And confronting Providence without the maximum limit of participants is hardly new to Brian McCloskey’s aspiring dynastic pupils. Two years ago, over the final weekend of January, UNH dropped in at Schneider Arena with an injury-shriveled depth chart (two missing forwards) and pulled off a 3-1 knockout. They iced the same short-circuited roster the next day at Lake Whittemore and held up for a 2-2 tie, outshooting the Friars, 4-0, in the bonus period and 42-18 altogether.

Quick Feeds: First-line pivot Ashley Cottrell, the lone Friar to brush the scoresheet in Monday’s loss with an unassisted goal, was also the lone figure on her bench to post a positive plus/minus rating, effectively upping her team-best rate on the year to +11…With a 1-2 performance over the last week, PC spilled all six of its votes in the USCHO Top 10 poll…Saturday’s get-together will be UNH’s first intercollegiate engagement since December 9, when they blanked Northeastern, 3-0, at the Whittemore Center.

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com

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