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Thursday, January 15, 2009

Hockey Log

Darts won the battle for bulls-eye
PC seeks better finishes

To their credit Tuesday night, the defenses at both ends grated all of the opposition’s flurries to reasonably ingestible fragments for their respective goaltenders. At no point were Providence starter Genevieve Lacasse, her eventual stand-in Jen Smith, or Dartmouth counterpart Carli Clemis left to sweat through a great, gale-forced salvo of shots.

But Dartmouth’s superior maneuverability and more spot-on precision gradually built up on the board, amounting to a 7-3 final up at Thompson Arena. The Big Green simply detected and exploited more openings in the ice and the cage, nailed more of those elusive second chances, and veiled their borders more rigidly –especially when on the penalty kill.

Now in the midst of a three-day cram to gear up for two days’ worth of weekend company from the Vermont Catamounts, Friars’ skipper Bob Deraney can all but scrap his customary skate-for-every-penalty drill. PC crushingly out-disciplined Dartmouth, drawing nine infractions on the opposing record while recording a comparatively docile three of their own.

The jutting problems that surfaced on Tuesday’s scorecard and call for a special teams’ sharpener were all post-whistle. Read Dartmouth’s power play proficiency: 2-for-3, four shots on net, an infinitesimal two minutes and 48 seconds with a numerical advantage.

Now the Friars’: 1-for-9, 10 shots on net, 15 minutes and nine seconds –translation: a quarter of the total game clock- with an extra player in service.

Shrewdness, not discipline, happened to be the most decisive element Tuesday. Both teams flashed it in spurts, and it was not partial to special teams segments, either.

Of the five goals Lacasse admitted in the first two periods, two were the product of a well-calculated deflection, another two from awareness on the rebound, and the fifth on a fleeting breakaway by Reagan Fischer.

Clemis was similarly fettered when Alyse Ruff raked home the remnants of Jennifer Friedman’s blocked shot, again when Erin Normore polished off the homeward bound trek of Kate Bacon’s long-range bid, and when Christie Jensen shipped the puck through neutral ice to grant Ruff and Laura Veharanta an effective two-on-one.

But Fischer’s connection was perhaps most telling as to the course of the game in that it fell a mere 24 seconds after Dartmouth had renewed its lead for the fourth time, Kelly Foley having buried Sarah Toupal’s garbage within a minute of Veharanta’s strike. In the dusk of that tempestuous second period, the Green had assumed a 5-3 edge, clutching the long-soapy momentum and resolutely vowing to enhance it.

That’s what they did in the third, nailing two out of a measly six sparsely distributed stabs at Lacasse and hushing the Friars over three more power plays.

The psyche-puncturing puckslide, as well as Lacasse’s night shift, ended on Dartmouth’s busiest buzz of the game, a good two minutes after Veharanta was through serving an ultimately harmless bench minor. In one unwhistled swing, the Big Green strike force persisted as Lacasse’s protection brigade blocked or turned wide six unanswered shots.

But finally, winger Shannon Bowman pelted the keeper and linemate Marley McMillan was primed to stash the vulnerable rebound.

It is now the Friars who must learn to max the art of rebounding. Their costly collection of shortcomings Tuesday shut down their nonconference slate at an iffy 5-7-1. At least a small handful of those owies might have been wowies with a few more auspicious bounces and finishes.

They have concocted an unsettling loss-win-loss-win-loss pattern since pulling their game schedule out of the cooler post-Christmas. Sequentially speaking, it has been a pattern nearly identical to the 38 minutes of back-bite they gave Dartmouth on Tuesday.

All that in mind, PC could stand to string a game-to-game throttle equivalent to what the Big Green made from the final 22 minutes of their get-together –complete with a devastating pile of stealthy strikes. Their opportunity to do that lies in the form of a dozen dates remaining in the Hockey East pennant race, where they are a more favorable 6-2-1 thus far.

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com

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