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Monday, January 19, 2009

Vermont 5, Women's Hockey 2

Recurrent nightmares
PC blows a tire before Catamounts

Report based on Gametracker

The collective implications within yesterday’s pre-game layout could have served as a stimulating Hall of Mirrors for an ostensibly opportunistic Friars team.

After finishing strong in Part I of their two-day visit from Vermont –a 3-0 win- they were within tasting distance of polishing off a second 3-0-0 season series sweep, having already abolished the equally plebeian Maine Black Bears. Doing so would have advanced their own cause while starting up the Catamounts’ annual stretch drive burial in ice chips.

They were on the cusp of inching their home record above the .500 fence for the first time in the 2008-09 season after 12 tries altogether. And they might have put a favorable spin on the loss-win-loss-win rut that has hampered them since they awoke from a three-week’s holiday hibernation.

Instead, this morning’s awakening within the Skating Sorority is inclined to be accompanied by migraines, grunts, and a quick steaming punch to the wall. Providence spilled an initial 2-1 lead, allowing three second period goals, and ultimately faltered, 5-2, at Schneider Arena. Thus Vermont, for the second year in a row, averted a clean sweep at the hands of the Friars, who have submitted to the Catamounts for the first time on their home pond and broken double digits in their overall “L” column.

As was the case in their only other near-miss some 12 months ago at Gutterson Fieldhouse, PC slipped upon failing to bust out of an offensively fettered state. Vermont, conversely, concocted its best offensive showcase since opening weekend, highlighted by Erin Barley-Maloney’s playmaker hat trick, a goal-assist value pack for first-liners Chelsea Furlani and Molly Morrison, two helpers courtesy Peggy Wakeham, and a 2-1-3 night by ex-Friar Brittany Nelson.

The resolute Catamounts veiled the Friars’ scorecard-length dominance –three power plays to none, 11-4 shooting advantage, 17-7 face-off edge- for the better part of the opening frame, keeping no more than one stride behind in the core category. For a considerable stretch of time, the obsessive-defensive showdown unfolded, yet again, with the look and feel of one of Lou Lamoriello’s Intrasquad Extravaganzas.

Seven face-offs and nearly five minutes worth of playing time elapsed without either goaltender coming into play until Katy Beach finally gave Vermont’s Kristen Olychuck (26 total saves) something to ensnare and haul in. On the subsequent face-off, starting left winger Kate Bacon converted PC’s second stab on a feed from Erin Normore, planting a 1-0 lead at the 5:02 mark.

Apart from that, Olychuck was kept pleasurably unpestered for the bulk of the first period, left to deal with diddlysquat over two unanswered PC power plays and turning aside another five shots before her own top gun, Teddy Fortin, beat Genevieve Lacasse (15 saves) at 13:00, pulling things even.

The Friars, who authorized a mere four shots against their keeper in the opening stanza, took the new enlightenment into perspective and out on Olychuck. Drawing a third power in the form of a checking minor to Middletown native Kailey Nash, they pelted Olychuck on a four shot sugar rush within the final minute-and-a-half till intermission. Point patroller Jennifer Friedman –with the aid of Beach and Mari Pehkonen- climaxed the flurry with the go-ahead strike, her third goal on the weekend, with only four seconds to spare.

Within the first four minutes of the middle frame, Olychuck neutralized another power play onslaught –consisting of two shots- while the ex-Friar Nelson did time. But around the halfway mark, the Friars’ daylong unyielding discipline broke a profuse sweat, as did Lacasse’s latest entry to her game log.

A tripping infraction against Arianna Rigano at 9:34 and interference flag on Alyse Ruff at 10:49 spelled 45 seconds worth of 5-on-3 for the salivating Catamounts. Sarah Smiddy converted for the 2-2 draw a mere four seconds before Rigano’s due jailbreak and a subsequent checking minor to defender Colleen Martin put Providence down a pair for another 61 seconds.

It only took ten seconds for Ruff to be summoned back out, though. Nelson planted Vermont a 3-2 edge at 11:48. And the harrowing puckslide only gained oppressive momentum against the Friars, who after four unanswered swings at Olychuck authorized 11 of the next 13 shots.

At 16:34, Furlani, with the aid of her linemates Nelson and Morrison, enhanced the difference to 4-2, where it stayed through intermission.

Olychuck wound things down for her club in the third, despite a 10-4 shot deficit working against them. And with a six-pack attack deployed over their sixth and final power play, the Friars relinquished an empty netter to Nelson with 2:13 remaining.

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com

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