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Sunday, January 25, 2009

Women's Hockey 2, Boston University 0

Guts and glory
Uncomplaining Friars nip Terriers

Upon decking Boston University blueliner Sarah Appleton’s close-range slap shot with her midsection, Friars’ forward Jean O’Neill slid kneeling into the far wall, her bare hand positioned as though she had just been ambushed by appendicitis.

But O’Neill promptly pulled herself up, eyeing the still-active chase brewing in her zone until the defense went into breakout mode, signifying the OK for a line change.

On that counter rush, Colleen Martin forwarded the disc to Pam McDevitt, who would nimbly tour it down to face-to-face status with BU stopper Allyse Wilcox (23 saves). McDevitt would ultimately leave a rebound for weakside winger Katy Beach to slug home, granting the Friars a 1-0 edge at 2:49 of the third period.

Bobby Baun’s fabled “drugstore goal” from the 1964 Stanley Cup Finals, it was not. But it did symbolically set PC on an uplifting pace towards a 2-0 triumph yesterday before a slightly more sizeable, slightly feistier-than-usual congregation of 258 at Schneider Arena.

“That’s what it takes this time of year,” said a similarly exuberant head coach Bob Deraney. “We were willing to pay the price for victory, and as the season goes on, the price gets higher and higher.

“I said to them earlier this week, ‘You used to inspire me with your playing, but now I’m bored.’ Today they inspired me, and they inspired each other. That self-sacrifice is the epitome of a team, and I think that’s what we’re becoming now.”

En route to her fifth shutout of the season, goaltender Genevieve Lacasse (34 saves) held out one BU onslaught after another, including seven power play segments. The Terriers utilized the first two player-up cases of the day to crack open a gaping 12-5 edge under the SOG heading before fifteen minutes were gone.

In turn, the Friars wrinkled that gap back to 12-11 on six unanswered stabs in a matter of three minutes, during which Caroline Bourdeau and Russell served overlapping sentences for body-checking and tripping, respectively. But the seasoned Wilcox was equally responsive, thus sending each team to their dressing room with a goose-egg intact.

More of the same unfolded in the middle frame, with PC snuffing on each of four shots during their third power play before Lacasse zapped three Terrier attempts around the halfway mark.

The Friars most stimulating chance of the period, though, fell during yet a fourth PK in the seventeenth minute of action. Finnish flare Mari Pehkonen corralled the puck in her own end, cleared the road kill twig of point patroller Kasey Boucher, and gushed unchallenged down the right alley, only to be stoned by Wilcox, salvaging the scoreless knot for one more Zamboni shift.

“You’ve got two teams that compete extremely hard and have two terrific goaltenders,” Deraney acknowledged. “Allyse Wilcox is great (for BU), and obviously Genevieve played very well for us. So when you have a goalie battle, which it was today, you don’t expect a lot of goals to be scored.

“And the fact that we just stayed the course, just played our game, and just kept being disciplined enough to wait for the opportunity to strike, today it went our way.”

Specifically, it went their way moments after Lacasse had anchored a fifth PK on a carry-over hooking infraction to Ashley Cottrell, and after the rookie netminder pushed away two more shots as the Terriers lingered in her territory after Cottrell’s jailbreak at 1:27 of the third.

But with partial thanks to O’Neill’s grit, the Friars were soon on a fleeting counterattack and broke the ice together with BU’s spirits at 2:49.

Four minutes, 15 seconds, and one shot later, Pehkonen solidified the final score by deftly stickhandling through a nearly statuary maze of red bodies deep on the near side and slipping her sixth goal of the season under Wilcox.

From there, both teams dealt with another two penalty kills apiece, and within the final minute, the Terriers’ six-pack attack let its aggravation spill over. When Lacasse clamped down Tara Watchorn’s up front bid to summon a whistle with 39 seconds to spare, eleven stick-rattling bodies converged on her crease. Once the scrum was dispersed, BU’s top gun Melissa Anderson was boxed for barking with a 10-minute misconduct.

Still allotted five skaters –with Wilcox temporarily reinstated for a defensive zone face-off- the Terriers had their final rush cut off by Friar first-liner Alyse Ruff, who would draw a checking penalty against Watchorn as she stormed to the again-empty net.

The clock read exactly 0:00.9 by then. The subsequent drop of the puck would effectively drop Boston one point behind Providence in the Hockey East standings.

“I thought we were very disciplined today,” said Deraney. “Down the stretch, BU kind of lost their composure, but I think that had a lot to do with our mental toughness.”

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com

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