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Saturday, February 21, 2009

Boston College 5, Women's Hockey 1

Hole-some home finale
Friars grounded by soaring Eagles

An untimely bout of senioritis caught them in a psychological bear trap right at the starting line. A vengeful swarm of Eagles –bolstered by starting forwards Mary Restuccia, Kelli Stack, and Allie Thunstrom, who would constitute the postgame three stars selection- attacked accordingly.

And the blunderstruck Friars, their NCAA at-large privileges long bone-dry, fell excruciatingly short in the ensuing game of catch-up while Boston College stamped their claim on the last remaining first round bye into the WHEA semifinals through a 5-1 decision before 290 spectators at Schneider Arena yesterday afternoon.

The Eagles, comfortably and progressively removed from the now-hardly mentionable Tom Mutch debacle from 2007, have by all counts replenished the foundation they sculpted beforehand and temporarily mislaid last season. Fitting for them, they cemented second-place in the league and further emboldened their national viability at the expense of the program that somehow bested them in the climax of the 2008 playoff push –even when BC took three of four possible points in the home-and-home finale.

“They didn’t forget what happened a year ago when we ended their season here,” said PC skipper Bob Deraney, his tires now all but having hit the end of a bottomless pit of aggravation. “They came in with something to prove and they beat us in every aspect of the game right from the very beginning.”

The designedly all-senior starting lineup met an abrupt, bitter end to their single, sentimentally-grounded shift together on the heels of their pregame recognition ceremonies. In a matter of sixteen seconds, Boston’s aforementioned turbine trinity planted a prompt 1-0 lead on their first shot of the day.

Restuccia, hovering adjacent to the near post, collected the disc and laced it behind the cage to Stack. Stack thrust it up front for Thunstrom, who slugged a low-riding one-timer behind the back of stopper Danielle Ciarletta.

The next two whistles, blown at 0:53 and 1:01, were summoned by PC icings.

The Friars, who would sprinkle an 8-6 lead in the first period shooting gallery, proceeded to spill two bite-sized power plays before the 15-minute mark and was singed once more by the Eagles’ top attacking brigade at 16:25. This time, the celestial Stack –who earlier in the week had her mug on display in the Sports Illustrated “Faces in the Crowd” column- strolled Thunstrom’s neutral zone feed down the far alley and deposited a soapy rebound off Ciarletta’s boot. Restuccia, swooping in on the weak side, raked it in.

And three minutes later, Thunstrom collected her third point and granted Stack a playmaker hat trick, nimbly rushing in and roofing a wrister mere inches below the spot where Stack had dinged one off the crossbar in the 11th minute.

Ciarletta was finished by period’s end, having let half of six shots faced sneak through. And even with Genevieve Lacasse (17 saves) up to the task of compressing the open lesion, the Friars weren’t sufficiently apt to recompense.

“It comes down to individuals being willing to do what it takes mentally, physically, and intelligently,” said Deraney. “To compete to win loose puck battles, loose puck races, and make plays. They were quicker, faster, stronger, and smarter than us today. The best team won today, and that was that.”

The Eagles pulled the shot clock to an even 15-15 in the second period and augmented their edge to 4-0 with a mere 1:25 gone. Center Becky Zavisza scratched her face-off win back to far point patroller Shannon Webster, who settled it down at the circle top, then scorched it home through a forest of maroon and white bodies.

At the very least, Providence perked up and mimicked that method of execution to hop aboard at 9:05. Freshman Ashley Cottrell blindly bumped the puck off the near dot to Mari Pehkonen on her right and the Finnish Flare drilled home her 10th strike of the season, good for second on the team scoring charts.

Elsewhere, though, the Friars did nothing to expressly follow the resurgent Eagles’ example. They whiffed on two more power play shots in the young stages of the third, and then allowed Maggie Taverna to finalize the 5-1 knockout on BC’s penultimate player-up sequence.

As a distressingly dragged-out consequence, they have now dropped four straight for their lengthiest point drought in two years. And they have but one remaining call –to Conte Forum this afternoon for the rematch- to perhaps spontaneously schedule one more home game for the preliminary round. Or, if outside disturbances don’t permit that, renew their dignity before crossing into the ultra-hyped, ultra-anticipated second season.

“Nothing needs to be said. There’s been enough talk,” said Deraney. “They have to come in ready to play. We are a much better team than we’ve shown in the last couple of games. But it’s up to them to bring it to the table now. We’ve had a whole year of preparation, and we know what we need to do.”

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com

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