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Saturday, February 14, 2009

New Hampshire 3, Women's Hockey 2

Rancid regression
Friars spill five power plays, take nipping from UNH

With an even 51 ticks to spare on the game clock, the New Hampshire Wildcats all but gave the fumbling Friars a peculiar, concerned glance of goodwill as if to ask if they were sure they were not in an irregular state of affairs.

The ostensible dagger in the form of an empty netter morphed into a near-written invitation to force overtime and a 180-degree swing of momentum as Kelly Cahill’s infraction for unsportsmanlike conduct granted Providence its fourth power play on the night.

Over their previous four chances, they had indulged in all of a mere two shots while authorizing a UNH shorthanded strike. But with the 3-2 deficit unchanged on the preceding official ruling, the Friars were afforded one last option at plowing away the remnants of 59 slushy minutes and salvaging invaluable credence on their 2008-09 season transcript.

Nothing doing. Two hasty stabs via Kate Bacon and Katy Beach aside, they sneezed once more and watched the downer go final before a noticeably bipartisan mass of 278 at Schneider Arena.

“It’s overconfidence,” said head coach Bob Deraney in pointing to the culprit behind his team’s first case of consecutive falters since the first half of October. “We don’t have the right to be confident. We have to keep proving that we’re good instead of thinking we’re good.”

As was the case in last weekend’s shortcoming at Northeastern of an identical 3-2 upshot but an effort much more saturated with solace, the Friars degraded their adversaries in the way of discipline, taking but a singular minor penalty on the night (Beach for body-checking at 12:48 of the third). But the power play brigade was again hushed on an entire cornucopia of chances.

The harrowing difference last night: they looked to be stickhandling through quicksand and engaged in a disorderly, two-way game of Minesweeper.

“They’re not doing what we ask them to do,” Deraney said with bitterly brisk delivery. “We’re not executing what we practiced all week. All of a sudden, game time comes, and we do something different.”

Many other elements deviated from the norm when Schneider Arena maximized its lighting usage for the WHEA’s most consistently intense rivalry last night. A rather unlikely goaltending card pitting Danielle Ciarletta against Lindsey Minton would see each party charge up a light bushel of 20 saves apiece –even with one of the league’s highest-shooting stick racks coming at them. And to start, they each handled a digestibly sparse eight stabs apiece through a conservative, clean, penalty-free first period.

Then, for near-lack of other jutting options, the Wildcats slickly pounced on a pair of serendipitous, fleeting rushes to plant a 2-0 lead by the 15:40 mark of the middle frame.

In the second minute, right on the heels of repressing one of Erin Normore’s trademark singlehanded drives into the UNH zone, Jenn Wakefield shipped the newly intercepted disc ahead to Raylen Dziengelewski along the far blue line wall. Dziengelewski was just as apt to reel a feed square ahead to Angela Taylor, who churned in deep to lace home the icebreaker to the left of Ciarletta at 1:41.

The Cats coolly went on to deal with two unanswered Providence power plays and augmented their edge with eight seconds left on the latter kill via Kelly Paton, whose execution bore visual fraternity to that of Taylor some fourteen minutes prior.

Less than two minutes later, though, the Friars sawed the deficit on a quick counter-incision through the dirty-nose zone. Puck-carrier Jean O’Neill cleared a collage of blue bodies in the high slot and handed things over to Abby Gauthier, who raked in her second career goal behind the back of an unsuspecting Minton.

But Sam Faber –the decider in last year’s Hockey East title tilt- got reacquainted with Ciarletta at 3:27 of the third, circumventing defender Amber Yung and thumping home a backhanded ice-kisser, ultimately spelling the difference in the game.

Bacon –who partook six of PC’s 22 registered stabs on the night- belatedly retorted for her team with 3:20 to spare. As sophomore Alyse Ruff strolled the puck down the near lane from end-to-end, Bacon accordingly took to the cage right along the near post and tilted Ruff’s feed through the roof.

But dogged, cast-iron demonstrations of that nature were in much too short supply for the better part of last night.

“I’m really disappointed with the way we played,” Deraney concluded. “We didn’t push the pace, we kind of allowed them to dictate the play and the type of play that went on out there, and you can’t play them with their game. You gotta play to your strengths, not to their strengths, and we allowed them to play to their strengths tonight.”

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com

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