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Monday, March 9, 2009

New Hampshire 2, Boston College 1

Cats make it a fab four
Report based on Live Stats

Durham, N.H.- Katie King, the Olympic medal-laden second-year head coach at Boston College who hustled feverishly to spray plenty of ice chips over the program’s jagged memories between the summer of 2007 and the spring of 2008, let loose a headspun postgame statement following the Eagles’ 2-1 Hockey East championship falter.

“If we had twenty more minutes,” she said, her voice tuned with a mystery concoction of suspected bitterness, solace, and empty hypothetical marvel.

“Twenty more minutes,” she emphatically reiterated.

They just might have had it. But first, they would have needed a few more inches of net to hit and to have stolen a sliver of fortune from New Hampshire’s rookie stopper, Lindsay Minton, who upped her personal record to 10-0-0 in her first elimination swing as a collegian.

Kelli Stack, the newly anointed Cammi Granato Award winner who had been foiled on all of her six preceding shot attempts, watched her seventh bid fizzle wide into oblivion on the cusp of the final buzzer. The remnants ultimately turned up in the grip of linemate Allie Thunstrom, who like Marian Hossa in the dusking seconds of last year’s Stanley Cup Final heaved one more registered stab –also her sixth of the day- at Minton (20 saves).

But in perfect accordance with the play that dramatically nailed Detroit’s fourth league title in recent memory, Minton coolly stuffed this one up too and waited out the remaining nanoseconds, thereby granting the Wildcats their fourth WHEA crown in as many years before an elated audience of 1,201 at the Whittemore Center.

Minton was 1-0-0, coupled with two no-decisions, while her sophomore supplement Kayley Herman was 8-5-5 when the December deceleration kicked in. She has since laid claim to credit for nine of the Wildcats’ last 15 wins, which have fallen in one unblemished string.

“She probably would like to have that goal back that they got (from Meghan Fardelmann at 13:22 of the third),” said Cats’ coach Brian McCloskey. “But she shut the door several times when they were right on the doorstep, banging away

“For a freshman, to be thrown into the fire today –and in the second half of the season, we had decided to give her a shot- I think she’s undefeated, so it’s a credit to her. She had to make some key saves at times.”

Not so much in the initial stanza, though. UNH, still void of scorching scorer Jenn Wakefield’s services (she was termed “sixty percent” in health by McCloskey, but ought to be ready to return this weekend), reran its scrappy winning formula from Saturday’s 3-1 arrest of the Friars. They sculpted a gaping lead on the shot clock (10-2) and slipped two pucks behind goaltender Molly Schaus (21 saves) in the latter half of the period.

BC was trailing, 5-0, in the shooting gallery by the time Schaus first defaulted at the 10:40 mark, letting senior blueliner Kacey Bellamy –the eventual tournament MVP- lash home the icebreaker. Moments later, Stack and Thunstrom had their first hacks at Minton in immediate succession, but their bid for a draining cyclone in the Wildcat zone was effectively zapped by youthful linemate Mary Restuccia’s cross-checking minor at 12:22.

Fardelmann would be flagged for the same offense but 57 seconds later, amounting to a 5-on-3 segment of 1:03 tops and voicing a written invitation for UNH to vitally augment their lead, which they did at 14:00 via Micaela Long.

“I think we started off a little slow and that’s what that team likes,” conceded King. “They like you to start off slow because they want to capitalize at the beginning of the game and that’s what they’re good at.”

The Eagles nonetheless thawed out in the second, during which they commanded the shot clock, 11-7, and drew their lone two power plays on the day. All they would get on that front, though, were three foiled bids at Minton within the fourth and fifth minutes.

Minton’s sweatiest moments, though, fell within the final three minutes till intermission. She would freeze the clock at 17:25 upon stuffing up three unanswered shots –one from each of BC’s radiant first-liners- and two more from Stack within the final minute.

And she kept her balance through the duration of a carry-over flurry to commence the third. The Eagles notched six of the period’s first seven shots in a matter of eight minutes, yet couldn’t alter the 2-0 reading on the board.

But after they did –Fardelmann depositing the goods on a fleeting, one-shot gush with only 6:38 to spare- the Wildcats’ collective skating fortress perked up, blocking four of BC’s next six shots while guiding the other two wide.

And before long, Minton could step up as needed to stuff up the last-ditch six-pack attack.

“You knew that the next goal was going to be critical,” said McCloskey. “Fortunately, for us, it came late in the game.”

And the Granite State Goddesses exult once more.

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com

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