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Sunday, March 8, 2009

New Hampshire 3, Women's Hockey 1

PC pierced early, fails to compensate
Report based on Live Stats

Durham, N.H.- Yet again, it’s springtime for Brian McCloskey and New Hampshire, winter for Providence College and Bob Deraney. Mood-wise, that is.

Or, more technically speaking, it’s vice versa. After all, the Wildcats –victors in a 3-1 decision yesterday at the Whittemore Center- live to exercise their Hockey East tournament hosting rights in today’s title tilt with Boston College, who will likely proceed to join them next weekend for an extension of ice in the NCAA’s Elite Eight.

Meanwhile, the Friars –who had but one honorable mention vote in this week’s USA Today leaderboard to subsist on- are now best served whetting their active appetites for golf clubs, rollerblades, and wiffle balls. Altogether malodorous, vinegary flowers have already sprouted through their ice.

But regardless of seasonal vantage points, the same tantalizing falter has simply recycled itself once more for Providence, shortcomers in a genuinely gung ho, do-or-die bout with their time-honored rivals at the close of each of their last three seasons.

Yet again, the moment of truth of this 2008-09 campaign mirrored the course of the preceding 34-game ride –and that went for both contesting parties. Even when it looked like the hockey gods were going to enact a hardcore empirical collapse on the dynastic Wildcats the same way they have the Friars post-2005, McCloskey’s underenrolled capstone class defied everything.

Merely hours removed from learning that their top gun Jenn Wakefield would be sitting out with an unspecified injury, leaving them with the depth chart of perfect NHL Golden Era size (three forward lines, two D-units), New Hampshire went on a rackety first period sugar rush. In the midst of running up a 12-3 edge in the shooting gallery, they stashed away two late goals, ultimately spelling the difference.

“Probably one of our strongest twenty minutes of the year,” said senior defender Kacey Bellamy, who by day’s end had tied junior first-line center Kelly Paton with a whopping six shots at Friar goaltender Genevieve Lacasse (25 saves).

The gradually mollified Lacasse held up with no explicit damage until her teammates’ discipline defaulted at the 14:23 mark –Ashley Cottrell going off for interference. Right off the subsequent draw, seasoned Providence persecutors Paton and Courtney Birchard collaborated to set up the point patroller Bellamy, who drilled home her third player-up conversion of the season at 14:31.

While the getting was still good, sophomore forward Julie Allen polished off linemate Angela Taylor’s rebound at 15:54, prompting Deraney to lavish his timeout far earlier than he would have naturally preferred.

“That didn’t make any difference to us,” he said concerning his squad’s all but iniquitous numerical advantage, one that did nothing to bolster their cause on umpteen occasions this season anyway. “Watching them compete the way they competed and how intelligently they played, we knew it was going to be a small margin of error.

“Hey, they worked hard, they got the breaks at the beginning of the game and in the end you can’t give up untimely goals.”

And so, although McCloskey admitted the scoring differential was still too close for comfort, his pupils indulged in their unique home ice auspices for the remaining two periods. Save for Abby Gauthier’s incision at 11:32, home stopper Kayley Herman (21 saves) halted the whole of a 12-shot counterattack in the middle frame and was kept virtually unoccupied over her last three penalty kills.

The Friars –who had been stuffed up on first period two opportunities- mustered but one registered stab on their last full-length power play before the halfway mark of the second. They saw two more 5-on-4 segments cut off prematurely with an infraction of their own.

“In this building, against this team, no matter how many players they have, it’s a pretty big feat to try to overcome –to say enough about a terrific performance by UNH today,” said Deraney.

Still that one vital stride ahead to start the closing frame, the Wildcats drearily held out on the Friars’ strike force for the first ten minutes –ultimately confining them to a stanza’s worth of seven shots- then renewed their two-goal edge courtesy Micaela Long with a precious 6:31 to spare in regulation.

PC’s unfavorable 40-minute game of catch-up had been lost.

“We started off a little afraid,” said senior forward Erin Normore, who nabbed her 91st and final career point through a helper on Gauthier’s goal. “But I thought as the game went on we picked it up a lot and the tempo picked up.

“We knew that they had a short bench, so we figured if we outskated them it would create more opportunities for us, so we picked it up near the end. But, unfortunately, we fell short.”

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com

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