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Monday, October 26, 2009

On Hockey

One period wonders

As it happens, October 25 has hardly been an auspicious calendar date for the PC women in recent years. Two years back, they retched a wretched 5-0 decision in favor of Connecticut. And last season, a 1-0 lead at the end of Period One ultimately devolved to a numb 3-1 home falter before Boston College.

Not that any of that is supposed to influence the here and now, naturally. Regardless, if their exhibition game with McGill University a month ago to this date was their fire drill, the Friars were inexplicably ill-prepared for the third period inferno issued by Brown University yesterday afternoon.

Not unlike that harmless training tilt with the collegiate queens of Canada, the final result was a foul, fall-from-ahead, four-goal deficit –a 5-1 loss, specifically. This time, though, the Friars paid by watching the Bears wrest the Mayor’s Cup out of their clutch, listening to what must have been cicada-like whistles from the road fans in Schneider Arena, and dropping to an even .500 (3-3-2) on the year, when they could have been a comfy 4-2-2, or two games above the fence.

That was the magnitude of a forty-minute collapse that followed a decent, but still not job-finishing first period. And afterwards, head coach Bob Deraney was in a state slightly reminiscent of Steve Martin in the predicament scenes of Planes, Trains, and Automobiles.

“They continued to fight and we thought the fight was over,” he said bluntly. “We just thought it was eventually going to happen. It never eventually happens. You have to make it happen, and we didn’t.”

It seemed all good through the opening stanza. The Friars drew three opposing penalties and none of their own. Over those three power plays, which included a brief 5-on-3 segment and a nonstop 3:43 stretch of extra strength, they discharged 15 total shot attempts and reached goaltender Katie Jamieson 19 times on the whole period. One of them went through via Abby Gauthier at 11:27.

Even then, Deraney had something more ominous on his radar than what most in the barn likely detected. After all, his pupils were creating a favorable imbalance in ice shavings between the zones but not in terms of rewards on the scoreboard. They didn’t even convert during the aforementioned stretch of overlapping Brown penalty kills.

“I don’t think it’s their goalie,” he said when asked how it stayed merely 1-0 through intermission. “It’s our poor shooting. We had plenty of opportunities to score and we just didn’t put the puck where we needed to put it. She was down and out, out of position, and we made her look good tonight.

“When you get 19 shots and one goal, that’s not enough,” he continued. “We had a chance to put the game out of reach in the first period and we didn’t do it. That’s the ballgame right there, because they’re saying, ‘Hey we’ve got 40 minutes to go and we can play better.’ We’ve got 40 minutes to go and we think it’s going to be easy. And that’s what always happens when you think that.”

What happened took its sweet-and-sour time unfolding. In the second period, wherein PC outshot the Bears 8-7, goaltender Genevieve Lacasse survived two heart-stoppers. One was on a convincing snapper by Kelly Griffin from the near circle-top that dinked off the post less than thirty seconds after the opening draw. The other was a breakaway by Sasha Van Muyen in the 15th minute, mere moments after the Friars had spilled another power play (3 shots) that might have otherwise restored a lead deleted by Erica Farrer at 1:10.

At best, the extreme shift in momentum was giving off a foreshock at that point. But the third period was an unmistakable icequake. The Bears owned the shooting gallery, 10-5, beating Lacasse on two consecutive stabs at 2:48 and 7:54 and again between 11:22 and 12:59.

With a mere 4:48 to spare, the overcooked Lacasse gave way to Christina England the same way she did in the McGill scrimmage. Only here, England was finally shattering a marathon of anticipation. She had waited two-plus seasons, 79 games, and 37 appearances as a bench-bound backup to make her regulation game debut.

What’s that they say about anticipation versus what you get? Yeah, England proceeded to make three saves in an uneventful anticlimax. The bigger picture had sunk in already.

The Friars, now winless in their last three twirls after an irreproachable start and with roughly a quarter of their regular season on the shelf, have little to say and a thickset freight to do.

“We’ve got good enough players. We just have to get it done,” Deraney concluded.

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com