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Saturday, October 24, 2009

Women's Hockey 2, Yale 2

Friars feeling buoyant over tie

The patently perilous Bray Ketchum, Yale’s junior centerpiece who already had a goal-assist value pack on the night and who had assisted on an overtime goal at the Friars’ expense last season, was somehow left free to play the role of lookout amidst a mass neutral zone scrum in the first minute of last night’s overtime period.

When the puck squirted loose from along the near wall, it was simply between the opportunistic Ketchum and goaltender Genevieve Lacasse to decide if the Bulldogs’ would issue Providence its fourth statistical slight in as many annual encounters.

Sequentially speaking, this fixture had been flexing all the same trimmings of the PC-Yale card as this collegiate generation knows it. The Friars nabbed brittle one-goal leads, only to let those slosh out of their control and grant the Bulldogs at least an implied morsel of momentum.

But this time, Lacasse (20 saves) kicked a good layer of ice shavings over any prevalent or residual negativity. She got her blocker on Ketchum’s up-close wrister and tilted it safely over the crossbar and out to the near corner.

And within another four minutes, the 2-2 knot at Schneider Arena turned to stone. The Friars had at least reversed their fortunes with Yale halfway and head coach Bob Deraney emphatically pronounced everything half-full.

“That’s a huge save. That’s just our defense going out to lunch,” the skipper said, recalling the Scarborough Save-ior’s CPR play. “We’ve got five people on the same side of the ice, and we just talked about making sure we take away the middle of the ice, and that happens. It should’ve never gotten to that point, but that’s a big save by her to keep the game even.”

Most of the night, though, it was Bulldog stopper Jackee Snikeris hogging the highlight reel and propping up her peers through clutch saves. PC ran up a final shooting advantage of 37-22, including a smoothly distributed 17 attempts on the power play.

Of those attempts, Snikeris handled nine on her own, her aides up front blocked four, two wandered wide, and two went through.

To start, within the second minute of the second period and on their second advantage of the evening, junior pivot Alyse Ruff momentarily churned with the puck around the slot before handing things over to Colleen Martin on the near point. Martin was just as quick to drop it over to partner Jennifer Friedman, who found forward Nicole Anderson open to her right. Anderson absorbed Friedman’s feed and backhanded it into a gaping slab of the net for the 1-0 edge.

But only 80 seconds later did Leigh Riley go off for hooking, inviting a Yale equalizer via Ketchum, who polished off a chaotic scramble on Lacasse’s porch with 3:21 gone in the period.

The Friars started anew in another 10 minutes when a puck-carrying Pam McDevitt drew a holding infraction on Jamie Gray in neutral ice at 13:28. By 14:05, Ashley Cottrell had restored the lead upon perching herself right in Snikeris’ line of vision and tipping Christie Jensen’s straightaway point shot home through the five-hole.

“We’re really starting to understand what we’re trying to do on the power play and starting to get a good feel for it, so that’s exciting,” said Deraney, who has now seen his pupils convert at least once in all but one of their last five games. “If you’re going to be a good team, you have to score on the power play and get the advantage.”

The Friars even threatened amidst a few shorthanded segments, particularly within the final minute of the middle frame while Laura Veharanta did time for interference but teammate Arianna Rigano still registered two stabs at Snikeris.

Even so, the Bulldogs –taxed with the tasks of integrating eight freshmen on a 21-player roster, filling the cavities left by celestial 2009 graduates Crysti Howser and Helen Resor, and starting off their schedule with only 16 healthy skaters- held up long enough to get by on a combination of Snikeris (35 saves) and stealth.

At 4:32 of the third, off a draw that followed an icing and forced the Friars to leave out a rusty five-set of skates, sophomore winger Aleca Hughes smuggled a flip shot behind Lacasse through a slender opening along the near post, ultimately spelling the 2-2 final.

“I thought we did a lot of really good things tonight,” Deraney granted. “We ran into a hot goalie, we got some great looks, we made some great plays, and she made the saves when she needed to. And I think they capitalized on the couple of chances that they had. They score ugly and they scored two ugly goals tonight.”

But Lacasse, whose personal data has been dented in her last two outings with four goals-against on 42 shots faced, also stepped up when needed and kept the ugliness off the final upshot.

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com