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Saturday, October 17, 2009

Women's Hockey 4, Colgate 1

One special night
Timely power play strikes, PKs pace Friars

With the tap of a puck and the flick of a wrist, the same old fleeting maneuver that Slap Shot’s Tim McCracken (supposedly) used to fork out his adversary’s eyes, the Friars validated any use of the “Drill, baby, drill” motto in hockey practices on the cusp of the second buzzer last night.

Already up 2-0 on the Colgate Red Raiders, with Raiders’ defender Ali Edell caged for body-checking, and an impending face-off with 3.1 seconds to spare, head coach Bob Deraney emphatically urged four of his attackers to conglomerate around the inner hash marks while Ashley Cottrell prepared for the face-off in the near circle.

Cottrell would win the draw and zip it right back to teammate Nicole Anderson, who nimbly lashed it home within the opposite post with now 1.2 ticks on the clock. And expectably, within one more face-off, a whole dressing room’s worth of pleasantly surprised grins vanished into the PC runway for intermission.

“We play a lot of situational hockey. And the last three seconds, that’s a perfect example of why you do a lot of situational stuff in practice,” said Deraney.

“That’s a big goal right there. Instead of it being 2-0 and with one goal they get back in it, now it’s 3-0, and not that we’re feeling pretty confident, but it gives you a little bit more cushion. We did a good job of adding on tonight. We’ve been doing that all year, adding on and creating separation, so that’s good.”

Ultimately, the 3-0 lead that Anderson brought about on her first collegiate goal morphed into a 4-1 final highlighted by two power play conversions and one late 5-on-3 kill that closed a fairly negligible scrape before Colgate could so much as smell the blood.

Anderson’s line, supplemented by sophomore wingers Kate Bacon and Abby Gauthier, symbolically led a gradual but smooth-paced breakout on the night. Coming in, none of the three had mustered any points in PC’s first four games, and last night’s first period was characterized by a whole tempest of whistles (three penalties to each side) and a mutual shortage of offensive threats (shots 8-5, Colgate). Between the six calls, three 4-on-4 sequences and one brief 4-on-3 in favor of the Friars, the opening frame saw but a cumulative 12:07 worth of full strength time.

But in the second, while the sugar rush to the sin bin tapered off, the Friars’ stick rack cracked out of its chrysalis for 17 tests of Colgate stopper Lisa Plenderleith (27 saves). Gauthier and Bacon made quick to break out, too, collaborating on the first goal at the 4:30 mark.

On a seemingly harmless scramble for possession in the slot, all three forwards got their twigs on the puck before Gauthier suddenly whipped an ice-kisser through the five-hole.

By night’s end, the third line had combined for 10 shots and a point apiece.

“The fact that Gauthier and Bacon missed the first couple of games, obviously they would be behind in game shape, and they’re just starting to come around now, so that’s exciting,” Deraney noted. “And Anderson is really starting to find her stride,” he added.

Less than nine minutes after Gauthier’s icebreaker, a delayed Colgate penalty would soon fizzle to irrelevance as Alyse Ruff thrust a pass out the near corner to a lone ranger Amber Yung on the far point. Yung’s shot banked off of Plenderleith’s boot and united with Jess Cohen, who thrust home the rebound into a gaping goal mouth.

After Colgate was granted about five minutes of hope to commence the third period, cutting the difference to 3-1 on a breakaway power play goal via Katie Stewart at 1:51 and being allotted one more opportunity immediately thereafter, Ruff and Yung would get in on the night’s multi-point club to finalize the 4-1 upshot.

With a savory 90-second 5-on-3 segment at their disposal, the Friars went on a protracted buzz in Raider territory, with Yung recording each of the first two attempts. Finally, only seconds after Edell’s jailbreak cut the advantage to 5-on-4, Yung thrust the puck directly to the porch, where Jean O’Neill took a hack at it before Ruff lobbed it in over a flopping Plenderleith with 6:29 remaining in regulation.

The upper hand all but safely raised, Providence proceeded to take its own pair of penalties and grant Colgate a 5-on-3 for 52 seconds. Nothing doing. The Raiders mustered four attempts, one of which would be blocked, the other three stoned by goaltender Genevieve Lacasse (30 saves).

“They play a torpedo style and we talked about it all week in practice, but until you really experience it against somebody that’s perfected it, it’s different,” said Deraney. “It took us a while to get adjusted to that, but once we did, I think it actually helped us. I was really proud of the way our kids adapted and exploited it.”

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com