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Saturday, November 21, 2009

Northeastern 4, Women's Hockey 3

Friars get goals, then get gouged
Healthy lead turns to deflating loss
Last night’s unscheduled promotional theme: Grand Larceny Extravaganza, with a twist.
First, the Friars ravaged the reputation of Northeastern’s Florence Schelling, potting three goals on nine shots against the nation’s statistically regal goaltender before the game was 13 minutes old.
Then, the visiting Huskies responsively dished out a little eye-for-eye justice, scorching Genevieve Lacasse to ultimately nab a 4-3 edge early in the third.
And in the climactic chapter, with Lacasse benched and a six-pack attack churning in her neighborhood, the redeemed Schelling laid down a firm exclamation mark as Jean O’Neill thrust a feed from behind the net to Laura Veharanta, who had enough of an open net when she nudged at the puck, but not when Schelling slid to her right and swallowed it, halting play with 49.6 seconds to spare.
Northeastern held up and cemented the 4-3 victory at Schneider Arena, thus robbing the Friars of sole claim to first place in the Hockey East standings. With their empty wallet and Boston College’s 4-3 shootout triumph at Vermont, they have actually descended to third on the league leaderboard at 5-4-1.
“It’s the toughest (loss) of the year –for me it is, and I think it is for our team too,” said head coach Bob Deraney. “How often have we had a three-goal lead against a really good team? Not very often, so it’s kind of unchartered territory for our team. It’s as hard to play with a lead as it is to play down a goal, so it’s a learning experience.”
Coming in, the Friars had mustered a mere four first period strikes in 14 games on the year. Schelling had similarly authorized three in her 11 preceding starts.
But PC was coming off an assertive four-goal third period outburst in Sunday’s 6-2 thrashing of Boston University. And they got right down to reheating their leftovers, mollifying the Swiss Save-ior, and sculpting a startling 3-0 edge in a matter of seven minutes.
To start, Kate Bacon settled a fugitive puck just to the right of the slot and watched as Jess Cohen tilted her low-riding wrister to the left of Schelling at 4:33.
Precisely three minutes later, and 19 seconds into their first power play, Veharanta, Ashley Cottrell, and Nicole Anderson collaborated on a play visually identical to Anderson’s last of three strikes on Sunday. The former two set things up in the far alley while Anderson waited along the near post to nimbly bury the biscuit behind an unwary Schelling.
Summoned back to duty for a 4-on-3 segment with 10:18 gone, the power play converted once more when Cottrell absorbed Amber Yung’s shipment down the far lane and spooned a bad angle bid that dripped home at the 11:28 mark.
“It’s nice to see our power play clicking,” granted Deraney, who has seen his pupils capitalize six times in their last three games after going arid in the previous three. “If you’re going to be a good team you need to score on the special teams.”
Almost immediately afterward, though, things began to steadily balance back Northeastern’s way. The Friars took back-to-back penalties, starting just 28 seconds after Cottrell had connected, which amounted to 3:49 of uninterrupted shorthanded play.
They got through that tribulation unscathed, but the Huskies pounced on their third power play with just 1:37 to spare, Kristi Kehoe keenly vacuuming Katy Applin’s rebound and roofing it over Lacasse’s blocker.
Northeastern threatened without hesitation to commence the second, virtually matching the Friars’ tone-setting sugar rush that started the opening frame. And while Schelling reassembled her normal persona, stopping all of the nine shots she faced in the period, her mates recompensed her previous errors to draw a 3-3 knot by the 17:47 mark.
Rookie Casey Pickett, one of the many puckslinging pups who are finally beginning to ripen their twigs for the Huskies, sawed the difference to 3-2 at 10:41 when she piloted an end-to-end rush and thrust home an innocent-looking floater from the right circle-top. Seven minutes later, classmate Kelly Wallace nailed the equalizer from around the same hot spot.
Providence spilled a carry-over power play opportunity in the third, and 72 seconds after Julia Marty’s jailbreak, Rachel Llanes and Alyssa Wohlfeiler carried out a two-on-one to the left of Lacasse. Lacasse draped her full self around the post and got her boot on Llanes’ wide-angle stab. But with a gaping goal-mouth at her disposal, Wohlfeiler shoveled home the rebound.
PC’s desperation in the remaining 17 minutes translated to 13 shot attempts, only seven of which actually reached Schelling’s clutch. O’Neill briefly stimulated the home congregants when she hustled for a shorthanded breakaway in the sixteenth minute and Alyse Ruff nearly had a last-ditch bid right on Schelling’s porch before the buzzer, but her palms were by then too sweaty to get a grip on the puck.
And that was that.
“The fact that we could get three goals on (Schelling) is monumental in itself,” Deraney said. “But give Northeastern credit. They never let up, they chipped away, and in the end they made one more play than we did.”
Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com