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Sunday, January 24, 2010

Women's Hockey 2, Boston College 1

Killer performance
Friars wipe out eight penalties, bump BC in OT

Even though she came in bearing the second-most active stick blade on the Providence College women’s hockey team, Jean O’Neill was hardly a tangible factor through 64 minutes of action yesterday.

Formerly tied with linemate Alyse Ruff for second with 72 shots on goal, trailing only Arianna Rigano under that heading, O’Neill had thrust five attempts at Boston College goaltender Corinne Boyles (19 saves) throughout the day, only to see them all blocked or telepathically diverted wide.

Meanwhile, both clubs were swinging and missing on umpteen power play chances apiece, a tormenting trend that rolled right on into overtime when PC’s Abby Gauthier was flagged for hooking with 2:39 to spare.

But the Friars’ drew out their PK veil –already a grubbily glamorous 7-for-7 on the day- for one more effective tour of duty. BC’s daylong drought continued, but O’Neill’s would not.

As if on cue, the junior A-captain scooped a fugitive puck within her own far face-off circle just when the time came for Gauthier’s jailbreak. A presto odd-man rush ensued and would quickly culminate with O’Neill roofing an airborne snapper into the opposite post, stamping a 2-1 victory with a mere 30.2 seconds left.

In its duration, PC’s now six-game winning streak has arguably never been in as much peril as it was yesterday. The Friars were tied for nearly two full periods against a team desperate to regain its groove. They whiffed on six power play chances that might have renewed or augmented an initial 1-0 lead. And then they were a half-minute away from watching yesterday’s result go down as a tie on their national transcript.

Well, none of it mattered in the end, head coach Bob Deraney insists. A win is a win.

“They’re all hard-earned,” he said. “They’re all hard in different ways. I think today was a great test for us to deal with adversity.

“Boston College is not what their record is. I’ve seen them on tape and I’ve seen them play in person. They’re a very good team with a lot of different challenges and a lot of different weapons, so we had a different type of adversity today and we overcame it, which is really good.

“The penalties? They’re part of the game, so you have to learn how to kill them off and face that adversity straight-on and knock it back. Fortunately, we happened to kill that last penalty with 30 seconds left and O’Neill made a (heck) of a play.”

The Eagles, who throughout this month have turned in nothing but anti-Friar results, let their extreme desire be felt on the stats sheet, particularly as they owned the first period shooting gallery, 17-5. Along the way, they induced Providence to its first of two five-on-three deficits when Ruff and Rigano were called at 9:39 and 10:29, respectively.

But that was not before Kate Bacon smuggled in the icebreaker on the Friars’ first offensive threat of the day. Her own goaltender, Genevieve Lacasse (30 saves), already having repelled five Boston stabs, Bacon administered Boyles’ first test at 5:00 of the opening frame. During the same hustle, she collected a feed from Rigano behind the cage and, upon looping around the far post, blindly buried a backhander with 5:48 gone.

In the last 12 minutes before intermission, however, the Eagles let the Friars test Boyles twice more while they fired on Lacasse another 13 times, including five while Ruff and Rigano were doing time.

Nothing doing. The Scarborough Save-ior was perfect all through the sweatiest first period of her season.

“Sometimes I don’t really trust shots,” confessed BC head coach Katie King. “Sometimes I don’t think the shots tell the truth, but today I think Lacasse played great. She made the stops she needed to make, and that’s huge for her team.”

Indeed, for the Friars were no more productive when BC went off. They mustered five attempts, only one of which Boyles needed to play, over two first period power plays. And after Allie Thunstrom, the lone star in the Eagles’ galaxy most of this season, tied the game at 6:41 of the second on a textbook end-to-end breakaway, both teams twice alternated penalties before intermission.

Yet the 1-1 draw would not budge and nobody charged up more than one shot on any given power play segment.

“We use a lot of different bodies killing penalties,” said Deraney. “I think that’s a key as to why we can stay so fresh and be so successful on the penalty kill. I wish our power play had been a little bit better today, but I think Boston College had a lot to do with that.”

PC’s most promising power play swarm was a four-shot deal halfway through the third period. But less than three minutes after that fell through, they slipped into another 5-on-3 disadvantage, one that lasted 39 seconds but only saw Lacasse dealing with one bid.

Then, at 4:06 of the bite-sized bonus round, O’Neill lost a face-off to Mary Restuccia and the likes of Thunstrom and Danielle Welch were quick to try their luck on Lacasse. But just as nimbly and without so much as summoning another whistle, the Friars turned the action the other way, amounting to O’Neill’s walk-off strike.

“If you want to be a contender, you have to be able to deal with adversity and find a way to win,” Deraney concluded. “That’s what I’m most proud of today. We found a way to win.”

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com