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Sunday, December 5, 2010

Women's Hockey 4, New Hampshire 2

Friars best Wildcats in finishing department

The trends are likely to breach at some point. But for the moment, the PC women’s hockey team is a wholesome 4-0-0 when conceding a 1-0 deficit and 3-0-0 when trailing at the first intermission.

“We’re definitely resilient. There’s no doubt about it,” said head coach Bob Deraney in the wake of yesterday’s rallying 4-2 triumph over New Hampshire at Schneider Arena.

Notorious for sometimes spilling precious points when drunk on their own success and facing a statistically second-rate adversary, the Friars probably needed UNH, now losers of its last seven games, showing up yesterday like novice skiers need a ring of fire before them on their first downhill endeavor. But for once, they didn’t wait to perk up too long; just enough to only give their fans a startled jolt.

The Wildcats struck first at exactly 3:00 and held fort until long after the Zamboni’s first shift, and they later deleted a 2-1 deficit while the Friars suffered from a brief hangover after scoring their own go-ahead goal. But for the climactic phases of the game, the refined Rhode Islanders imposed their will on the survivors of the bygone Granite State Goddesses.

“You have to take into consideration the mentality of both teams,” said Deraney. “UNH is on an uncharacteristic losing streak right now, and I’m just glad it didn’t end today against us.

“The game played out the way I thought it would play out. I wasn’t really nervous about the first five minutes, but I thought after that, we dominated the game from start to finish.”

Based on their level of inspiration in those first five-plus minutes, the Friars all but warranted a pre-holiday pep talk from Matt Foley the Motivational Santa. The Wildcats registered the game’s first five shot attempts, three on net, and one in the net at the three-minute mark on a much-too-facilely executed play. Forward Kristine Horn, standing unsupervised on PC’s porch, whiffed on her attempt to tip in Courtney Sheary’s bullet from the far point, but linemate Julie Allen had no trouble swooping in and spooning the rebound through the roof.

Providence didn’t test opposing goaltender Kayley Herman (27 saves) until near the end of the sixth minute, though from there until intermission they led the shooting gallery, 8-2. Unable to establish anything close to a sustained flurry, the Friars’ strike force spent the day sniffing out seams and charging for the gusto on fleeting rushes.

Herman was ready for them all, until there was 8:40 gone in the middle frame and less than a minute to spare on PC’s second power play. Goaltender Genevieve Lacasse (17 saves) wiggled out of her crease to field a UNH clear and lobbed the puck to a lone ranger Corinne Buie in the far alley. On cue, Buie and Kate Bacon concocted a two-on-one rush, culminating in Bacon one-timing Buie’s cross-ice dish along the near post for the equalizer.

“We were just forechecking really hard the whole time,” said Buie, who ultimately scored three assists and took five shots on net. “To finally put that one in, it really helped us as we tried to keep rolling from there.”

Amidst their first of three penalty kills, the Friars savored and squandered their first lead of the day. Ashley Cottrell morphed a turnover in her own end into a shorthanded breakaway with 7:53 remaining in the second period. But one play and 27 ticks later, Hannah Armstrong buried her own interception around the Providence cage for the 2-2 knot.

“I think we handed them both goals,” Deraney said. “We had the puck on our stick on the first one and we batted it right to their kid and the second one we deflected in front of our own net. So I think we scored five goals and assisted on the sixth.”

In the third period, though, all of the remaining salsa-based biscuits were force-fed to the floundering Wildcats, who have now allowed more closing frame goals (19) than what they’ve authorized in the first 40 minutes (17).

Point patroller Jen Friedman drilled in her second consecutive game-winner at the 3:30 mark, beating Herman over the blocker on a straightaway blast. And a mere 2:16 of game time later, Laura Veharanta finalized the 4-2 difference, cutting to the slot and slugging in a one-timer off Buie’s upward feed.

“We took the victory today,” Deraney concluded. “They didn’t hand it to us, we took it from them and I was very excited about that. We have people who are willing to make the tough play, sacrifice their body even though they know there might be some harm taking it to the front of the net, and that ended up scoring the fourth goal. It was a wonderful play by Buie taking it to the paint and Veharanta putting it top shelf from in tight. That doesn’t happen if Buie doesn’t take it to the front of the cage.

“A lot times we’ve been going behind the net. Now I’m seeing people take it to the front of the cage for a change. And we got rewarded for that.”

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com